More accommodation providers than ever are adopting chatbots to boost revenues, and enhance the customer experience. Chatbots are powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and integrate with your hotel’s digital channels to handle guest queries, while cutting down on overheads. Sounds great, right? But how to choose the right chatbot solution for your property?
With a wide range of conversational AI solutions available, the decision to adopt a generalist or a specialised industry solution requires careful consideration. In an industry where sales, reception, and house keeping teams answer 100's of repetitive questions daily, opportunities for automation are enormous. However, at the same time, we must be mindful to not compromise the personal touch guests expect and demand.
The diverse conversational AI platforms market is comprised of many vendors worldwide. As a result, hoteliers looking to implement AI chatbot and Live Chat technology often struggle with vendor selection.
According to the Gartner report Making Sense of the Chatbot and Conversational AI Platform Market, choosing a horizontal vendor to solve a use case where a specialized vendor would have solved it quicker and faster needs to be a conscious decision. This needs to be viewed against flexibility and suitability for multiple use cases as well:
Horizontal solutions maximize flexibility. They do not target a specific use case, but seek to be useful as a foundation to any use case. Sometimes horizontal solution providers will have vertical or domain specialised solutions they can put on top of a horizontal one — trying to leverage the best of two worlds. A horizontal solution provides maximum flexibility and the most control, which has to be compared to the time-to-market advantage that a more specialised solution can give.
Vertical/domain specialised solutions come to the market with a set of accelerators or libraries that makes for a better fit for a particular industry, domain or use case. There can be significant savings in cost and effort if the specialisation is a good fit — but it can also be a path to multiple vendors in “chatbot soup.”
Task specialised is a vendor that specialises in one particular and highly specialised task, for example; booking meetings or rescheduling tickets. If the vendor can bring enough sophistication and automation to a common task, there might be no way an enterprise can replicate it using a horizontal or even vertical/domain specialised solution. Although, a task specific bot will lack flexibility to do new tasks at the same level of sophistication.
Therefore, the first few questions you need to ask yourself are:
Do you have IT teams to implement and maintain the Horizontal solution?
Do you have internal skills and manpower to manage the Natural Language Processing (NLP) pipeline i.e. creating intents, utterances, responses, and continuously training the NLP to improve the intent predictions?
What is your time-to-market and investment limits you are willing to commit for?
Do you know your integration requirements to your existing systems, such as Property Management System (PMS), Booking Engine, and CRM's
The number and types of channels. For instance; developing a text only chatbot is often less complex than developing a chatbot that includes images, or that must also support channels like Facebook Messenger, Google Messaging, WhatsApp, and WeChat.
Are you a multi property group or a standalone property? For a multi property group you need a solution that can support different responses based on the property selected.
What is your property type? A resort, hotel, hostel, or a holiday park will have different questions customers will ask.
The number of languages and language variant requirements can influence the sophistication of the solution required.
How can you use the insights from the conversational data to understand guest requirements and unique needs?
What are the other features you need from the solution e.g. Live Chat, Ticketing, Email, and Help Center?
Some of the horizontal/generalised solutions in the market
It’s a highly diverse market with vendors of varying capabilities, language support and strategies. According to Gartner, due to the wide variety of use cases, levels of sophistication, language and geographical support (and strategies of vendors) vendor selection is all about best fit. However, it is not currently possible to narrow down the market to a few vendors that will be a good choice for the majority of enterprises.
We've compiled a list of horizontal/generalised solutions that we've come across in the last 2 years.
Microsoft Bot Framework
Google Dialog Flow
Book Me Bob is a vertical/domain specialised AI chatbot trained by hoteliers for hoteliers
Book Me Bob increases direct bookings, improves productivity, reduces costs and enhances the guest experience.
Things to consider
What to expect with a horizontal/ generalised solution
What to expect with Book Me Bob vertical/domain specialised solution
IT team involvement
Months of evaluation, requirements mapping and implementation effort
< 1 day with ready to use solution for hoteliers
Requires NLP competence in order to set up and maintain the intents, utterances and dialogues
Pre-trained to understand over 125,000 questions that a customer will ask a property
High setup and ongoing investment due to need for constant monitoring, tweaking and evolution
No to minimal setup fee, low monthly subscription fee
Integrates with a number of everyday solutions like Shopify, Wordpress, and Hubspot
Integrates to most popular PMS and Booking Engines