One million chats: what we’ve learnt and what you should know

Chatbots in tourism 2020: trends and analysis
James Donald
February 12, 2020

We’ve crunched the numbers from around one million chatbot conversations with actual travellers, and what we found might surprise you...

40 percent of chats come outside office hours

Figure 1

Tourism operators are using chatbots to answer when they can’t. Today’s travellers are increasingly demanding instant answers, and chatbots do that without your customer service team having to lift a finger. 

Our research shows that 40 percent of the time, customers are asking questions outside normal office hours. Waiting for answers is a silent bookings killer, and tourism businesses taking advantage of chat are reaping the rewards in terms of bookings and customer service productivity. (It’s not hard for your customer service team to be more productive when the chatbot will resolve around 65 percent of questions straight away.)

Our analysis showed that after 5pm, customers are often asking about availability the following day. Make sure your booking system allows bookings up to the last minute, so it’s frictionless for customers to book when you’re not around.

Peak chat time is 3pm 

Our research identified that peak chat time is 3pm in the afternoon (blue line on Figure 1 above), but peak response time by customer service teams (for those enquiries that weren’t resolved by the chatbot) was 9am (orange line on Figure 1) indicating that people are waiting overnight for an answer. This could be too late for many travellers, as they may be discussing plans with friends and family in the evening. 

Having processes in place to check and respond to chats between 3-5pm will improve responsiveness and help drive more sales. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were consistently the busiest days of the week for chat conversations.

35 percent of messages sent later are read by the traveller

It’s good practice to respond even after the customer has left the website or chat, because there’s a good chance they’ll be back. It’s common for people to visit your website several times before making a booking. Yonder chatbot has a unique feature of retaining the conversation history so a conversation can span days or even weeks. Our research shows that in 35 percent of cases, the traveller returned to the website at a later time or date and read the message left by the customer service team.

50-75 percent of messages originate from your region or one nearby

Travellers are making purchase decisions very close to the date they want to book… often 1-3 days out, and travellers are generally physically near your business when making chat enquiries: our research shows that 50-75 percent of the time the traveller is in your region, or a nearby region, when chatting. 

Knowing when people are most actively considering, can help when you decide how to best allocate paid online media spend.

21 percent of chats come from devices from non-English devices

Unsurprisingly, mobile devices are the device of choice for travellers. What is more surprising is that 21 percent of mobile chats are from devices of non-English speaking countries (see Figure 2 below). It is good news then, that Yonder chatbot is trained for poor grammar or spelling and when English is the traveller’s second language, it’s often easier to convey intention via chat with a few keywords, rather than having a phone conversation or chatting via email. Chat suits those for whom English is a second language.

Figure 2: Fraction of chats from non-English speaking devices

Questions about price are the most common

Questions about price are number one across all chats. Check where this info is on your website... Do visitors have to drill down too many levels to find it? Is the information detailed enough and answer questions about whether prices are per person, whether there are children’s prices etc. Questions about how to book, what’s available, whether booking is required, and questions around schedule (when the trip leaves etc) round out the top five most common questions. 

Questions helping customers to choose the best option are also very common - among the top 10. Enquiries about coming as a family or age restrictions are exactly the sort of questions Yonder excels at helping with and will offer personalised recommendations to help guide the customer to booking.

Chatbots are becoming increasingly common in the tourism industry, and with results like these, it’s easy to see why more and more attractions, activities and tours and accommodation are adopting chat to complement their in-house customer service team. 

About the research

Yonder live chat and AI chatbot are used by leading tourism operators in New Zealand and the Pacific. Our research draws on anonymised conversation data from hundreds of thousands of actual traveller conversations between our clients and their customers during 2019.

About the author

James Donald is a co-founder of Yonder, the company that supports the revenue growth of tourism operators in New Zealand and overseas with customer service chatbot technology. 

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