Sotetsu Hotel Management, which operates a total of 58 hotels under 4 brands in Japan and overseas (as of the end of January 2021, including those under preparation for opening), has been promoting the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) since around 2017 to improve customer convenience.
After using the tripla chatbot at the Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nihonbashi Kayabacho for 1 year, the company expanded the use of the chatbot to 47 branchs of the SOTETSU HOTELS, and we asked them about their impressions of the chatbot and the effects of its introduction.
Looking back at Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nihonbashi Kayabacho, which was introduced and started operation a year ahead of schedule, we can now visually see that the peak time for inquiries is around 24:00.
I think the guests are busy during the day and don’t have time to make inquiries. From the hotel’s point of view, it is of course fine to receive inquiries 24 hours a day, but perhaps guests are reluctant to make inquiries during the late night hours.
So, if the chatbot, which can respond immediately 24 hours a day, makes it easy and convenient for customers to contact us at their favorite time, I am glad that we introduced it.
The chatbot’s AI response rate is increasing, and moreover, the number of chatbot users has increased since the initial introduction, so we believe that we are meeting the needs of our customers’ inquiries.
The hotel staff is limited at night, so it’s nice to be able to use chatbot.
※ It was first introduced in Kayabacho, Nihonbashi in June 2019.
As a branch, we were faced with the challenge of dealing with the time it takes to respond to overseas customers. We started with the idea of using Tabimae and Tabinaka to help customers get their questions answered smoothly.
At that time, Nihonbashi Kayabacho received many inquiries from foreign customers every day. It took a long time to respond to the questions on the website such as “Access from the airport” by e-mail. We thought that if we could automate this process, it would free up our staff’s hands and allow them to focus on other tasks.
One of the results of the introduction of chatbots is the decrease in the total number of inquiry mails seen in the entire chain. Simple inquiries such as “baggage handling” and “check-in/check-out time”, which were originally common, have been reduced, and we feel that this has led to a reduction in staff response time and effort.
Above all, we believe that we have been able to pick up the voices of our customers and respond to their hidden needs.
After setting up the chatbot, we found out that there were a lot of questions about the parking lot, so we added images to guide customers, but in fact, we felt like “Was there so many inquiries about the parking lot?”
However, when we set up the chatbot, we could visually see that it was at the top of the list of frequently used questions, and if it was asked this often, we could say that it was a “hidden need”.
Before the introduction of chatbots, customers may have searched for external parking by themselves.
Now that we are able to share this information via chatbots, we are able to meet the needs of our customers to resolve their questions, and I believe that this has led to improved CS.
If you think more positively, there might have been a situation where a customer who was hesitating to make a reservation felt that it was troublesome to ask the information he wanted to know by phone and made a reservation at another hotel with a better website. I think it would be effective not to miss each reservation.
We hope that this will lead to even more bookings in the future.
I think there is still a lot of room for growth and utilization, such as installing QR codes for chatbots in the hotel so that foreign guests can easily resolve their questions without having to visit the front desk.
When we only respond to inquiries by phone, we tend to rely on our senses, saying, “I feel like there are many questions like this”. However, by introducing chatbots, we have been able to accumulate data on customer inquiries and visualize a variety of information, enabling us to accurately grasp trends.
From there, the discussion can evolve into, “We should add this kind of answer”, or “Why don’t we add a link to led to the reservation?”.
We also receive advice from tripla staff, and we feel that the data collected by the tripla chatbot can be used effectively to improve customer satisfaction in the future.
Mr. Misu, Manager, Operation Department
There was a problem at the hotel that other work would stop if we received an inquiry, so we wanted to use chatbots to replace the inquiry work and reduce the workload of the staff.
Especially during the late night hours, I thought it would be more convenient for our customers if we had a 24-hour chatbot, since we have a limited number of staff.
In addition, the partner staff at the front desk changes depending on the time of day, so it is ideal to be able to give a uniform answer even if the person in charge is different.
The introduction of chatbots visually showed a tendency to ask similar questions. I think it’s a strength of chatbots that they can always give the same answer.
The fact that they were able to provide support during the implementation was a big factor. tripla prepared a FAQ for all the branch, and we only had to review it and make additional corrections.
The “tripla chatbot” has been implemented in more than 800 facilities and has accumulated a wealth of FAQ data, but instead of receiving all the FAQs for a mixture of hotels and inns, it only consisted of FAQs specific to each of our branchs.
As the person in charge, it would be difficult to manage the system if it contained a lot of unnecessary information, but since tripla only uses FAQs that are specific to the branch, the burden on that point was less, and it was easy to implement.
I was surprised at how quickly tripla was able to create the FAQ.
It was also very easy to set up the chatbot on our website.
You need to fill in one line of tags to place it on your website, but the process itself feels like it can be done in 5 minutes per facility.
I feel that the system is easy to use, including the ease of implementation.
I also appreciate the fact that it is available in 5 languages (Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Korean). The translation is free of charge and requires no effort.
In terms of cost, I think tripla is a good choice because it offers 5 languages for a basic fee, which keeps the cost down.
The most difficult part of the implementation was preparing the FAQ for all the branchs, which tripla did for us, but since there were about 50 facilities to be introduced at the same time, it was difficult to confirm the FAQ and to coordinate the schedules of the sites.
However, we were able to implement it all at once thanks to tripla’s immediate response to our requests for revisions and their cooperation in adjusting the schedule.
We also tried several companies’ chatbots before implementing tripla chatbot in multiple branchs, but we decided to go with tripla because of its detailed follow-up and ability to meet our requirements for simultaneous implementation. We feel that tripla created the product with us.
Left: Ms. Narayama, Deputy General Manager, Operation Department ; Right: Mr. Misu, Manager, Operation Department
At Sotetsu Hotel Management, we have been focusing on ICT initiatives since around 2017, before the COVID crisis. We have just introduced automatic check-in and check-out terminals and are rolling out a system to all our facilities that allows smart check-in without human contact, and I believe that demand for this system will increase even more during the COVID period.
We believe that if guests can check in and check out smoothly without having to go through the front desk, and if they can use chatbots to make inquiries during their stay through QR codes, it will save their time and make them feel at ease.
Because of the need to coordinate with facilities, we have not yet been able to utilize all of the functions.
At the moment, we only have the ability to respond to inquiries, but in the future, we hope to enhance the flow of traffic that leads to reservations and to use the restaurant reservation function.
First of all, we should think about “how to make it more convenient for our customers,” and as a result, we would be happy if the service we, the hotel staff, want to provide reaches them.
Sotetsu Hotel Management operates 3 overseas facilities in Seoul, South Korea, and plans to open another in Vietnam.
Although English is spoken in some countries, we believe that customers will feel more comfortable if their native language is included, so we are happy if we can respond in their native language.
Ms. Mizunuma, Manager, Marketing Department
We operate 4 hotel brands, including the Sotetsu Fresa Inn, which uses ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to pursue greater convenience for our customers. In addition to the “tripla chatbot” on the official website, we have introduced guest room VOD, which allows guests to check the status of the crowded breakfast room and laundry facilities from the comfort of their rooms. In addition, by becoming a member of SOTETSU HOTELS, you can smoothly check-in and check-out using the automatic check-in/check-out machine with QR code authentication.
Exterior of [Sotetsu Fresa Inn Tokyo Kinshicho]
Lobby of [Sotetsu Fresa Inn Yokohama Station East Exit]
Thank you for your cooperation in this interview.