Digital hospitality is as important as ever for today’s tech-savvy guests who expect tech-friendly environments and demand tech-enabled services. Artificial intelligence-powered chatbots represent the latest emerging trend in the travel and hospitality industries. According to the recent “2018 State of Chatbots Report,” there is high demand for chatbots that can save users time and money, with 87 percent of consumers willing to interact with chatbots to achieve these savings. Interestingly enough, 34 percent of consumers say they would use chatbots as a means to connect with a human.
Hotels have jumped on this trend, adopting the use of chatbots as the digital innovation that will keep them ahead of the competition. They are counting on chatbots not only to deliver a differentiated, enhanced guest experience for deeper loyalty, but also to drive hotel performance and hotel revenue. Hotels are leveraging cloud management systems to efficiently harness artificial intelligence, guest data, and analytics that chatbots generate.
Most of us get chatbot messages on our smartphones somewhere in the process before, during, or after our hotel stays. Some of them require binary responses like Y for Yes, or N for No. Others are more interactive. During a recent hotel stay, a friendly chatbot, asked me about my check in and if I needed anything to make my stay more pleasant. While I would not have taken the time to call the front desk or the hotel concierge, a chatbot at my fingertips made all the difference. I reported the slight humming sound in the cooling unit, and got a friendly response that the issue would be addressed right away. Before I knew it, I had two engineers in my room fixing the cooling unit.
The interactivity I experienced is the core feature of any chatbot. When you engage, the other side of this technology uses natural language processing (NLP) to respond appropriately with automated texts. For the more sophisticated technical use cases, a live human being responds or intervenes as needed. As this technology gets underway, the irony is that enterprises want chatbots acting as humanly as possible to save on resources, but the reality is that in some cases humans need to step in and act as chatbots.
How to manage the vast digital ecosystem of chatbots
On the back end of these customer-facing digital footprints, modern digital ecosystems for hospitality include a continuum of big data analytics and artificial intelligence for IT operations. Included to fuel the analytics, many integration points need to connect — databases, app servers, mobile apps, and potentially many more digital systems. Through machine learning and NLP, sets of data can be used to determine the likely responses to the organic text that some guests will type in their sessions with hotel chatbots. The fidelity of this data depends on what algorithms are used to analyze the data accurately. In some cases, if the data, analytics, and NLP are not working well, it will require reverting to a real human as the “virtual assistant” or chatbot.
To manage this vast digital ecosystem, IT pros in hospitality need data scientists involved in architecting solutions, and to set the requirements for integrating with any digital environment that helps chatbots respond appropriately. There could be live feeds of temperature and air quality from IoT devices that enable viable guest activity recommendations. For example, in anticipation of bad weather, guests can be directed from the pool to an alternative indoor activity.
A well-architected chatbot will contribute to guests’ overall experience, and the digital environment supporting this innovation will most likely be a mix of legacy infrastructure for guest profile information and accounting, along with agile resources deployed in private and public cloud environments. The applications and data will be run with a hybrid cloud strategy that orchestrates all the data and analytics to feed to the chatbot after you press “send” on your smartphone to one of these interactive assistants.
Having a hybrid cloud management platform in place helps reduce the complexity of provisioning resources across a wide range of touchpoints throughout a hotel’s digital business ecosystem. Modern application architectures must interconnect resources from on-premises data centers to ephemeral tasks running in public cloud provider environments. This proactive IT leadership can significantly reduce the time to value associated with delivering and managing digital user experiences. Ultimately, high fidelity chatbots will have a significant impact on any hoteliers bottom line.
As a Technical Marketing Evangelist, Patrick Campbell is passionate about innovative technology solutions for digital enterprises. He's had a successful career in Education as a K-12 mathematics teacher for almost 10 years followed by the next 15 years in a technical role for enterprise software solutions.