The Role of Chatbots and A.I. in Hospitality


For decades — maybe centuries — humanity has been working toward automation and artificial intelligence, bringing the species ever-closer to a future of leisure while the robots do all the work. It’s been trumpeted as a panacea to productivity issues, a solution to labour costs, a way to ensure consistent, streamlined production processes. Many in the tech industry seem to think we’ve already arrived at this golden age of automation. But have we?

This past week, the New York Times published an article cautioning against over-reliance on chatbots. The author, Jenna Wortham, describes the almost reverent way new chatbot technology was introduced at the Microsoft Build conference in March 2016:

“Over a live stream, I watched Satya Nadella, the chief executive, pacing triumphantly as he talked about the company’s advances in machine learning and language processing. I nodded along as he described a ‘personal digital assistant that knows you, knows about your world,’ a bot ‘helping you with your everyday tasks.’”

But she then goes on to point out that, “for all the hype, none of these bots seem to work that well yet” and that she “suspected that many chatbots depend on human workers to complete their requests.” She also refers to Tay, the Microsoft A.I. chatbot that turned disastrous when, in March, Twitter users taught her to mimic hate speech and use other explicit language.

When it comes to its application within the hospitality industry, many companies are still working toward bringing full automation into the fold. The technology, however, is still a work in progress and, as it has shown time and time again, far from perfect. While we here at Benbria agree that automation via chatbots is the future, we also agree with Wortham that there will always have to be an element of human interaction for the most unique guest requests.

That said, the team at Benbria has made understanding the realities of business today as the main focus for our message-based solutions for the hospitality and restaurant industries. Many companies are challenged by growing competition and an increasingly demanding customer base. In response, they’re looking for ways to reduce labour costs, streamline their operations, and increase profits. That’s where our product comes in. It’s designed so that the nature of a guest request can be 100 percent understood and delivered in a timely manner.

We help our clients introduce automation to their businesses using mobile technology without relying on unproven bot technology, not because we don’t believe in it, but because our clients expect it to be perfected. After all, the need to deliver quick, reliable, and superior service to guests isn’t something you can afford to play around with in this industry. You get a handful of chances to delight the modern guest, and investment into technology needs to make it a better experience for them, not worse. Will the world reach the point where bot-driven messaging will be 100 percent reliable and deliver an exceptional experience? We certainly hope so, and we have a dedicated team in our labs perfecting this. For now, we’d prefer to deliver solid and reliable technology that enhances the relationship between our clients and their guests instead of potentially damaging it.

What are your thoughts on automation and A.I. in the hospitality industry? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter @Benbria.

About the Author: James Geneau is the Director of Marketing for Benbria.

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