Chatbots are the hot new thing in retail — so hot, in fact, that merchants are scrambling to set up their own conversational commerce platforms without wondering whether their customers even need one. However, Booking.com is one of the few that has a demonstrated plan not only for why international travel is the perfect environment for chatbots but how it's going to achieve a high-functioning service as soon as possible.
VentureBeat reported on Booking.com's new secret weapon to make traveling anywhere in the world a little less stressful — a chatbot platform that allows travelers and the hotels they've made reservations with to communicate arrival times, last-minute preferences and directions if need be. According to the site, 75 percent of its customers prefer self-service options to find answers to simple questions like these that are often crucial to travelers trying to navigate an unfamiliar airport or city center — and even more important for hosts that need to juggle rooms to avoid upset guests.
While Booking.com Chief Product Officer David Vismans told VentureBeat that the company was still committed to building a bigger chatbot presence through Facebook and other popular platforms, building its own was crucial at this point in the chatbot timeline. While Facebook allows brands and customers to engage in fruitful dialogues, Vismans noted that what Booking.com needed to do with its chatbot was link its customers to the business they booked at; this kind of third-party integration is not yet available many places, but it is now at Booking.com.
The hotel marketplace also hurdled a fairly sticky problem of translation by implementing conversational "templates" that hosts can use to communicate with foreign guests, no matter how tall the language barrier seems. Hotel operators, who can choose to initiate conversations with travelers, simply choose questions in native languages — such as, "When are you arriving?" or "Do you need directions?" — and the chatbot automatically translates and answers from there.