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Digital concierges like Ivy are making an impact in the hospitality sector

A complete guide to digital concierges in 2021

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Guests today are increasingly tech-savvy and look for on-demand responses that allow them to be self-sufficient. Businesses that handle  guest interactions are turning to digital concierges as a way to fulfill this demand for quick, attentive and superior service. If you want to understand how digital concierges can impact your business, here’s a complete guide that has the features you can expect, how it works, and the benefits. 

Want to see how a digital concierge can deliver unforgettable experiences and ROI for you? See Ivy in action.

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What you can see here

  • What is a digital concierge? 

  • Who needs a digital concierge? 

  • What can digital concierges do? 

  • What benefits can you expect from digital concierges? 

  • Where can you find digital concierges? 

  • What to look for in a digital concierge

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Digital concierges are present across all industries

What is a digital concierge? 

A digital concierge is like your personal assistant who is always on hand to help. Also known as a smart concierge or virtual concierge, a digital concierge uses AI technology to intelligently communicate with guests over a communication platform (such as a website chat window, mobile app or through text messaging). It’s pretty much like having a conversation with an intelligent, well-connected concierge.

Who needs a digital concierge?

If you want to enhance guest experiences, you need a digital concierge. 

Digital concierges can be deployed in any industry seeking to enhance guest experiences.

Let’s take the healthcare industry. Digital concierges within the healthcare industry can offer a non-intrusive approach to medical services by allowing visitors to schedule appointments at their convenience thereby reducing wait times.

Are you in the events and entertainment industry? Event digital concierges can help your guests stay updated about events at their location or recommend events based on individual preferences.

Several retirement homes and apartment complexes have also opted for digital concierges to facilitate access and answer residents and visitors’ queries. .

The hospitality industry has been one of the largest early adopters of digital concierges. Let’s look at some of the ways in which the hotels and casinos have started putting digital concierges to use.

What can digital concierges do? 

Quicker response, faster service

Digital concierges provide guests with quick answers while helping hotels and casinos manage guest relationships from the time guests book to after they have paid their bill, and beyond.

By handling commonly asked questions (think WiFi passwords, booking availability, room types, driving directions, restaurant specials), digital concierges take a huge load off front-desk and in-house staff.

AI powered smart assistance

Using Artificial Intelligence, digital concierges offer guests contextual and conversational assistance. Here is an example of how that would work. Imagine guests have just checked into your hotel and realize that they need a set of extra towels. All they need to do is send a text message using their own mobile phones to the digital concierge that replies instantly to confirm the number of towels and alerts housekeeping to send them up.

Complements staff 

A lot of businesses worry that bringing digital concierges onboard will translate directly into staff turnover. 

Quite the opposite. Digital concierges help staff work more efficiently than ever before. By freeing their time to focus on complex activities that require human attention, hospitality staff productivity is boosted as they handle more value-driven tasks. 

In fact, 86% of hoteliers agreed that AI improved employee satisfaction according to a 2019 report from Starfleet Research and Oracle Hospitality. Digital concierges take on mundane tasks like answering questions about WiFi passwords and driving directions, freeing employees to focus on higher-value, high-touch tasks that  enhance their knowledge and performance.

Talks like a real person 

Digital concierges can also redirect complex requests to staff instantly. Your team member then merely continues the conversation — a completely seamless discussion from the guest’s point of view! 

No, ‘let me put you on to our staff’ responses. No, ‘Hi-I’m-Human-Staff-How-can-I-help-you?” reboots and painful conversational loops that require guests to repeat their requests or problems. 

A human merely takes over the conversation, and the guest is served.

Coordinates across departments

A digital concierge provides transparency into past guest interactions and requests. The staff can leverage systems such as shared calendars, reminders, and internal notes to coordinate various guest requests across housekeeping, loyalty membership, catering (etc) teams.

