AI front desk for Hotels and accommodations

AI front desk for Hotels and accommodations

The age of AI based chat concierges


Seeing the success of some of the biggest hotel branches introducing comprehensive AI chat services recently, we have received many questions from our clients about how small and large accommodations could utilize automated messaging and chat channels so we have decided to put together a short collection of ideas showing the wide variety of options. There is no way we can cover every possible use in a single article so this is only meant to be a discussion starter, sort of a teaser to help you find some interesting ideas that we can help you to refine and extend in the future.

The good news is, you don’t need to be a giant like Hyatt or Marriott to enjoy the advantages of an automated AI chat channel and likewise you don’t need to be under a certain size either so it doesn’t matter if you have a single apartment on Airbnb or have your own separate platform for a complete family of hostels in multiple locations, you will find that AI based chat solutions hold a tremendous value and can introduce significant improvements to your processes.
Lets see a nowhere near complete list of these:



Check prices and availability


If your business is even just remotely connected to renting rooms chances are almost a hundred percent that you already have it on booking.com, airbnb.com or any of the many similar local sites, where you have your prices and available options listed, so you are already covered, right? 

Well, there were countless times, even in my humble travelling history when I needed to contact a host directly because they seemed to be fully booked but could still get a room or got a much better direct price or had some specific questions that I wanted to clarify before placing my order. I was a lead really interested in their offering and they could directly convert my interest into dollars paying for their excellent services. 

However, if you are a small business managing your own property, you can’t be available 0-24h on all days of the week, you also need sleep after all and even if you have a non-stop front desk, you most probably don’t have your full staff available during the night shifts so you need to balance the workload. So, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the rather sleepless modern AI bots and let them do what they are the best at, answer the most common, repeating questions instantly and provide the most up to date information you have. Once the bot could sort out all the questions, it can drop in a promotional offer, sign the user up for further marketing messages or even better, help book a room directly through the chat and close the deal for you.


Check-in, registration, surveys


What is the single most annoying thing when travelling? Difficult question, you may immediately want to make it a top 5 or top 10 but we can all agree that standing in lines and waiting for security checks, customs, tickets, info desks… and the list could go on is at the top of all of our lists. 

So, probably one of the most obvious ways to boost customer experience is to minimize wait for your guests and make check-in, registration and providing general information as instant and snappy as possible. Let them use their phone to check-in, let your AI concierge guide them to their room, tell them the breakfast and checkout times, pool rules via instant messages, ask them to type in their license plate number for parking. If you think about it, you need to provide the same set of essential information to every single one of your guests so you are repeating the same lines over and over again. There is no easier task for your AI concierge to take over and it also helps your guest to have everything written down, they can just scroll back in Messenger.

In addition to that, whenever you want to improve your services and offering even further, there is no better way than actually asking your guests how their stay was and hearing their opinion first hand. However, I can say from first hand experience that surveys sent out via email or handed out at the front desk usually just get ignored. Your AI concierge on the other hand can drop a few questions from time to time into the conversation and ask feedback about your guests’ stay bit by bit without it feeling like filling in a 24 questions school exam.


Room service, city tour, best places to go


Following the ideas in the previous section, if you think about it, there are only a number of favorite, frequently asked questions and there are only a handful of requests or issues that you or your front desk needs to deal with on a daily basis. 

What is the best winery nearby? Where can we get the best pizza in the district? I need more towels, pillows or drinks in my room. We are planning a sightseeing tour but where can we rent mopeds, what are the places we must see? You are really well prepared for these types of questions, you could just print out a FAQ and hang it on the door but you want to keep it personal and you want your guest to feel like they get the best service possible so you draw directions on papers and maps, you smile and direct them to the same corner restaurant you always do and so on. Thanks to modern technology, your AI concierge can easily take this over, make replying such questions automated but still keep it feel personal. Plus it can send location links or reserve tables automatically, it never sleeps and as we will see in the next section, it always speaks the language of your guest.  


