Booking.com is getting on the chatbot bandwagon as it starts to roll out a chat tool for customers to communicate with the hotel they booked. The messaging tool, built entirely in-house, will be made available via its website and mobile apps first, but the company says it is working on integrating it with some popular messaging apps, including Facebook Messenger. Users can ask hotels questions or make requests with their Booking account, and hotels can initiate a chat with a customer to ask for information about their arrival time and accommodation preferences. Booking.com does not specify whether the chat tool is powered by a chatbot or real human customer service reps, but it looks to be a mix of both.
What Brands Need To Do
With the roll-out of this chat tool, Booking.com joins fellow travel booking sites Kayak and HotelTonight in modernizing their user experience and customer service with messaging. With more and more smartphone users relying on messaging apps as their primary communication channel, it is crucial for brands, especially those in the service industry, to update their touch points and communication channels with messaging tools so as to better serve their customers.
For more information on how brands can effectively reach consumers on messaging apps and other conversational platforms, we recommend reading the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016 and our Fast Forward analysis on chat bots.
On Thursday, last-minute hotel booking service HotelTonight announced it is extending its in-app concierge service Aces to users to over 30 cities around the world, including big metropolises like London and smaller towns like Scottsdale, Ariz. HotelTonight first started testing Aces in five cities last summer. It allows users to chat with a customer service rep from the hotel they booked for concierge services, such as requests for extra toiletries or local restaurant recommendations without calling the hotel or even leaving the app.
HotelTonight is not the only booking site that is modernizing its service with a messaging interface. Travel booking site Kayak has built a chat bot on team communication app Slack that can handle flight and hotel searches. Startups like Hyper and Pana aim to simplify travel booking by replacing all web searches and phone calls with travel agents with texting.
What Brands Need To Do
Today, more and more people are using messaging apps as their primary communication channel. In fact, Facebook reported that together its two messaging apps – Messenger and WhatsApp – are now processing 60 billion messages a day, which is three times higher than SMS handled at its peak. Therefore, it is crucial for brands to integrate messaging features into their service so as to cater to the changing communication preferences of customers and better serve their needs.
To learn more about how brands can navigate the unique challenges that messaging apps present, check out the Conversational Interfaces section in our Outlook 2016.
Starwood Hotels hacked Instagram to allow socially connected travelers to initiate the booking process right in the photo-sharing app. Working with digital shopping platform LiketoKnow.it, Starwood allows users to start booking a reservation simply by liking one of the Instagram photos that the hotel chain paid social influencers for. Once they double-tap, they receive an auto-generated email via LiketoKnow.it with a link to book their stay at the hotel chain’s two featured properties in Paris.
What Brands Need To Do
Among popular social media services, Instagram has been notoriously hard for marketers to crack, largely due to its restriction on clickable links. Save for the call-to-action buttons in ads and the one URL allowed in each account profile, brands have no viable means to move Instagram followers down the sales funnel. Starwood’s effort here provides a new example of how brands can find innovative ways to circumvent Instagram’s restrictions and convert followers into customers.
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Starting today, guests staying at ten selected Starwood hotels will be able to use their iPhone (and, in the spring, Apple Watch) to unlock their hotel doors with the new SPG Keyless service. Based on Bluetooth LE (instead of NFC), the virtual keys will work with all iPhones from the 4S onward. Similarly, Hilton Worldwide has announced that it will be introducing its own smartphone key system next year as well. More Internet of Things could be expected to be applied in the hospitality industry in the near future.
As the emphasis of social networks continues to solidify, Marriott and MIT have begun to reinvent the hotel lobby as a social network. Called Six Degrees, the network matches up strangers in the hotel lobby, when business travelers would otherwise be eating or reading by themselves. The idea is to match people up via background, professional, and personal interests – and it notifies hotel staff, who might organize group activities around the particular mix of guests that week. It’s a socially and technologically forward-thinking method of connecting customers in a new, innovative fashion – and in a professional world built on connections, it’s hard to go wrong trying to facilitate that.
Google Glass already has a host of third-party apps, but Starwood is one of the first major brands to develop on the platform. Starwood’s app will let users search and book hotel rooms, view photos of the resorts and even get turn-by-turn directions to a location. Glass just closed their one-day public sale Tuesday, but with an estimated 10,000 Glass in use prior, Starwood can’t be reaching that large of an audience. They are likely making an investment in the future of Glass and getting some nice PR in the process.