Clear, trackable guest interactions 

A digital concierge provides managers with a single conversational thread for each guest. Conversations from the time a guest books (requests for reservations, early check in, airport transportation); to the time they arrive at the hotel and check in (wake up calls, extra pillows and laundry); to post-visit (like payment and reviews) are organized and trackable in a single thread.  

When your guest’s journey is no longer a mystery of channels and blanks, you have a lot of insights to mine and analyze. Imagine what that could do for your marketing and ad campaigns. 

Beyond keyword triggered responses

Intelligent digital concierges  understand the context behind any guest inquiry. The responses are more humanized and go beyond ‘keyword triggered’ automated systems, which are limited only to general information.

This may seem intuitive or a simple benefit. But it translates into improving your guests’ experience radically. Imagine a guest being texted the WiFi password when she is infact complaining about the WiFi being slow or not working. 

Want to meet a digital concierge that can go beyond keyword triggered responses AND understand emojis? 

Can speak more languages

Guests sometimes have a strong preference for communicating in their own language. Or are delighted when you speak their language.With digital concierges, switching languages to speak to guests is easy. Your staff can communicate too in Spanish, French or Chinese.

Digital concierges also address accessibility issues by giving people with hearing impairments the option to chat and communicate easily..

What benefits can you expect from digital concierges? 

Upsell and onsite spending

According to Hotel Tech Report, unlike resort fees, guests are not annoyed by upsell offers at hotels. You won’t be increasing revenue at the expense of guest satisfaction. Instead, guests report that relevant offers made during stay actually improve their experience.. Digital concierges score over traditional methods such as email and signage in this regard – by making offers in a timely and intimate way.

Digital concierges can message in-house guests about late checkouts and extended stay deals just before the guest’s departure. The system can be used to deploy specific, targeted messages based on rewards programs, loyalty tiers, or other special guest assignations. 

Want to see how much you can earn with a digital concierge in the hospitality industry?

Hyper-targeted advertising

The long-term impact of an AI-driven digital concierge extends far beyond a guest’s stay. Insights gathered while using the system can build better guest personas, which in turn can be leveraged for customized offers. With this information, marketing teams can create hyper-relevant, real-time messages and campaigns. And as every marketer knows, accurate personalization results in optimized ad spend with greater conversion success.

Improve online reputation

A digital concierge offers a faster resolution of issues and quicker communication of guest needs. Problems are caught and solved long before a guest decides to complain on TripAdvisor about how cold her room is. In fact, with digital concierges checking in on guests mid stay, you will likely hear about problems while guests are still on property. You have the advantage of keeping  everything within the bounds of private communication channels, giving the staff sufficient time to resolve the issue and soothe concerns before it becomes a public complaint.

In fact, after the implementation of a digital concierge, Caesars reported that hotel rankings for its group of Las Vegas hotels on TripAdvisor climbed by 30-40 positions! As most hotels are aware, trying to push your positive online reputation takes millions of dollars in investment.

Boost sales conversion

A lot of time is spent by sales in checking booking dates, arranging activities and sharing information that is pertinent to making a decision. Speed is an essential aspect of online purchases, and digital concierges help move that process along by rapidly providing information relevant to purchase decisions.

Where can you find digital concierges? 

According to Chatbots Magazine, Ivy by Go Moment is currently the largest concierge service on the Vegas strip and has been deployed within Caesars Entertainment’s Las Vegas Resorts, including Caesars Palace and Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino. Currently, over 50 million guests have met Ivy!

Gustaffo is an AI-based digital concierge solution for hotel guests in Europe. It provides guests with room access, check-in, and notifications. Gustaffo’s clients include Savoy, Hotel Europa, Wandl & more.

BEFORE YOU CHECK OUT A DIGITAL CONCIERGE…HERE’S WHAT TO LOOK FOR

If you’re looking at providing your guests with a safe, autonomous and elevated experience, digital concierges are a great choice. But while digital concierges offer the hospitality industry the latest in guest experience technologies, it is essential to understand that not all solutions are created equally.

Let’s look at some of the factors to consider before investing in a digital concierge.

