“Technology should enable human connections, but never replace them.”

citizenM does probably not need an introduction. They’re widely known for offering affordable boutique hotels in the most exciting cities of the world. Part of their worry-free traveling is the innovative use of technology. They are ‘never not innovating’. And recently they’ve extended their Sparkcentral platform with several chatbot projects. The perfect time to catch-up and hear their view on customer experience, automation and chatbots. 

One of the leading ladies of these projects was Angelica Vleeming, CX Project Manager at citizenM. She and her magnificent team managed to innovate during challenging times, without losing touch of citizenM’s values and vision. 

Pandemic-proof innovation 

citizenM’s Connect Team started out with messaging through Sparkcentral a while back: responding fast to customers’ inquiries on almost any messaging channel. But things at citizenM were going fast. With major growth and new hotels popping up – they realized that repetitive conversations and tasks could probably be handled more effectively. 

Time for Angelica’s Customer Experience Team to get involved! Together with the Connect Team they brought together a knowledge base of frequently asked questions, differences between markets and customers needs about different topics and conversations. And after a proof of concept and months of testing, their first chatbot was born! 

But then a global pandemic hit. “And actually, it became even more interesting. The use of our app together with our chatbot was the perfect way to fill the need for a contactless experience.” Not only to answer the rise of (cancellation) questions, but also to limit contact with people and staff in the hotel itself. 

“They say innovation is key during a crisis, but I’m glad we’re innovating 24/7, because we really needed it when this crisis hit hard.”

Angelica Vleeming, CX Project Manager at citizenM 

The Digital Ambassador Concept, as they call it at citizenM, was already on their roadmap: it was another innovative part of their strategy to make life at citizenM even better. “But Corona definitely made us implement it faster.” Asking information, unlocking your room or cleaning service? It can all be done through their app and without safety risks. 

 

“We’d like to say we planned it. But truthfully, we didn’t know we were building a pandemic-proof hotel.” 

– citizenM

Technology is our superpower

The fact that their chatbot was already up and running saved citizenM during COVID-times. In the meanwhile, they continued to launch chatbots on multiple channels: in-web chat, in-app chat and also WhatsApp. 

The results of their chatbot on in-web and in-app chat are pretty impressive: a large percentage of all their conversations are fully handled by chatbots. Even though people immediately get the chance to click on an escape button ‘I want to speak to a human’. “Our audience is tech-savvy and they often prefer talking to a bot, because it’s faster.”

The rest of their conversations are handled through a combination of bots and humans. “We realize that some conversations are not meant to be handled by bots. Technology should enable human connections, but never replace them.” It’s interesting to see that their WhatsApp chatbot needs more human interaction than the same chatbot on their website. “Inquiries on WhatsApp are more personal related questions. For a parking spot in Paris, our bot can definitely help you out, but if you’re having a family affair, you’d still prefer a human touch.”  

citizenM is the perfect example of combining innovative technology with a seamless customer experience. So what’s their secret? According to Angelica, the focus should always be your customer. “It’s nice that you’re more efficient, or cost-effective, but the main driver should always be to satisfy your customers.”