Send reminders or promotional offers


Once a potential or returning guest was in touch with you, your goal is to sign them up for further chat messages. Whether you want to send reminders about the upcoming start date of their trip, remind them of the check out times or invite them back for the next season with a dedicated offer, chat (especially Facebook Messenger) seems like a really good idea. On the one hand, you most probably don’t have the extra capacity to call every single guest one by one but on the other hand emails are just not personal enough and always land in the spam folder anyways. This makes an AI chat channel the obvious choice because it is a lot more personal than email, has a much better open rate, it allows two way communication so your guests can ask back and get an instant reply but still can be fully automated and cover every time zone on earth.


Multi-language support


I can clearly remember that there was a time in my life when I was pretty convinced that as I speak English and pretty much everyone else around me speaks a bit of English, I will never have any problem getting around and get people to understand me. Well, it quickly turned out that I just didn’t travel far enough before. 

It is not uncommon for a concierge to speak 4-5 languages on a basic level just to be able to talk to guests from all over the globe. The good news is, through an AI supported chat, you can easily bump this up to even 20-30 languages and let the engine pick the conversation language automatically. In our experience, localized messaging can yield 27% more engagement and greatly improved conversion rates when offering additional services like spa and massage.


Hybrid LiveChat


As we saw, an AI engine running your chat channels is the best at handling repeating, frequent and fairly predictable requests and processes. It does the heavy lifting for you, it can ask all the  lead qualification questions, provide the WiFi password, show the map to the gift shop, send out promotional offers saving you an incredible amount of time. This in itself is already worth the investment but the system is also clever enough to hand over the conversation and switch on LiveChat for you so you can talk to your guest directly. If you are not in the chat system, it can simply forward you the request via email whenever it is needed or specifically requested by the guest so you can make sure that they booking and stay will be a perfect experience.

Possibilities don’t stop here as integration with your backend systems can improve the service even further. With the right setup your AI concierge can book tables and activities, forward room service requests, order airport shuttle without any staff interaction needed.

Considering introducing AI chat at your accommodation? You have a new idea that you did not see in the article? Get in touch and let us help you introduce create an AI front desk for your business.


Why are chat providers turning away from Facebook Messenger?

Why are chat providers turning away from Facebook Messenger?

You should consider introducing web chat

Facebook Messenger needs no introduction, with its 1.3 billion users worldwide, it is the second most popular messaging app in existence. It is safe to say that with the combination of SMS and Facebook Messenger, you can reach almost everyone in the USA instantly. There is only one instant messaging app reaching more people than Messenger and that is WhatsApp. Although they are both coming from the same “Family” of Facebook services there are two major differences between the two messaging winners. WhatsApp (albeit slowly opening up) still lacks the business integrations that Messenger has and it isn’t as closely tied to the biggest social network on the globe so it is less ideal for business communication. WhatsApp API functions are still in Beta stage, access is very limited and information on how to apply for WhatsApp Business API or get approved is scarce. This arguably makes Facebook Messenger the best messaging app of choice for small and giant businesses alike. 

Then why are chat providers slowly turning away from it and why are they discovering new and additional channels?

To answer this question, we need to look into some of the coming changes and special attributes of Facebook Messenger. 



New Messaging restrictions coming on March 4th, 2020


There are two major updates coming that seriously affect businesses and their customer communication.

  • The previous 24+1 messaging rule will be reduced to a strict 24-hour messaging window. Businesses will still be allowed to message subscribers within the first 24 hours after a subscriber’s last interaction with the given Business Page but they will lose the previously available opportunity to send a last follow-up message after the 24 hour window expires. Luckily, promotional content will remain allowed within the 24-hour messaging window.
  • However, the biggest coming change is that messages sent outside of the 24-hour window must be tagged with one of the following Message Tags: Confirmed Event Update, Post-Purchase Update, Account Update, or Human Agent. It is really important that Messages that don’t have a Message Tag will not deliver outside the 24-hour messaging window as of the 4th of March.