Pricing Model

Some digital concierges offer user-based capabilities, while others may be driven by the number of features that the solution offers. It is important to understand your business’s current position and future growth prospects before settling on a pricing model for a digital concierge.

Tiered pricing is common for most SaaS companies. Depending on the tier chosen the pricing model will vary, and with it, the depth of information or features of the digital concierge product. Tiered pricing gives the advantage of allowing a test run of the digital concierge at a lower price and scaling up once there is proof of performance.

The Pay As You Go pricing strategy relates the cost of the digital concierge to its usage: if the hotel uses more of the service, the bill goes up. This can however be hard to budget for and result in unexpected fluctuations during tourist seasons.

Feature pricing helps buyers pick and choose the specific functionality they are seeking, and pay for those features only. It helps those in the hospitality industry focus on “the sweet” features, (no pun intended), without paying for a lot of bells and whistles which may not ever be used.

Onboarding and Scalability

As buyers of a digital concierge, hotel owners also want to ensure that the new technology is adopted and used so that the investment is recovered. This requires ensuring that the chosen digital concierge offers the desired capabilities, but doesn’t need extensive people training to implement and use. Good digital concierge solutions should also be scalable to manage hospitality requirements as the business grows. It’s important to ask questions such as: How many guests can access the digital concierge system at the same time? What happens if you host an event or conference at your hotel?

Integration with PMS

To be effective, digital concierges must communicate seamlessly with third-party applications, such as PMS (Property Management Systems), CRMs and payment gateways. Digital concierges that integrate directly with existing systems also enable greater accuracy in data tracking. This, in turn, helps managers analyze information in real-time to avoid potential issues due to information silos.

Security and Compliance

As digital concierges deal with private guest information and preferences, it is important to ensure that data security and legal protocols are in place. Compliance with industry regulations and all relevant operational certifications must be considered.

Reporting & Analytics

Digital concierges help hotels uncover insights about their guests’ stays and preferences, which can impact future business transactions. The best digital concierges offer consolidated information on property operations and guest behavior. For example, a record number of margaritas being bought in May might trigger a profitable insight into hosting a bigger Cinco de Mayo event in the future.

24/7 Support

Does the digital concierge come with an online support team or dedicated assistance? For the hospitality industry, round the clock service is essential, and investors should ensure there is no loss due to downtime.

As digital concierges begin to be more widely adopted in the hospitality sector, the technology will evolve to play a deeper role in enabling hotel operators to elevate their guests’ experiences. And as maintaining guest relationships is the keystone to any successful hospitality business, you can be sure that digital concierges will be a big part of the game in the future.

For more information on how digital concierges are helping the hospitality industry raise the bar, check out some of the articles given below. If you are looking to experience how a digital concierge can help take your hospitality to the next level, ask to see Ivy in action.

Centralized guest services centers

Why hotels and casinos are doubling down on centralized guest services

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Delivering exceptional guest services is a top priority for all of us in the hospitality industry.

How will centralized guest service centers get us to this goal in 2021?

Meet Sam and Mike. Two driven, focused, and ambitious young professionals working in our hospitality industry. There are no tangible differences between the two.

Sam is responsible for delivering unforgettable guest experiences. His daily tasks all ladder up to that one job of keeping guests happy. Everyday, Sam fields guest inquiries, responds to them himself, or directs them to housekeeping and F&B teams. His role allows him to follow up incessantly with guests till their requests are fulfilled and even after to collect feedback.

Mike is a Front Office Manager. As we all know, his job covers multiple grounds. He welcomes guests, handles check-in/check-out processes, answers queries from in-house guests on the phone or in person, generates tickets for the relevant teams. While delivering on unforgettable guest experiences is an aim, often Mike is stretched thin simply checking all the boxes.

Now if we tracked guest experience, there is no debate that Sam’s focused effort would deliver better results.

Sam’s success can be attributed to the fact that the property created a role that focused on delivering unforgettable guest experiences.

