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01/27/2022

How Snowbird Ski Resort Drives Revenue, Brand Experience via AI Chat

Since its launch, 25 percent of all messages received by Snowbird’s Dog Chat have been ticket buying requests, which allowed the resort to drive more than $150,000 in projected annual assisted revenue into the purchase funnel.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
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How Dog Chat Got Its Name

From the very beginning, Snowbird knew that it wanted to provide its guests with a chatbot that had a real fun personality. Originally, the brand started with the idea of Larry the porcupine.

“If you’re a season passholder at Snowbird then you know Larry,” Smith said with a laugh. “But then we realized it was pretty hard to find pictures of Larry. So, we had to find a different mascot.”

As the marketing team continued to brainstorm, it hit on the idea of using its on-site avalanche rescue dogs to be the personality for Dog Chat.

“Snowbird is really unique in that it’s a really steep ski resort, and so avalanche safety is huge at the resort.  Part of our avalanche safety program includes a fleet of rescue dogs which are beloved by all of our local season pass holders.  And we thought, how can you get frustrated with an AI chat when you’re talking to a cute dog! So that’s how we settled on that theme and name.”

Of course, it was about more than just trying to find a cute mascot to represent the brand. It was really about finding a way to represent the brand’s family friendly nature to the public.

“We have a brand that we're really proud of and we want to support,” Smith adds. “So, we didn't want to have a plain chat experience. Our partnership with Satisfi allowed us to really create a chat personality and come up with all of these really fun ‘dog responses’ to questions – including some really great puns!”

And Snowbird wanted to make sure kids enjoyed using the Dog Chat too. This means that the Dog Chat will tell jokes and can even provide the location of specific dogs for children who want to go and pet their favorite.

Located on 2,500 acres in Utah, Snowbird resort is home to 140 runs that can host up to 17,400 skiers per hour. It also boasts four slope slide lodging properties and 15 restaurants that both locals and vacationers enjoy after a full day of skiing. As a largely outdoor, activity-based resort that operates year-round, resort information is ever-changing resulting in a large volume of guest questions which was taking a toll on employee time.

“We found that our team was getting inundated with the same types of questions every day on social media and via email,” says Kolton Smith, Digital Marketing Manager, Snowbird Resort. “Questions such as: What are your restaurant hours? What are your lift hours? Etc. All of this information is listed on our website, but required guest time to locate it on several pages. So, we wanted to find a way to take this heavy lift off our team and automate it.”

To address this problem, Snowbird launched the Dog Chat system in February 2020 in partnership with Satisfi Labs. Dog Chat is an AI-powered virtual assistant that has become an extension of the Snowbird brand on its website and most recently on its mobile app. The Dog Chat AI Assistants are programmed with 900 Snowbird-specific responses allowing it to answer inquiries in real-time, at any time of the day, on topics such as Snowbird’s COVID-19 safety protocols, ticketing, lodging deals, lift statuses, upcoming events, and more. Not only does Dog Chat provide a reliable way to communicate with Snowbird guests, but the system also provides Snowbird the opportunity to learn from the questions being asked. This helps to inform future communication strategies and operational decisions, which in turn helps the resort guests.

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Snowbird Chatbot

For example, whenever the chat does not have a programmed answer to a question, the query is marked as a “No Match” in Satisfi Labs’ database. Snowbird can review this database and formulate answers to the query for future use. Snowbird’s staff has added more than 90 new responses through this method since the Dog Chat first went into use.

“What drew us to Satisfi Labs was the guest experience they’re able to offer to their clients and how they were totally willing to make the chat experience fun. We were really inspired by some of their other work and wanted to follow that same path,” Smith said.

Of course, the timing of its launch couldn’t have been better. When the COVID-19 pandemic first began in March of 2020, the resort realized it needed to communicate even more often and more clearly with its guests.

“We initially created Dog Chat prior to COVID-19 as a way to answer the question: How to we get people to the right information at the very beginning of their search process?” Smith explained. “After COVID-19 happed, it became: How do we get people to the daily updates we’re releasing? And Dog Chat really helped us funnel our guests to the correct pages to get the most up to date information on our health and safety protocols as COVID-19 took over.”

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snowbird chatbot 2

Since its launch in February 2020, Snowbird’s virtual assistant has answered more than 76,000 inbound messages from more than 38,000 users. At its peak, Dog Chat handled 1,500 messages and assisted up to 860 guests in just one week. With the Dog Chat system, Snowbird saved the equivalent of 60 staff member workweeks responding to each of these requests and questions. Additionally, 25% of all messages received by Dog Chat were ticket buying requests, which allowed the resort to drive more than $100,000 in projected annual assisted revenue into the purchase funnel while also saving guests time. And Dog Chat has allowed Snowbird to free up call and email volume for their staff, which has improved their overall ability to help on site guests.

For good reason, Smith is really proud of this product and its usage.

“We're helping people who are coming to Snowbird.com with the intent to purchase a lift ticket find and purchase that ticket quickly and easily. It’s one of our top converting e-commerce marketing channels that we for the website and I just love seeing people use it so successfully,” Smith said.