Hotels often prioritise direct bookings, because they tend to result in wider profit margins and greater overall control. Therefore, many hotel owners are keen to explore new ways to encourage guests to book directly and chatbots are emerging as one of the best options. In this article, you will find out how a chatbot can increase your direct bookings.
The Importance of Direct Bookings
In order to optimise financial results, hotels try to encourage as many direct bookings as possible. After all, when bookings are made directly, the hotel saves on commission payments made to OTAs or other platforms, while direct bookings also provide hotels with full control over all subsequent communication with the customer.
Unfortunately, most first-time visitors to a hotel website will not convert into paying customers right away and the reasons for this are numerous. However, it can be partly explained by the fact that customer decisions are influenced by so many factors: room rates, online reviews, location, the technology on offer, breakfast options and even Wi-Fi capabilities. As a result, many customers who land on a hotel website will then leave to carry out research.
While larger hotels tend to have the necessary budget to run re-marketing campaigns, independent hotels or smaller chains may not have this luxury. The consequence is that many of these hotels lose out on direct bookings to OTAs like Expedia and Booking.com, and finding solutions to this problem has become a key focus of the entire hotel industry. Possible options here include offering preferable rates and other direct booking incentives on the hotel website.
With that being said, one of the most promising and cutting-edge solutions involves having a chatbot on your hotel website and accompanying your booking system. The chatbot can then actively encourage direct bookings, offer a greater degree of personalisation and provide rapid responses to any customer questions or concerns.
4 Tips to Increase Direct Bookings With a Chatbot
A chatbot can help to increase direct bookings, but it needs to be used in the right ways. Below, you will find four tips to help to ensure your chatbot actually generates the benefits you are looking for.
1. Integrate With Your Booking Engine
Integrating your chatbot with your booking engine can help to increase direct bookings by making the booking process more convenient. Although current room availability can be found directly through a hotel website, some visitors will prefer the convenience of using a chat widget that is able to provide this information on request.
When a chatbot is fully integrated with a booking engine, users will be able to request information about room availability for their chosen dates within the chat itself. The chat widget can then re-direct them to the booking engine to complete their reservation. Any questions they have can also be answered by the chatbot, meaning users will not need to click off of your website to find out information. This means you avoid the risk of them being side-tracked.
A good example of this is the HiJiffy chatbot platform, where users are able to check availability, select a room, get real-time price quotes, view photos and then be re-directed to complete their booking.
2. Chatbots as a Marketing Tool
Chatbot communication via platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp can boost your marketing efforts, while offering greater personalisation for guests. Using chatbots in this way, you can encourage direct bookings and also gather the kind of information that can be helpful for delivering customised hotel services, or sending personalised marketing messages to individual travellers. This approach can also open up cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
As an example, a chatbot could find out information from a customer about the type of trip they want and then provide a direct link, through WhatsApp, to complete a booking. After the guest arrives, the information gathered can be used to send push notifications to their phone, complete with recommendations based on their preferences.
So, for instance, your chatbot may have gained information about a guest, such as their desire to relax and unwind, or their hopes of getting out and about. Your push notifications can then promote your hotel spa, or recommend local attractions. When all of this fits into place, you will not only have generated a direct booking, but you will also have provided a customer with a personalised experience, making repeat visits more likely too.
3. Remove the Language Barrier For Guests
It is impossible for hotels to employ enough staff to communicate in all languages, which can make communication extremely difficult with some potential customers. However, a chatbot built on NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) can remove this barrier, attracting direct bookings by communicating in a user’s preferred language.
This technology can then be used in your hotel too. Even if a receptionist is unable to understand and effectively communicate with a guest, the chatbot will be able to handle the interaction and potentially translate for both parties too, making the entire customer journey much smoother for many of your foreign guests.
4. Rapid Responses to Questions
Finally, an AI-powered chatbot can boost your direct bookings by answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) instantaneously, giving invaluable clarification on any issue a user may think of while pondering whether to book a room in your hotel. This can subsequently make the decision far easier, increasing demand for rooms.
Common questions related to check-in and check-out times, the time breakfast is served, or how to book various hotel services do not actually require human involvement, as they have clear and definitive answers. By automating responses, using a chatbot, questions will be answered quickly, customers will be more satisfied and your customer service staff will also benefit, as they will have fewer customer queries to work through.
Best of all, whenever necessary, a chatbot can inform hotel staff that a human touch is required, producing a seamless experience for the customer, even if their questions become more complicated. However, you can expect that around 70 percent of each conversation will be automated, dramatically reducing the need for intervention.
Chatbots offer numerous advantages, increasing customer loyalty, improving guest profiling, providing new revenue sources, and freeing up hotel staff. Yet, one of the biggest benefits is the ability to deliver instant, natural responses, in the right moment, resulting in more direct bookings.