When Facebook announced at F8 in mid-April that they were opening up their Messenger platform to allow businesses to build “bots” – small programs that can monitor incoming messages from guests and automatically parse those messages and respond with text or graphical templates – IHG believed it was an important emerging space. IHG believes that bots can be used to create personalized experiences AT SCALE that allow the brand to simultaneously reduce the costs of customer service and live agents. IHG moved fast and within 8 weeks designed, developed, submitted and launched the Facebook Messenger Bot for Hotel Indigo.
The Facebook Messenger Bot allows guests to opt-in to receive messages from Hotel Indigo through Facebook Messenger. The guest is presented with a “Send to Messenger” button once they make a hotel booking. By tapping the “Send to Messenger” button, they immediately receive a confirmation details template, including a neighborhood guide with curated local recommendations for dining and entertainment. On the day before their stay, they are sent a 2nd message reminding them that they can customize their stay preferences (ie, a high or low floor).
The Bot had three main objectives:
1. Create a unique and personalized experience for Hotel Indigo guests
2. Learn how and when Hotel Indigo guests would prefer to communicate with Hotel Indigo through a social messaging channel
3. Generate awareness for Hotel Indigo as an innovative brand
Facebook Messenger has 900 Million Monthly active users (F8, 2016). IHG believes that Hotel Indigo guests closely fit the profile of active Facebook Messenger Users – millennials, digitally engaged and preferring self-service when traveling. The target audience was Hotel Indigo guests in North America.
IHG’s creative strategy was minimal. The templates available within Facebook Messenger were highly regulated. IHG learned the most critical part of the strategy was getting the “tone” of the Bot just right. Bot responses are highly tuned to make the messages feel personal and in the same voice that a Hotel Indigo staff would use.
This is the first year of the Facebook Messenger Bot program. The use of automated Bots in messaging apps is new territory. This effort is about establishing the baseline for how it might be improved in the future.