When you’re Vail Resorts, the bar is set pretty dang high for anything you do.
After all, half the releases going out these days are acquisition announcements of skiing’s most famous brands. So it’s easy to compare new stuff (like Emma) to old stuff (like EpicMix) and hardly take notice.
But we should because while Emma isn’t an award-winning gamechanger, it is a nice little addition to Vail Resorts’ lineup.
Let’s first cover what Emma is. The concept is pretty simple. Simple enough that a tweet can cover most of the bases:
Meet Emma, your Epic Mountain Assistant launching for the 2018/19 season. Start by texting "Hi" to 77477. Emma offers on-demand info on everything from grooming, lift lines, parking, rentals, lessons, dining options, and more.#Breck #WinAtWinter #SeizeTheSeason pic.twitter.com/IxijTIWe6I
— Breckenridge Resort (@breckenridgemtn) December 4, 2018
Emma is a bot you access via text. You ask it questions, it gives you answers.
For example, I texted that I was at Vail and needed to know what time the lifts closed. Our conversation went like this:
Emma has a list of skills, you ask her questions, and she’ll do her best to find an answer.
Speaking of skills, texting “Emma” at any time will show you those skills.
Getting responses is virtually instant. I think the longest I waited for a reply was maybe 2-3 seconds.
And the answers were spot on. Yes, some stuff (like asking for a trail map) links you to an external source (as it should) but the vast majority were answered right there in our conversation.
Vail is not the first to try to automate guest service and mountain exporation – Dwight Eppinger introduced Sherpa nearly five years ago – but they certainly are the first to do so across something as broad as their network of mountains.
Having used Sherpa and now spending some time with Emma, I like how quick and easy it is to use Emma but I do miss the fact that with Sherpa I never had to take my phone out of my pocket.
Neither one solves the problem completely, but I love the innovation and thought that went into both and am eager to see where things go from here.
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