Customers expect instant reactivity from you or they’ll just go spend their money elsewhere. Even more so on the Internet where your competitors are literally 2 clicks away.
Engaging and retaining the visitors on your website is your number 1 marketing challenge. In this context, virtual assistants have become essential as they help you scale sales and customer service interactions.
If you’re thinking about hiring a virtual assistant, here are 5 things worth bearing in mind.
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Chatbots are only part of the solution
E-commerce is evolving, which means you need to adapt if you want to remain competitive. New technology is only the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath the surface is a deep change of mindset where you understand that you have to shift your company focus from product to customer service.
Adding a virtual assistant to your e-commerce arsenal will not magically solve all your problems. Yes, chatbots are a great tool and yes, they can help you scale 1-on-1 interactions. However, they are only part of an environment that you create so they will only be as good as your commitment to customer service.
Chatbots are not human beings and it’s fine
Some things that can seem trivial to you such as bending some policies for a customer or noticing what is important in a 4-line sentence is not so evident for robots because they have no common sense. Chatbots analyze sentences and use an algorithm to find the answer that is most likely to be right. They do not think and it is OK because you don’t need the brains of Stephen Hawking to book a room.
A well-trained chatbot will be able to manage about 80% of conversations and in 20% of cases it won’t know the answer and you will see it. You can choose to blame your stupid bot or realize that at the very least, it got you the customer’s name, email address, mobile number and an expression of what he needs so you can call him back and solve the issue. Your customer won’t even remember the bot failure.
When your chatbot fails, remember that you might still make the sale if you start using real intelligence instead of expecting AI to do everything for you.
Chatbots do not replace human interaction
Chatbots are not the new receptionists; they are the new websites and interaction is the new search. The world has gone mobile first and mobile’s DNA is interaction — period. So quit the Terminator paranoia: chatbots exist to help you make your content evolve from static and impractical to dynamic and easily available on demand to consumers that can no longer be bothered to roam your website hoping to find out if they can come with their dog or not.
Do not see chatbots as a service downgrade because they actually create service on platforms where usually there is none and where you might not even be because you don’t have the manpower: on your website, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat etc.
It doesn’t matter — the hotel staff is always super busy. But every day they lose a sizeable amount of their time answering basic questions on the phone and via email because your information channels are actually not doing such a good job of telling people what they want to know.
Chatbots are not about doing the same job with less staff. They are about getting more done with the same resources.
Not all chatbots are born the same
Chatbots are a booming market and all of a sudden, everybody is selling them. Just like everything else, some products are (way) better than others. So don’t judge a whole industry because you’ve seen 1 provider.
At this stage e-commerce chatbots are basic, which is fine. Remember your first website? It was basic too but it provided immense value to your company and was a necessary step in your e-commerce learning curve. Chatbots are the same.
Effective bots are a means to concrete use cases: provide the right info, remove frictions, increase sales etc. They solve real business challenges that you are facing today.
I often see quirky chatbots that fail at making a compelling use case for customers. When you start your chatbot project, instead of thinking of 2001: A Space Odyssey, bear in mind the Maslow Pyramid and make sure you and your chatbot provider cover the basics first. The rest will come later.
Chatbots are ready for you. The question is, are you ready for them?
Think about the ROI of chatbots
20 years ago, the Internet changed the way we worked. Most hoteliers preferred to ignore the signals and have regretted it ever since. This was not the end of the story; a new chapter has begun and its title is AI. This time let’s remember that ROI has 2 meanings:
- Return On Investment: Everything you do must create value as quickly as possible. That’s why the artificial intelligence should be focused on sales and probably not so much on being the perfect concierge.
- Risk Of Inaction: Sometimes the riskiest option is inaction. In the digital era not moving is often worse than making mistakes because at least you learn from them. Operating a chatbot is not difficult but there is a learning curve and if you do not start early you will fall behind AGAIN. ‘Behind who?’ you might ask. Well, just everyone else, starting with Booking.com assistant.
AI is already changing the face of many industries such as retail (Amazon purchase recommendations, Alexa…), entertainment (Netflix series recommendations and scripting according to people’s preferences), social networks (Facebook has the strongest image recognition system in the world) and of course tourism (Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb).
Wake up, connect the dots and don’t make the same mistake as 20 years ago.
If you’d like to discuss more or have questions about chatbots and AI for the hotel industry, feel welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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