What would Mike do if 6 guests showed up at the same time at the front desk and three more were calling down?

Centralized guest services

The concept of building a centralized, often offsite, team that is focused on delivering guest experiences isn’t new.

Across the US, casinos, brand hotels, and property chains have already adopted it.

Ivy, our digital concierge, is part of the tech that is anchoring these centers.

[If you would like to hear more about the properties that have established the center, get in touch. I’d be happy to share more details.]

As we emerge from pandemic-related lockdown and restrictions, and guest unease, increasing number of hotels and casinos are following suit and establishing these centers.

We need all the advantages to regain the ground that we lost last year.

What would a centralized guest service center look like?

  • Command center: Think of it as a PBX or hub that would oversee guest experiences. One center that handles all guest inquiries and requests, directs them to the right departments for fulfillment on a need basis and then follows through to ensure guest satisfaction.
  • Location and property agnostic: With the right protocols and processes in place, the command center needn’t be on property. In fact, we can expect significant cost savings if we established a command center that covered several properties at a time.
  • Time-bound follow-through: Fulfilling guest requests in a time-bound manner (remember Domino’s promise of pizzas in 45 minutes or you get it free?) is a job half done. Following through and asking for feedback at the right time increases favorable online reviews and NPS scores.

Tech adoption as the way forward

Given the staffing crisis that we are currently facing as an industry, the centralized guest service operations can lift the pressure off hoteliers and operations staff at individual properties.

Adoption of tech to staff the command center, automate guest inquiries, streamline processes is the only way forward. The idea that tech automation is destroying guest experiences or that it takes jobs away from people is an outdated one.

We have data and research from Cornell University to show that hotel staff appreciates tech automation reducing their workload, particularly the tedious aspects of it. If anything, we see that when technology handles repetitive tasks, hotel staff are freed to handle more complex guest queries consequently increasing job satisfaction levels.

[Ask about the study and the data.]

Digital concierges (and similar tech solutions) also play another crucial role during this crisis. They ease the pressure on the staff currently on board and at work at different properties. As much as 65% of queries can be automated.

Centralized guest service operations may well be the next idea that goes mainstream.

We need all the advantages that come with it.

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By Raj Singh, CEO, Go Moment

Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash

man messaging Ivy digital concierge

The Importance of Real-Time Messaging at Hotels

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Real-time messaging isn’t just a buzz word or something that only applies to Gen Z travelers, but instead, it’s quickly become a critical piece of any hotel’s guest engagement strategy. In the minds of guests, the ability to digitally communicate with hotel staff without a delay has quickly gone from a nice-to-have to an absolutely-must-have. For years, the news, media and conversations have been available to be consumed instantly, right in the palm of your hand. Why should interacting with hotels be any different than interacting with the rest of the world? After all, if something about your stay isn’t to your liking, a TripAdvisor review is only a few clicks away. Shouldn’t we be able to fix hotel problems just as quickly and easily as we can post about them? 

Multi-tasking and digital communication are the new normal in 2020. Some may call it lazy or impersonal, but the majority call it convenient. Furthermore, the fact that guest expectations are higher than ever, along with concerns about social distancing and safety practices. The solution? Real-time messaging. Here are a few scenarios of how you can come out as the hero thanks to real-time messaging:

Scenario 1: The Impatient Guest

You can never get anyone on the line anymore! I’ve been on hold FOREVER!”

If this sounds like a familiar complaint, you’re not alone – every hotel on the planet grapples with managing hold times and keeping up with call volume. While talking on the phone can sometimes be convenient, it’s not always the best solution, especially during times of high demand. With real-time messaging through a smartconcierge like Ivy, you can automate up to 50% of all guest inquiries, leaving your staff more time to have fruitful conversations on the phone. At one Vegas property, Ivy saved over 10k hours of labor, performing the equivalent hours of 7 full-time employees.

Scenario 2: The Guest Who Likes to Stay in Bed

“I am SO hungry…what’s good to eat around here? Don’t really feel like getting out of this bed!” 