These changes mean that businesses will have reduced options to send out promotional content and also need to make sure that they update their messaging flows to comply with the new rules in the very near future.


Lack of customizability (branding)


The huge advantage of using Facebook more specifically Messenger as your business communication channel is the sheer number of people you can reach, from Celine Dion to your old classmate’s 80 year old grandma, literally everyone is present on the social network. There is no extra app to download to your phone or new webpage to navigate to, you can get in touch instantly through a familiar interface that you use every day anyway. However, this uniformity also brings some downsides with it. 

As we will see, Facebook has many limitations and rules when it comes to contacting its users (understandably so, as we all like our privacy) but it also lacks customizability, you can basically pick your own profile picture when using Messenger and that is it.

What happens if you want to provide basic technical assistance through the chat and want to display the most important topics in the menu so your clients can easily access them at any given time. Well, you are limited to 3 topics as the Messenger menu is limited to 3 items.

What if your brand has a really strong visual appeal, your designers spent months to find the perfect color scheme, font type, visual elements, shapes.. Etc. Well, Facebook Messenger provides no option to tailor it to your brand, you are stuck with the previously mentioned profile picture update and that is all.

If you would like to have a branded interface, with a customized experience, your only option is to go the webchat route and have an independent chat channel where you can define every aspect of the visuals and content alike.


It all starts with a login


Whether you are using the Messenger app, searching for a specific Facebook page in your browser or simply would like to enable Messenger notifications when shopping online, there are only two basic scenarios. You are not logged in, so you are asked to do so before you can move forward or you have previously logged in, but even in this case you will be asked to confirm that it is you. It is perfectly understandable that Facebook asks you to give consent, it is there to protect your privacy but at the same time it is clearly visible that this is one of the biggest drop off points in a brand’s chat communication. 

There are many people who don’t want to give out their Facebook data at all, people who are not active on Facebook or simply doesn’t feel comfortable sharing any information upfront before they could even ask a simple question. It is like entering a new shop and even before you could look around you have to tell your name and phone number to the shop assistant. It is a bit unrealistic and doesn’t really make you feel great. A much more comfortable and generally better converting approach is to allow users to send you messages freeley and shift requesting any data to a later point in time. Once you have engaged people in a friendly conversation you can offer them an incentive in return for their “sign up”. 

If you implement a webchat bubble on your website you can start asking your qualification questions straight away and ask your leads to give you their contact info only as the last step of the conversation. This means the best of both worlds, because if you are using fanbot.ai, you can link the webchat user and the history of the conversation to an email address or Facebook Messenger ID and follow-up with further marketing messages on the preferred communication channel of your potential future buyer.

A noisy and crowded environment


Facebook Messenger is a go to or in some cases even a must have choice for many brands. This creates a rather crowded playing field where many businesses with really similar profiles are shooting for the attention of the same given set of customers which makes actually getting that attention from them increasingly more and more difficult. 

If we look at the same user statistics as we did at the beginning, we see that there are many other really popular messaging and chat apps so there are billions of people using something other than Messenger or WhatsApp. WeChat, Viber, QQ Mobile, Telegram, Discord and the list could go on, all have their separate fanbase. There is surely an overlap, there are people using multiple of these messaging apps in parallel (myself included) but there are also many people only available on one or the other. For example, in China the Facebook services are simply not available so you have to pick a different app if you want to chat with Chinese clients. 

This simply means that adding other channels to your portfolio can help you to reach new and previously not available clients and also helps you communicate your message in a less noisy environment which ultimately results in getting it through more successfully.  


Updates, changes, rules and control


As we previously explored, the control is in the hands of Facebook, if there is a new update or change they introduce, you either comply or decide to leave the platform, there is no in-between. These updates are hard to predict and sometimes it is difficult to gather reliable information about them, especially in advance when preparing. As a business, you can’t just freely send messages whenever you want to and there is no set and forget setup for us, chat solution providers either, we always have to keep an eye on the developer news and keep our systems up to date. 

