Oct 9, 2019 | Customer Service | Reading Time: 5 minutes
Live chat or chatbot? What is the best choice for your hotel? We all know that online customer service is imperative for any industry, especially for hotels. But it is important to understand the differences between these two kinds of assistance before choosing one.
When we talk about online service in the hotel industry, there are 3 big communication channels: email, social media, and chats. The last one can be divided into two: chatbot or live chat.
Robot or human? Which one is the best? If you can’t make up your mind, in this article, I present the pros and cons of each of them to help you decide.
Pros and cons of chatbot and live chat services
While email and social media can coexist in harmony, it is not always the case between chatbots and live chat. Chatbots are totally automated and live chat are totally managed by humans. So normally, they don’t operate simultaneously.
Usually, companies choose one to work with, as if one excludes the other. Nevertheless, that can be a mistake, and I will explain that better later on the text.
So, what do travelers win and lose by choosing a chatbot or a live chat for hotels?
Human service in the hotel industry
Hospitality has a strong connection with human service. But is it true that people don’t like chatbots? According to Zingle, 66% of the survey respondents have interacted with a chatbot over the previous month. In regard to Millennials and Z Generation, the use of chatbots is even higher.
But it is not only the new generation that is familiar to chat online. In fact, conversation interfaces are here since the ’70s, so baby Boomers are also used to this technology.
Actually, a report claims that 2 out of 3 consumers would rather use a self-service than to have to talk to a human agent to get some issue solved. Hence, it is not true that people don’t like chatbots.
Therefore, if the traveler is loosing or winning without human service, it will depend on the traveler’s profile. What we can say for sure is that now people prefer texting to calling and chats can be a good alternative for those new consumers with “phone phobia”.
Quick resolutions for hotel problems
Besides operational questions, travelers frequently have complaints and urgent demands. Serious issues should be solved as fast as possible. Hotel reputation is at stake and a human attendant, at this moment, can be more flexible.
The ideal scenario is the one with an intelligent chatbot that identifies and sends notifications when the traveler wants to speak with a human. That means chatbot and human agent working together. Plus, did you know that artificial intelligence has such development now that it is even possible for it to predict when the human attendant will curse at a Call Center, for example? 😳
Available all day long
Most of Hotels Reservation Departments don’t divide their staff by communication channels (one for emails, one for social media). And, consequently, the availability of a live chat depends on the opening hours of the customer service and the demands of the different channels.
In the other hand, a chatbot will be available 24/7, regardless of the business hours (except due to some eventual technical failure).
Furthermore, factors that impact the cost and the productivity of a human team, like vacations and bank holidays, won’t harm the automatization of the service.
Cost-benefit of chatbot and live chat
On average, hotels with 80 rooms have Reservation Departments with a team of 03 people working at the same time. To calculate the cost of this team, we need to consider at least: working hours and shifts, employees’ education and the number of absence days from work. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To give you an idea, self-service is 50 times more cost-effective than a live chat!
Speed of the answers in chats
One of the advantages of chatbots or live chats is the expectation of them being a fast service. By fast, I mean instantaneously, with no waiting time. As soon as the chat starts, it should only end when all traveler’s issues are solved. There is no room for “thanks for your contact, we’ll get in touch soon”.
However, when is a live chat, it is not always possible to be instantaneously. According to research, while a chatbot answers immediately a request, the average time of a live chat is 4-5 minutes. Not to mention the time between questions, when the human staff is busy while putting together a quotation or having to answer someone else on the phone simultaneously. That’s not that fast!
A chatbot can put together a booking quotation with different options of rooms, prices and images in seconds and in different languages.
Why is time response so important for hotels?
A little tip: customer satisfaction is usually proportional to the revenue generated by the client.
Harvard Business Review calculated that clients with good service experience spend 140% more than the ones with a bad experience. The higher the score of the service from a client, the bigger is the revenue he/she brings to the hotel. For example, companies with a score of 10 can increase up to 2,4 times the annual revenue for clients.
In other words, the quality of customer service boosts the profitability of any business in the long term. Besides, it also increases the retention rate and decreases the rate of abandonment of the site.
In contrast, according to Kapow, 68% of consumers that had a bad experience of a service had left the company in question. So not only customer service can bring more money to the table, but it can also be a decisive factor for a client to stay or to leave.
Why do travelers want to have service through a chatbot or live chat?
Why do users choose a specific communication channel? A research from Drift about chatbots and another survey from BoldChat about live chats have one answer in common: “because I want fast answers”.
Regardless if they prefer chatbot or live chatbot, the speed f the answer is important. The problem is that the client’s expectations don’t always match the reality of the service, especially when it comes to live chat.
The waiting time of a live chat may be less than the waiting time of a phone call, but not enough to be considered “instantaneous message”. The instantaneous message is when a chatbot processes a whole quotation in 3 seconds!
Since most of hotels add live chat to their websites, but don’t enlarge the number of staff, all service problems of the traditional Contact Center repeat themselves in the chat.
In my opinion, the ideal would be to combine the best of both worlds: a chatbot to cover the operational demands and human agents to answer complex questions.
But in the end, it’s up to each hotel to decide which one to go to. Choose carefully!