As tour operators are looking to reopen their businesses in a post-COVID world, two things are true: They are all looking for ways to automate their business to reduce their costs, and they are all looking for ways to get more bookings. Therefore, maybe now is the time to look into deploying a chatbot to cut down your time answering questions so you can spend more time rebuilding your business.
How much does your team spend answering the same questions over and over? What’s busier, your phone lines, your OTA extranet messaging, or your email inquiry in-box? Does your FAQ answer most of the questions you receive? In a 2019 report, IBM stated that chatbots could respond to 80% of standard customer questions for some industries. Two companies in our industry, TOMIS & TourOpp GO!, have deployed chatbots that can help you automate your business and potentially even get you more bookings when you decide to reopen your business.
The digital marketing company TOMIS, a technology marketing pioneer in the tour business, began to offer chatbots to their tour operator customers’ websites starting last year. Questions handled by bots range from price to hours of operation and beyond.
“According to the TOMIS cost calculator, based on a few simple assumptions, operators can easily realize $10,000 in savings per year by using a chatbot, contact form submissions can go down more than 50%, and bots can lead to a 125% higher conversion rate than all website visitors. Our clients have also found that their chatbots are answering an average of 2500 questions per month”.Evan Tipton, CEO, TOMIS
And it’s not just the initial shopping and booking experience that can improve with the smart use of chatbots. Customers need simple ways to communicate with the tour operator during multiple touchpoints before, after, and even during the tour.
Through an automated messaging tool, you can take chatbots to a different level by connecting to your customers through the apps they already use, WhatsApp, and SMS. TourOpp GO!, for example, links to your reservation system and allows tour operators to automate booking confirmations, tour reminders, pick-up information, send detailed daily itineraries, and request travelers to send pictures, post-tour review requests, and tip requests for guides. Most importantly, companies have also used automated messaging for up-selling or cross-selling additional tours to customers in-destination leading to more revenue.
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If the communication is done via SMS or WhatsApp, customers can directly ask questions to the chatbot, and the system will automatically respond on behalf of the tour operator. And one of the most important things to note on this service is that all communication will be made in the traveler’s language (it determines the language based on the phone’s country code).
Daniel Pino, co-founder, and CEO, TourOpp GO! Adds another benefit, “Automated messaging can also have a great impact by leading to more positive reviews. Sophisticated automated notification systems like TourOpp GO! can discriminate how a customer responds to a small satisfaction question (i.e., “Hey, did you like your tour today?”). If it’s negative, the tour operator also has the possibility of contacting the customer directly and try to respond to the complaint and proactively address the situation to prevent a negative review later.”
TourOpp Go Automated Messaging samples
But how hard is it to get started? According to TourOpp Go’s CEO and co-founder Daniel Pino, “an operator can have it’s automated messaging and chatbot running after just 30 minutes, and then it approximately takes 5 minutes more per tour if you want to customize it.
For the entire user journey, chatbots and automated messaging will continue to grow in usage and importance. Tour operators are looking to gain efficiencies, continue to reduce costs, delight customers, and increase revenue as they focus on recovering their business pre-COVID-19 levels.