We have talked about the checkbox plugin and its recent significant update in a previous article, which has hugely affected businesses all around the globe but we don’t even need to go this far to find examples. The new messaging restrictions we listed at the beginning of this article also had at least 3 deadline updates since their first mention. 

However, we have to give credit to Facebook as they act with the best intent, keeping the privacy of their users as a top priority. After the enormous data privacy scandals in the recent years this isn’t really a surprising change, they are expected and also pushed to move into this direction. However, they also seem to listen to and incorporate feedback coming from the community. For example, a One-time Notification API is getting introduced to ease the pain that the lost follow-up opportunity would bring with it in March.

We can expect some further significant updates in 2020 and 2021 to come as the giant is slowly melting together its previously somewhat independent services. Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger, AR/VR shopping services will all form a more cohesive ecosystem and this will surely have its imprints on how businesses can use these services for promotion and customer communication.


The conclusion: go hybrid


If you have come this far and read all the potential difficulties that Facebook brings with it, you could rightly think that you are better off with your own webchat bubble that you have full control over, where you are the boss and can control every aspect of the customer experience. You are absolutely right and we definitely recommend to have an independent platform where your users can get in touch with you without having a Facebook (or for the matter of fact any other) login registered but at the same time it would be really difficult to ignore all the advantages and potential reach that only Facebook can provide and no other chat platform can match at the moment.

A hybrid approach where you sign up users in the webchat module of your site and then follow-up in Facebook Messenger with targeted marketing campaigns can increase your conversion rates by a whopping 56%, when done right. Also, adding a Discord channel dedicated to your esports and gaming fans or building a new follower base and targeting a new audience on Viber can have similarly great results. 

The good news is that, you don’t need to build separate chat flows for every platform, you don’t need to start from scratch. Once you have the perfect recipe, you will just need to slightly adapt it to fit the extra platform. Fanbot.ai allows you to re-use your previously built conversations with a few clicks, you can also integrate LiveChat to make it even more flexible and diverse. 

You want to find the perfect chat strategy for you? We are here to help and figure this out together in a free consultation session.


What is new in fanbot.ai V3?

What is new in fanbot.ai V3?

Let the team speak

The new V3 release is out in the wild and already available to the public. There are many new features and functions crammed into a single version update but instead of creating a cheesy marketing write-up or showing a huge fact sheet comparing the versions, we thought that we would let the fanbot.ai team pick their personal top favorite things, the ones that are closest to their hearts because the whole release was a well-orchestrated team effort requiring dedication from all of the team members.

Zoli – UI/UX design

“When creating a new user interface, especially with so many new features getting introduced in one batch, it is extremely important to put special attention into keeping the software simple to use and intuitive and I feel that we could achieve that. My other favorite aspect was the Live Chat, its dedicated menu and all the related UI elements. You can see if a customer is waiting for your reply as a first thing when you log in, you can see a breakdown by the channels you have and the navigation is quick and easy. I like the usability of the new fanbot.ai the best.”

Andris – COO

“I am filling in the account management role for some of our largest clients and they always have really great development ideas and everyday requests. It is extremely cool that we could incorporate more of those “user ideas” than ever before. We spent dedicated time to sit together and listen to their needs, which is really important. For example, you can copy and reuse now your previous chat broadcasts, which seems like a minor thing but it made the particular client requesting it so happy. They use it every single day ever since then. It was also crucial for me to provide a seamless transition to the new version for my accounts. The very first broadcast from the new version went out to 120 000 followers, in less than 5 hours after the new version was published, which is always risky but it just went like a charm. ”

Norbi – Lead Front-end Developer

“One of my main tasks for the new version was to create the webchat module. It evolved over time and in its current state, I think it is a really neat design and has a unique functionality. I am really happy that we could find a way to enable full customization and branding. There are endless possibilities this way and I am curious what the users will build with it. There is also a seemingly minor addition that we included at the very end of the webchat development phase but it ended up being one of my favorites. Our users can choose from a chat bubble style appearance and the full screen mode of the chat on the admin interface with a simple flick of a switch. I don’t think there are a lot of other tools doing that and it is just really neat.”

