Back to basics: What is a chatbot and does my hotel need one?

A chat what? While the term chatbot might still be a foreign term for some hotel owners, this technology is quickly gaining momentum in the hospitality and travel industries as more marketing experts begin to harness its potential.

And chances are you’ve already interacted with a chatbot. Think about Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa – these are all advanced forms of chatbots. Or put simply, computer programs powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that are designed to simulate conversations with human users.

What is a chatbot?

If you’re familiar with instant messaging platforms (like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and so on) you’ll understand the basics behind a chatbot. A bot is essentially the next generation of this instant messaging technology that we use everyday. Run using artificial intelligence, a bot is basically a computer answering your guests, instead of a person.

Talking to a computer may not sound like a very personal experience to offer guests, but with the help of natural language processing, bots can expertly mimic a real, human conversation.

According to Chatbot Magazine, there are essentially two types:

A chatbot that functions based on rules:

  • This bot only responds to very specific commands (it’s only as smart as it’s programmed to be). If you say something it doesn’t understand, it will typically reply with an error message.

A chatbot that functions using machine learning:

  • This bot has an artificial brain (artificial intelligence) and gets smarter as it learns from the conversations it has with people. You don’t have to be extremely specific when you’re talking to it, and it understands language, not just commands.

chatbot types for hospitality

How can a chatbot help me delight my guests?

So, if we consider that a bot is essentially your own messaging app powered by AI, that can plug into larger messaging platforms that you already use – like Facebook Messenger, text messages, etc. – and that no human needs to man it, hotels using bots to provide their users or guests with information will help them achieve their goals quicker, making their user experience quick and painless.

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