INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Benjamin Devisme, Quicktext Discusses why AI Chatbots are the Future for Hotels in a Post Covid World
We talked to Benjamin Devisme on how Quicktext is a chatbot for hotels powered by artificial intelligence, and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Benjamin Devisme: Fine. COVID is a tough time for business, but it is also an opportunity to reconnect with your loved ones. Their business life can easily absorb entrepreneurs. 2020 is an opportunity to remember that your business will never love you back; only your family and friends will.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Quicktext?
Benjamin Devisme: I exited the first Startup hospitality I joined and looked to find another opportunity in the same market mainly because it is a cool industry. Also, the potential for SAAS application is very high. When we created Quicktext in 2015, we looked at the main trends for e-commerce and realized that most actors completely misunderstood what mobile technology was about. They desperately tried to make websites smaller when, in actuality, the DNA of mobile is interaction. We needed to do something that would enable customers to get instant access to any hotel-related information on demand through the hotel website, Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, etc. This is obvious today, but it wasn’t the case 5 years ago.
How does Quicktext innovate?
Benjamin Devisme: Chatbots are not new. The value proposition is simple and more and more appealing due to the current market circumstances: Reduce operational costs, automation of recurring customer interactions, increase direct sales by creating an engaging conversation and guiding hesitant customers through the direct booking process, Improve customer experience by delivering content instantly. A hotel responds to an email in 48h on average, so instant reactivity is a giant leap forward. What makes Quicktext unique is that we focused all our efforts on one single industry instead of offering a generic platform. We built our own Natural Language Understanding algorithm (NLU) to create the only AI specialized in hospitality. This enables us to deliver better results and go way past our competitors’ limitations as they use outsourced generic NLU algorithms. It’s like when you have a heart issue; a cardiologist will deliver better results than a normal doctor. This also allows us to offer our algorithm to corporate actors who need to build their own AI applications requiring language understanding skills.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Benjamin Devisme: There is a short term effect where some customers experience financial hardship, and unpaid invoices have increased. However, we also got new customers for whom digital technologies and automation were essential tools to help their business cope with future crises. We survived the crisis and believe that the long-term impact will be beneficial to our business as AI is part of the solution, and hoteliers are now aware of it. Some are in better financial shape and ready to invest now; the rest will follow.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Benjamin Devisme: What is not difficult in the life of a startup? We wanted to do a series A in 2020, and due to market conditions, we decided to hold until 2021 to prove that our business was resilient and offered a substantial value. To do this, we had to cut expenses by 40%, and this is always hard. The lesson I learned is that no one is irreplaceable.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Quicktext in the future?
Benjamin Devisme: You can’t control what is beyond your control, so there is no point in worrying about it. It’s essential to stay cool-headed in a crisis to make short-term adjustments without hindering too much your medium & long term strategy. I also think that it is crucial to keep a balanced life. Sleep and exercise help you keep your mind clear.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Benjamin Devisme: Quicktext has scores of competitors, but only a few are serious and focused on hospitality. The hospitality market is quite big and fragmented, so there is room for everyone, especially now that more and more hoteliers are eager to leverage chatbots to automate repetitive customer interactions. The best way to stay in the game is to know your target customer segment and focus on delivering the best solution for this specific segment. In our case, we target upscale and luxury hotels & groups. This segment requires an advanced solution with reliable support. Individual economy properties might prefer a more straightforward and cheaper solution than Quicktext. That’s completely fine because different elements have different needs, and there is no one-size-fits-all. Make sure your niche is big enough, that your product is the best suited for that specific niche, and own it. We have selected one additional segment that we will pursue in 2021.
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