Dani – CTO

“For me, one of the most difficult challenges was to be able to provide accurate data for the new statistics, collect them from all the different channels and platforms we work on and display them on an easy but still meaningful way. I always felt that the Dasboard in the previous fanbot.ai iterations wasn’t really up to its full potential, I always had plans to do a lot more with it. However, we knew that it would require an enormous effort and that it will be difficult to build it without slowing the system down with the continuous data queries but we found a really great technical solution at the end. We could also make it future proof so the system is ready for all the (secret) plans ahead. So, my favorite thing is definitely the Dashboard now. I mean just look at it, it just feels great.”

Tamas – Product Manager

“My favorite things are all the unique ideas that we could come up with. They seems so obvious now but the concept of them just did not exist before. For example, combining all the benefits of the webchat for signing users up, with the simplicity and open rate of the users favorite instant messaging app, be that Messenger, Viber or even Discord for the follow-ups is just so simple and yet so incredibly useful. Same applies to the automatic handover process from the chatbot to the live agents. This makes Live Chat support so much more scalable and efficient. Those were the moments when I thought, why did not we think about this before? Also, I just love the new conversation builder with the instant preview and the displayed statistics in it. I feel that it got 10 times better and I already liked it before.”

Berci – Chat platform expert 

“My main tasks this time were centered around the newly added Discord integration. As a pilot, we ported first one of our most successful Viber channels, the eSports bot to Discord with some added versatility. Discord is really different from Viber so loads of testing went into the user experience but we wanted our users to have the same snappy feeling. Partnering with Pandascore as a data provider opened some great new opportunities and Discord as a platform for anything that is related to gaming is just simply the best so I really enjoyed working with it. It was sort of a dream coming true, being around eSports all day and check the content as part of my daily duties. Tagging is also really great in the new version.”

Mark – CEO

“Maybe this is a bit of a cheating but my favorite thing about the new fanbot.ai is the entire thing. Our goal was to create a more complete offering that holds value for more customers but also makes fanbot.ai a self contained, full value marketing automation tool that can fulfill every client communication need that our customers have for running a successful business in a single solution. Nearly all of the chat based tools we saw on the market were focused only on one aspect of the chat and usually only worked as an extension to our clients already existing system. I feel that with the new V3 version we could create a more comprehensive multi platform tool, that combines the best aspects of all the different systems out there and by doing so, creates a more comprehensive and unique tool. With this new release we found a competitive edge that separates us from all the other chat tools and brings fanbot.ai to a whole new level.”

Would you like to try out any of the mentioned new features? Are you interested in creating a more complete chat experience for your brand? Get in touch with us so we can get the ball rolling together.


The new fanbot.ai V3 is out!

The new fanbot.ai V3 is out!

#1 multiplatform automated & live chat solution

A new, seriously improved and extended version of the fanbot.ai system is available from today on the web. The updated version is a result of an entire year of specific product research, thousands of man-hours in development time, all the accumulated experience and user feedback since the launch of our very first bot in 2014 and some magic touch that only the teams’ wholehearted effort could add by truly wanting to create a new and groundbreakingly great tool. 

This combined makes fanbot.ai the first multiplatform chat solution bringing together automated and Live chat options on Webchat, Messenger, Viber and Discord as well. 

What are the highlights?

  • A new webchat module that can be used as a traditional pop-up chat bubble in the right bottom corner of your page or in full screen mode allowing you to build effective conversational landing pages for your campaigns.
  • Full customization and branding to perfectly match the chat experience to your brand’s image
  • Live chat for your agents with automatic handover from the bots
  • A brand new Dashboard with detailed statistics about the performance and progress of your subscribers, messages and conversations
  • New platforms added! Discord and webchat are joining to the already available Messenger and Viber channels.
  • Advanced tagging with improved filtering and inverse tagging for better segmentation of your audience.
  • Updated conversation builder with immediately visible performance statistics on every element and instant preview for testing out new flows
  • Updated broadcast engine for scheduled and recurring messaging campaigns
  • New UI for shorter learning curve and improved user experience
  • Enhanced API for more advanced integration options with external systems
  • +bonus: there is a brand new website with fresh content to go along with the new offering

