The Redwoods Treewalk® customer service team was dedicating a lot of time each week to answering high volumes of incoming phone calls and emails which were mostly questions about pricing, opening times and other routine things, says owner Bruce Thomasen.
Redwoods saw an opportunity to use their website as an extension of their customer service team, and along with their digital marketing partner, Maverick Digital, worked on a website upgrade, which included a chatbot.
“Since the website upgrade including our new chatbot - Sequoia - customers have virtually stopped contacting us by phone and email, which is exactly what we wanted,” says Bruce.
“In 90 days over our busy summer period, the chatbot had 2,327 conversations, and just five percent have been passed to staff for response. Most people got the answers they wanted instantly.
“During that time, we saved around 274 staff hours, because the chatbot answered the questions for us.”
Forty percent of those conversations were outside 9 - 5 office hours, which is important because the Treewalk operates until 11pm in summer.
Administration manager, Kip Mather says that the time saving is the best thing about Yonder.
“We receive fewer emails now as the chatbot answers most questions. It’s great.”
Off the back of these outstanding results, Bruce is an advocate of the benefits of customer service chatbots, despite initially having reservations about what they could deliver.
Bruce reckons chatbots and websites go hand-in-hand: “They’re not separate. If you’ve got a website, you need a chatbot too,” he says.
“Analysis of chatbot conversation data identified problems we didn’t even know we had.”
During the summer, the Yonder chatbot is used to convey the Nightlights treewalk time that week to website visitors, providing a key piece of dynamic information for customers.
Yonder easily integrated into the Redwoods Treewalk® website, and hit the ground running, thanks to all the work the Yonder team did to understand our business and customise the solution to suit us, explains Bruce.
Redwoods customers are booking the same day or the day before they want to come, so the capability to answer questions in the evening and outside office hours is very important because that’s when people are researching or looking to book, says Tim Olson head of digital projects at Maverick.
Tim believes the Yonder AI chatbot is a critical element of the new website, and helps Redwoods deliver on its promise to customers.
“Sequoia is an always-on solution. He was customised to suit the needs of Redwoods right down to his look.”
An off-the-shelf chat solution often won’t deliver the results tourism businesses are looking for, says Tim, because the solution can’t be easily or cost-effectively customised to suit.
“Yonder’s bespoke solution is built for each business and rather than getting a solution that’s ‘good enough’, Redwoods got something that was tailored to them.”
Sequoia benefits from Yonder’s unique question bank, which is what enabled the chatbot to understand and respond to questions so effectively from the moment it went live in August 2019.
Yonder founder, James Donald explains: “We’ve aggregated data from all the conversations through our platform - around a million and counting - and created an extensive question bank that is unparalleled in its comprehensiveness.”
Modern natural language AI chatbots, like Yonder, require a lot of conversational data to drive good outcomes - typically 100+ phrases for every question asked.
Because of the question bank, Sequoia is able to respond intelligently to the many, many different ways people ask about things, for example, price: “Prices please”, “Are the prices per person?”, “How much is it for 2 adults on Friday?”.
Kip says the process of setting up answers was hassle-free, and is so easy, that they now update their own responses directly in Yonder.
Redwoods use Yonder’s comprehensive built-in analytics to inform tweaks to their website, refine existing chatbot answers and anticipate customer needs.
“Continuous improvement is an important part of our business and Yonder has given another tool to make that easy.”
“Analysis of chatbot conversation data identified problems we didn’t even know we had,” says Bruce.
“Questions about pricing were coming up very frequently, and it was three clicks into our website to get the info, so we used that insight from the conversational data to make pricing info more visible.”
Also, because questions about pricing are most common, Sequoia is pre-loaded to ask visitors if they want to know more about pricing.
The Yonder team has been great to work with according to Bruce.
“Yonder offer a great personalised service at great value.”
“They are a great business that really listen to the needs of your business, which is how we’ve achieved such great results,” says Bruce.
“Continuous improvement is an important part of our business and Yonder has given another tool to make that easy. It has really helped us streamline the customer journey.”
Delivering value for money is also important, and Bruce is happy on that front, too, saying: “Yonder offer a great personalised service at great value.”
Redwoods Treewalk™ is a 700-metre long, eco-tourism walking experience in the heart of Rotorua’s Redwood Forest that consists of a series of 28 suspension bridges among 27 majestic Redwood trees that are more than 118-years-old. The New Zealand Tourism Award winning attraction is a must-do activity for the thousands of visitors that enjoy the Redwoods Forest each year.