Trying to Delight Customers? The Answer May Be Digital Agents


With new capabilities arising from artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, the hospitality industry is increasingly adopting chatbot and digital assistant services to resolve customer issues faster.

It may be time to leave the word “chatbot” behind though. Technology has outgrown the name, and consumers are tired of engaging with traditional chatbots. Instead, let’s consider how customer experience can be redefined by using more sophisticated chatbots, or digital agents.

Unlike traditional chatbots, digital agents can interact with a multitude of systems and processes and conduct industry-specfic conversations to enhance many of the human-powered services provided by the hospitality industry. Data is an important part of good customer service, and any new technology must integrate all parts of the business, from the back office to the front office.

Resolving Customer Service Needs Faster

Some individuals may say: “My customers want to talk to a real person. Only a human can be truly efficient and creative in solving customer issues.” Perhaps, but market studies have shown that respondents often prefer to engage with chatbots or digital agents more than with people if doing so solves their issues faster.

Digital agents may offer additional advantages over traditional chatbots for customer service as well. While a chatbot typically starts working every time a new chat is initiated, digital agents remember past customer interactions and preferences, and they adapt to each customer’s needs and personality with each successive conversation.

Chatbots may simply query customers with a predefined set of questions for decision making —scripted and robotic requests that can frustrate customers with the number of responses they need to provide before their queries are resolved. Conversely, digital agents are ushers: They take a customer’s hand and guide them through customer support to their desired outcome, whether that can be achieved with an immediate solution or requires a knowledgeable human agent.

Consider, for example, the following scenario: It is 3 a.m. and a traveler is checking in to a hotel after a long flight but needs a suit dry-cleaned and pressed before a big meeting the next day. The traveler could call the concierge or log on to the hotel’s support page for their dry-cleaning request. But what if the concierge is unavailable at 3 a.m.? A chatbot may be offered to manage the initial request, and that’s all. Not so with a digital agent. A digital agent will take care of the request from start to finish — instead of a cog, it is the entire machine. The digital agent will seamlessly arrange and organize all the steps with minimal human input. The job gets done faster, which ultimately means a happier customer. That’s where the real value lies — not in base digitization, but in interconnectedness, and in simplifying the entire process end to end.

Three Pillars to Implementing an Effective Digital Agent Solution

An effective digital agent solution has three pillars. The first is the ability to process natural language, so customers are not forced to pose their requests in robotic cadences to be understood. Digital agents’ voice-processing capabilities have advanced sufficiently to recognize natural, conversational human speech.

The second pillar is agent integration, or the interconnectedness of the digital agent with the customer relationship representative. The best digital agents mimic human behavior effectively, log each action for an immediate overview of the issue, and know exactly where to pick up the conversation to resolve the customer’s request efficiently.

The third pillar is compliance. Digital agents ensure compliance with processes, and they capture all details about each interaction, giving the company insight into the customer’s experience.

With next-generation digital agents, companies are not getting a single tool or instrument, but a conductor that harmonizes all their instruments (data and existing customer systems) to create a powerful symphony.

Customizing a Digital Agent Solution Based on Company Priorities

A digital agent solution doesn’t need to be complex. It can be as simple — or as robust — as the operation requires.

In some cases, it may make sense for a company to take a hybrid approach that relies on both digital agents and customer service representatives. Or, if a company would like to experiment with full automation immediately, it can run a test with a small selection of use cases to determine how it affects the business and lowers costs.

More than a matter of lowering costs, automating with digital agents is a transformative experience that enables businesses in the hospitality industry to increase customer satisfaction by meeting their customers’ needs efficiently. That’s the real value of the digital agent.