We gotta be honest, this article started as every other article, we had a clear content idea in mind. We simply wanted to provide some really concrete and instantly usable chat examples and use cases for retail stores. We wanted to help in building a successful conversational experience.
Then the whole world turned upside down within a matter of a few days, coronavirus, social distancing, self quarantines, cancelled events, closed schools, new regulations and limited shop opening times took over our lives. This is a really difficult time that will not only put its mark on our private life but it will also have a huge impact on businesses all around the globe.
Given the current situation, quick, clear and trustworthy online communication have never been so important ever before.
Our purchasing habits have changed overnight and retail stores are in the frontline of facing with that change so we have drifted the direction of the article a bit and pulled together a list of opportunities and options that can help adapting to the current situation and potentially save your business.
Set up automated chat channels
There will be many many repeating questions about opening hours, shop policies, availability..etc. and answering those will just put an extra overhead on your already stressed out staff. These questions can be easily answered by a chatbot, most of them are predictable and don’t need sophisticated background information. Also, having an easily accessible channel where people can contact you online, ask questions from their homes and get an instant reply has never been so important before. Setting up a bot agent in a webchat window on your website or Facebook page doesn’t take long, in fact it can be done in a few hours but the extra value it brings for your customers is really hard to beat. Even if you only have 20 of the most frequent questions covered, you already gave an easy alternative to 80% percent of the people contacting you. The chat can be fully automated and runs 0-24h without any staff assistance so it is no brainer.
Broadcast frequent updates to your follower base
In such rapidly changing times, it is crucial to share updates frequently. It is also important to avoid misinformation and misunderstandings. Chat messages are an ideal way of sending out quick updates real-time and they have the advantage of providing two-way communication so your audience can instantly ask back if there is a question. Your already existing Facebook page can be a trustworthy information source and you can use that channel to contact your entire follower base or just a segmented part of it through Facebook Messenger.
Introduce home delivery
I don’t think the necessity of delivery needs any explanation but if you don’t yet have a home delivery option, setting the necessary infrastructure up can be a complicated task. Luckily there are a few third party and partnering options that you can implement. However, even if you outsource delivery completely, the surrounding communication and questions from clients will surely fall back on you so having an online chat channel where people can ask about delivery will be a must. You already have a website and you already have a Facebook page for sure, you might also have a dedicated webshop. Lets start on these fronts and implement chat options for your clients. As in the previous point, most of the generic question can be taken care by a chatbot agent reducing the workload but it will be useful to have a Live Chat option as well in case people get stuck or want to talk to a human. Once people have placed their orders, they would like to keep a tab on it so sending Messenger updates about order confirmation, shipping info, progress and exact delivery times provides the best customer experience for them. We strongly recommend to introduce a “contactless delivery” option where your delivery guy can leave the package at the front door and send a chat message or push notification to confirm the successful delivery.
Build Messenger Shopping
Creating a dedicated app for your online shoppers can be a really costly and equally lengthy project which might or might not return your investment (especially these days). Also, convincing consumers to download yet another app to their phones is getting extremely difficult. Instead of that, we recommend building a complete shopping experience on Facebook Messenger. Almost everyone has it already installed on their phones, the chat aspect enables you to have automated or real sales staff to boost your business, instant payment options are getting available and it is still something unique that can catch people’s attention. Chat engines working in the background can be highly integrated through APIs so it can actually be a really advanced and sophisticated system, capable of providing up to date info about product availability, delivery times, returns.. etc. An added bonus is that you can send out campaign messages and updates when your customers don’t use Messenger for actual shopping.
Have an in-store guide
My last experience in the local big chain retail store nearby was surrounded by empty shelves and customers stopping the shop assistants and staff every other minute with questions. They had the very same questions about where they can find this or that, when the missing item will be available again, is the item they are looking for in stock just still in the warehouse and if there is a substitute they can buy instead. These questions are really easy to group and list and some of them are even easy to answer but they were so frequent they actually stopped the staff from doing their daily routine and they were already working on a reduced capacity. This could be easily handled by a dedicated “in-store” chatbot. Customers could ask questions on their phones, the bot could guide them to the given product showing a map, it could give up to date information about availability and recommend another product if the original one is no longer in stock.
Live Chat is still a safe way for your staff and customers to interact, it can provide the same personal experience but it clearly doesn’t have the risk of a traditional support or information desk where people could transfer the virus. An added bonus is that chat can be automated so the FAQ type questions can be handled by a bot agent filtering out more complicated cases that actually need human attention. This can be a huge time saver and can reduce the workload greatly.
There is an added bonus, the chat format can really help newly hired staff as they can use previously prepared template or “canned” responses and also look through the internal knowledgebase. Let’s admit, both of these would look a bit awkward in person.
Product availability and substitute products
This was already mentioned before but it definitely deserves its own dedicated spot. Advanced integration options are available, connection between your internal stock, warehouse, inventory management system and chat channels can be easily built. This enables an automated chat channel to be much more intelligent and useful, it actually provides data for building a product recommendation and availability checker flow that needs no human interaction on your end but can still fully satisfy the needs of your customers. They can ask over webchat, Messenger, Viber or Discord at any time of the day and get an instant response. It can also guide them to the nearest store that carries the item they are looking for.
Use chat internally
The above ideas of using the chat are not only helpful for your customers, you can use them internally as well for supporting your hiring process, announcing updates in policies, answering frequent questions coming from your staff. We know it from first hand that hiring takes up an enormous amount of our time so the more it can be automated the better it is for the team. Introducing an automated chat for hiring can save you an awful lot of time by answering repeating questions, setting up interview times automatically in your calendar, providing all necessary basic info for the applicants.
Also, you will need to roll out changes in policies really quickly and the chat doesn’t require your staff to be connected to an internal system all the time, they can receive the updates at home as well.
Fanbot.ai allows you to build up these communication channels easily and introduce your own custom chat flows for a complete conversational experience. We are here to set this up with you!
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:
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.
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.
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.