Summer’s approaching, it’s time to pack your bags and jet-set-go! Usually, the things we look forward to most about going away are relaxation, family time and exploring new cultures and places. However, when travel and hospitality companies sprinkle their customer service magic, it can make long lazy days in the sun even more dazzling and memorable.
Customer experience is a vital part of the holiday experience. According to our CX Trends report, 50% of European customers will leave a company after one bad experience. Technology can play a game-changing role. Some of the best hotels are already reaping the benefits of using automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to enable a more connected, personalised and convenient customer service. Through the use of AI, hotels can offer great experiences not just within the hotel but beyond its premises to own more of their guest’s travel itinerary. For instance, a dedicated mobile app can consist of everything a customer needs for their stay, including car rentals or tour bookings.
Ways you can transform hotels and holiday experiences with AI
1. Make the booking process seamless and automated.
While almost all of us look forward to going on holiday, substantially fewer look forward to the actual process of booking the holiday. AI can address the pain points by making the booking process smoother. Improving the ways customers experience booking platforms can set the tone for the holiday itself.
The more a customer uses the same hotel, the more their preferences from previous bookings can help make future reservations better. When this is done well, it builds loyalty. Guests will keep coming back because they enjoy the service. For instance, if guests book through an app they already used during a previous stay, their next booking could be made with just one click. Their details are pre-populated from the previous trip. All they need to do is set the dates.
Or how about enabling guests to book without clicking anything at all? Hotels are now letting guests book their stay via their voice assistant. Once at the hotel, guests can easily make requests to hotel staff or control the lighting via voice command. And the more guests use services based on AI, the better it’s able to provide them with exactly what they need.
Even with the most advanced booking systems, the simplicity with which customers can contact service agents across their preferred channel is important. Automate the simple things and add value where it matters.
2. Reducing friction in the guests’ experience.
The job of any holiday supplier is making sure every aspect of the trip is smooth. Right at the start, hotels can give their guests exactly what they need by removing the barriers that get in the way of enjoying their break.
Your guests probably have a smartphone. Why not use it to give them a seamless check in process? You could use location settings to check guests in without them even having to go to the front desk. Or maybe a quick scan of a QR code could be enough to automatically let you know your guests have arrived, sign them in to the Wi-Fi network and offer them a range of services to help them get settled. Reducing the dependency on front desk staff for this part of the process helps to free up their valuable time to focus on customer engagement and help provide a more memorable guest experience.
But what happens when guests go to their room and realise they haven’t got enough towels? Or maybe they want to arrange room service? Telephone systems are outdated and don’t offer the added value that alternatives can. Mobile messaging, for example, isn’t an alien concept to most. Your customers probably use services like WhatsApp to speak with friends and family. What if they could contact the front desk in the same way? Making use of a chatbot here could give an immediate response to guests and the reassurance their query is being dealt with. Human staff can take over and offer personalised support when needed.
3. Proactive customer support.
If a hotel does decide to deploy messaging services, the data underpinning the conversations is key. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is an example of a brand that understands this well. The company worked with Zendesk to make its vision a reality. As much as it wanted to provide new channels such as WhatsApp, Four Seasons also knew that interconnected systems are a key ingredient. It’s what transforms isolated conversations into ongoing conversations that help customers discover new things they might require.
For example, if a customer contacts the hotel about breakfast times, it opens up lines of communication that can become much more valuable for everyone involved. The hotel can suggest things for them to do after breakfast or other services they might enjoy. Beyond the experiences offered within the hotel’s four walls, AI is now enabling hotels to provide guests with personalised itineraries beyond its premises. Through the use of an app or messaging service, the hotel can recommend nearby sightseeing trips and excursions and book taxis. The more the hotel gets to learn about the customer, the more accurate and proactive it gets with suggestions. For guests, this can mean less planning and stress, and more enjoyment.
There are limitless possibilities for the future of AI and the travel industry and the future is nothing short of exciting. The hotels that keep customers coming back for more will be the ones that master the art of engagement across channels. They’ll be able to deliver a customer experience that feels personalised, seamless and convenient, from check in to check out.