What is the cornerstone of exceptional service? Answering this pivotal question is crucial for any service provider in our customer-centric world. However, there are no industries more deeply entwined in the art of service than tourism and hospitality. Hotel and travel brands aren't selling rooms and beds; they're selling experiences.
So many elements go into engineering compelling experiences, but one that can't be overlooked is technology. The travel and hospitality industry is shifting to digital and embarking on comprehensive digital transformation projects. This shift was born mainly out of rising customer expectations. Consumers today want to book a hotel room or vacation online in just a few clicks. They want hyper-convenience at every step of the journey, not just once they arrive at their destination.
One technology proving highly disruptive in this space is automation. With this in mind, let's dive into how bots deliver unique travel and hospitality experiences today.
Use Cases of Smart Bots in Tourism and Hospitality
Here's the bottom line. Personalization makes people remember your business, and the data backs this up. Research shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that offers personalized experiences.
So, how do forward-thinking companies in the travel and hospitality industry offer personalized experiences today? Through automated recommendation engines. At its most basic level, recommendation bots leverage three data types- demographic, behavioral, and contextual data.
The key to effective personalization is using all three data types together. For example, using demographic data alone isn't a good idea because someone might be shopping for a hotel room for a loved one who belongs to a different demographic. Behavior data provides an accurate picture of the visitor's interests. This data is usually in the form of the visitor's search history, products they've added to the cart, or keywords they've used.
And contextual data is the "why" in this equation. Data in this category can be things like the season of the year, news, economic or political changes, and weather. For example, visitors might be more likely to shop for a summer vacation when they're experiencing a harsh winter at home.
By using all three data types, companies can offer personalized travel packages that meet or exceed customer expectations, thereby gaining a competitive edge.
Beyond the core recommendation engine, bots do a lot of other work in the personalization space. For example, travel and hospitality companies leverage bots in pre and post-stay communication. This could be in the form of conversational chatbots on hand to answer customer questions. However, it can also be in the form of automated communications - email and text messages that share experience-shaping information. And then there's upselling. For example, smart bots can upsell rooms with additional features or share personalized promotional offers.
Lastly, smart bots play a vital role in competitor pricing analysis. Competition in the travel and hospitality industry is fierce, so incorrectly pricing a package or room could spell disaster. Unfortunately, analyzing competitor pricing information is a complex and arduous task that requires sifting through vast amounts of data. Done manually, this could take many weeks and be very costly. Luckily, smart bots can quickly and accurately crunch the numbers to find the most efficient pricing strategies. Personalized pricing is a common feature of these strategies. For example, many consumers have noted that travel deals change based on their browsing history.
Brand Loyalty and the Basics
The most critical factor in fostering brand loyalty is high-quality customer service. Conversely, poor quality kills brand loyalty. With this in mind, cultivating brand loyalty starts with boosting quality in the most basic functions of the travel and hospitality machine - bookings and the check-in/check-out experience.
Bots can connect to multiple internal systems to streamline the end-to-end reservation experience and reduce the manual burden on employees. There are numerous benefits to automated booking systems, including simplified operations, improved decision-making based on data collection, and increased data accuracy and integrity. Let's consider the last point more closely. Data accuracy and integrity are vital in travel and hospitality because a minor mistake can lead to unhappy guests. However, most automated systems come with validation features to prevent errors from occurring in the first place.
Leveraging bots for automated check-in/check-out could also spell the end of the front desk as we know it. Today, customers can check in and access their rooms without interacting with an employee. Typically this works by a bot sending a unique code or digital key via email or the guest app.
Reward programs are also integral to brand loyalty. Bots can help create customer loyalty accounts, track their activity (number of stays, amenities used, etc.), and automatically send promotional offers based on the customer's activity.
Lastly, and critically, bots help improve the overall booking and visitor handling experience by speeding everything up on the back end. Customer details move near instantly across systems without human input. This means customers can quickly get updates on any changes they make and can track their travel experience in near real-time.
Concierge Service Recommendations
Bots also play a prominent role in shaping consumer experiences outside of the foundational aspects of a stay. Often our best vacation memories aren't directly related to the place we stayed but to the activities we did - dining, entertainment, and excursions.
Bots can recommend things to do in the local area, either via chatbot or email communications. They can navigate customers to specific experiences they might enjoy based on personalized data analysis. For example, a smart bot could recommend a highly rated vegetarian restaurant to vegetarian customers or suggest an off-roading quad biking tour to young thrill seekers.
Concierge apps are becoming a popular industry feature, and these apps rely on bots.
The travel and hospitality industry is in the business of making memories, and being effective at this mission is only possible with modern technology. Smart bots are playing a vital role in improving consumer experiences by offering boosted convenience, speed, and more personalized experiences.
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July 19, 2023