Chat services and voice technology are changing the game when it comes to communication with hospitality businesses and their staff. According to Juniper Research, chatbots will be responsible for over $8 billion annual cost savings by 2022. Online chat services serve an advantage because they offer 24/7 availability and instant response times. Voice technology is also changing the way consumers interact at hotels. Technologies like the Amazon Echo and Microsoft Cortana make it easier for guests to make requests and manage in-room preferences.
‘These intelligent chatbots are programmed to create simulated conversation (text/voice) in native language, enabling controlled, concise and efficient interactions between humans and machines.’ In fact, 27% of consumers weren’t sure if their last customer service interaction was with a human or a chatbot. Chatbots are able to decipher phrases written in normal language, and use artificial intelligence to formulate responses. It basically has an artificial brain that can reason and calculate answers in the same way a human would, and it’s advantageous to get a direct response in a timely manner for any inquiry that may come up. It is also believed by some that chatbots are friendlier, more responsive and more fun than humans.
Companies are using messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Kik to customize their Chatbots in an easy manner for consumers. Users can find Pizza Hut or Wingstop in Messenger by searching for them in the search bar. They can then ask questions to the chatbot and even place an order through Messenger. Whole Foods offers the option of exploring recipes through their Messenger chatbot. By typing an ingredient into Messenger, it will then offer different recipes that one can click on to get more information and specifics.
Hotels are also rolling out voice technology devices in rooms to further ease the guest experience and make it more personalized. “I don’t know what percentage of the population have [Amazon Echo] Alexas, but I know from customer feedback they want some of the same services and experiences they have at home during a hotel stay. That’s why we’re considering it,” says Hyatt Regency manager Rusty Middleton. Using these technologies, guests can control room temperature, lighting, TV settings and other in-room technology by simply asking or commanding it to these devices. The Wynn Las Vegas has lead this integration by already introducing 5,000 hotel rooms with Amazon Echo’s in Summer 2017. “I have never, ever seen anything that was more intuitively dead on to making a guest experience seamlessly delicious, effortlessly convenient than the ability to talk to your room,” says former CEO Steve Wynn.
It is important for both of these technologies to interact with consumers in a normal, human-like way. Programming them to answer basic questions that may be asked in a number of ways is important. Consumers want good and responsive interactions with these technologies or they will get frustrated and will not use them. That could result in losing a customer. Keeping these bots and voice technologies updated is important so they work as effectively as possible.
Gartner estimates that 85% of all customer service interactions will be controlled by chatbots by the year 2020, and eMarketer expects the number of Americans using voice assistant devices in 2018 will grow to 36 million (129%). These technologies are changing the way consumers communicate with many businesses, including hospitality. They add the advantages of cost savings, ease of use and 24/7 support to an industry that relies on positive consumer experiences; Integrating them is a great idea.
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