A complete chat solution for…


Marketing teams:

As with all the previous releases, we have put a huge effort into providing added value and new possibilities for marketing teams. Fanbot.ai now allows building conversational landing pages for campaigns, so instead of having a static landing page, now you can create dynamic pages allowing two way communication with the potential customers, resulting in much better conversion rates of your paid ads. The very same webchat module can also be used in the more traditional chat bubble pop-up format as well for catching website visitors. You can easily switch between the two layouts and both offer full customization. Logos, main color scheme, text colors, avatar icons, welcome messages.. etc. can all be perfectly matched with your brand identity.

Users caught in the webchat can be retargeted through their preferred instant messaging apps, be that Facebook Messenger, Viber or the newly added Discord. The intelligent tagging allows laser sharp segmentation of the audience for promotional messages and newsletter type chat blasts alike. These platforms allow a much more engaging community building for brands so we have greatly enhanced the chat broadcast features in fanbot.ai, now allowing the re-use of previous broadcast elements, scheduling and even inverse tagging of your users. To top it up, there is a brand new Dasboard showing instant visual feedback of all the important performance indicators of the chat channels providing the basis for data driven decisions necessary for planning and building successful marketing campaigns.


Support teams:

Possibly one of the biggest additions is the new Live Chat module now creating a hybrid option for handling customer requests. Client conversations can now start with the chatbot automatically replying to incoming requests and if your customer feels the need to talk to a human agent or the conversation reaches a point where an interaction with one of your agents is needed, the system provides an automatic and seamless handover. This enables your company to be available 0-24h on all 365 days of the year and reply instantly to incoming questions but also creates a way to directly talk to clients through multiple instant messaging apps and channels. By being able to listen and talk to customers whenever they feel the need to reach out to you on any of their preferred platforms you can now significantly boost their customer experience.

A freshly designed user interface was created for handling live chat messages so agents can jump in any time, have the full history of the previous messages and a sidebar showing all the necessary information about the customer at hand. In addition to that, the whole system got a UI refresh so if there are any clients waiting for your reply it is immediately visible in all the main menus and there is always a quick reply button leading right to the clients in line. The brand new Dashboard allows you to easily identify peak times and plan with your team’s resources more effectively.


Sales teams:

One of the most solid uses for fanbot.ai and chatbots in general was always lead qualification and generation. Potential clients can automatically go through your best qualification questions, you can skip forms and have a much more natural way of identifying customer needs. You can easily make sure that website visitors are always greeted and caught on a friendly way and clients can automatically set up meetings with your sales reps through the chat. You can quickly A/B test pitches, see click through rates of every element of your client conversations and see user numbers, interaction count and finish rates in the refreshed Automation menu. This makes tailoring customer interactions to perfection a breeze. In addition to that, sales reps can jump in anytime they see a chance and take the customer over to live chat. Extended API endpoints provide a full integration interface for your CRM, backend, payment or any other external system you would like to connect.

Although, we firmly believe in the better open rates and more effective communication ways of the chat we also see that there are still workflows where emails are needed and still relevant so we have prepared fanbot.ai to send out notifications and forward cases to external departments in an email format. 


eCommerce:

Some of the new eCommerce features were already announced prior to the V3 version release but the list would not be complete without mentioning the full Shopify and Magento webshop integration built in. All of the previously mentioned uses and features can also work wonderfully in an eCommerce workflow and can be extended with abandoned cart messages, shipment info or order tracking sent through Facebook Messenger chat.

Are you interested in the new features? Would you like to try them out? Get in touch with us right away as we are running a limited time introductory campaign offering personalised discounts.

For a detailed quick setup guide, please quick here.

… or see for yourself how to create your own automated chat in just 9 minutes: