Chatbots for Travel: A Customer Engagement Balancing Act

January 5, 2017
Customer Experience Christina Wilson, Marketing Programs Manager

I used to work in a destination hotel rooftop cocktail bar. The guests would often queue for over an hour to get a table with a view. The expectation of that experience was that waiting in the queue at the bottom of the elevator would be worth it, because, when they reached the 23rd floor, they’d be treated to a table with a view of the city and a delicious cocktail.

But, what actually delighted our guests again and again was the human touch that helped contribute to their experience by providing useful tips and assistance during their visit. The fun, entertaining hosts would use humour and warmth to make that wait for a table and their evening’s experience by providing helpful information and context along the way, often changing the course of the evening for the guest.

I now wonder, how would the ways we improved on the customers’ experience at the cocktail bar translate to today’s digital world?

In today’s digital world, where technologies constantly push the boundaries of expectation for a self-serve and personalized experience to get things done without assistance from others, that improvement might look like a chatbot. The guest could ask questions about the cocktails, place their order, pay over Facebook Messenger or an app, while in the queue. The chatbot could allocate them a table, and help them find it on arrival using a map. It could even talk them through some landmarks visible from their table and answer general questions about the city. That would save time for the guest and business, but what if something went wrong, a card payment issue, or a problem with a drink? You’d still need that human presence in case the chatbot couldn’t help.

There are many key moments during a travel and hospitality experience. Some are best dealt with by another person, one who understands intricate details and can use emotional intelligence to answer a question or discretion to solve a problem. However, in general, we just want to get things done, and most of the time, we don’t want to have to do that with the help of another person when we know technology, such as chatbots, exist to help us do it ourselves.

Sure, a chatbot might not be the ideal host in a cocktail bar, but they can help people get many things done that would traditionally fall to an agent. Finding the right blend of chatbot and agent in your customer engagement strategy is vital to keeping your customers and your CIO happy, and it is possible without losing the very essence of hospitality, the human touch.

Join our travel and hospitality webinar on January 12 to learn the value of finding the right partnership between agents and chatbots and how to build a seamless customer experience.

Christina Wilson, Marketing Programs Manager
Christina Wilson, Marketing Programs Manager

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