In many parts of the country, hotels are beginning to book guests well before they can reopen their dining rooms. That doesn’t mean you need to suspend F&B service. Instead, with real-time communication, you talk directly with their guests to coordinate room service orders and other deliveries. This creates a safer experience for both guests and staff, while still delivering tasty meals right to your guests’ bellies.

Scenario 3: The Guest Who’s Upset at Closures

I can’t believe I just walked all the way to the pool and it’s closed?!”

Reopening won’t occur all at once, as some hotel amenities will be allowed to open their doors before others. Using smart responses, Ivy can provide instant answers to guest’s questions, informing them in real-time about which services are currently available. This helps save time and frustration for both guests and staff.

Scenario 4: The Guest Who Needs Recommendations

Yay! Husband is cool with staying another night. I wonder the best way we can spend this time.”

While some nearby restaurants and attractions may open their doors in the coming weeks, others will take several months before they’re back in operation. Guests will need to rely heavily on recommendations from hotel staff as they plan their days and visit nearby businesses, and they’re not going to want to wait around to get their questions answered. Be sure to use a smartconcierge, webchat or other real-time messaging solution to quickly and convenient convey this info to guests.

Scenario 5: The Guest Who’s Having a Bad Experience

“I am going to need to remember to let the staff know the TV doesn’t work and the closet light was broken when we head out.“

One of our smartconcierge’s most popular features is the mid-stay message, which simply asks guests how their stay has been on a scale of 1 to 5. This series of messages not only allows your team to understand why a guest is or isn’t happy, but it gives them that information while the guest is still on property. This is one of the major advantages of real-time messaging — you discover any potential issues while there is still plenty of time to resolve them, helping to create better, more memorable guest experiences. 

Scenario 6: The Guest Who Needs Express Checkout

These kids are killing me! We gotta get home asap! I wonder if I can just leave the key in my room and not go down to the front desk.”

Many hotels have begun to offer express check-out in recent years, typically by allowing guests to complete the check-out process via their TV, a smartconcierge or a mobile app. No matter what solution you choose, real-time communication is key. Your guests will have questions that need prompt answers, and your team will need to know exactly when the room has been vacated. With real-time messaging, it’s easy to find these kinds of answers.

From check-in to check-out, there are dozens of cases where real-time messaging is not only helpful, but actually critical to a hotel’s operations. If you’re interested in learning more about real-time messaging and smartconcierges, be sure to reach out to us at info@gomoment.com.

three people working on a business idea

Maximize Bookings by Embracing New Technology

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The hospitality industry is known for constant innovation and evolution, and it has become increasingly important to stay up-to-date with the latest tech products and services. After all, the best technology not only attracts guests to your property, but it also ensures that each guest has a safe, enjoyable stay that leaves them excited to return and share their experience with others. This, in turn, can help you to maximize bookings and drive as much revenue as possible to your property.

The COVID-19 crisis has only further proven the need for rapid change in the hospitality industry, including a full-on embrace of innovative tech solutions. Hotels have been forced to reexamine everything from the way their guests book rooms to their housekeeping procedures to the check-out process.

The need for cutting edge technology in the hospitality industry is only growing, and nowhere is that more evident than when using tech to capture as many bookings as possible. With the help of some cutting edge software, hotels can now identify and communicate with potential guests while they’re still planning their upcoming journey, long before they’ve chosen the hotel, and explain to them why their property makes for the best choice.

While some travelers may pick their hotel on a whim, the majority of savvy customers spend a great deal of time selecting a property that best meets their needs. That’s a good thing for hotels: with the right mix of tech products, they can identify leads that their property is uniquely suited for. SEO (search engine optimization) tools like Moz and Google Trends can make it easy to optimize your marketing budget by targeting your top leads in a search engine, while analytics tools like Google Analytics and Google AdWords offer insights on your website visitors and the ability to follow up with them across the internet.

Speaking of a hotel’s website, it’s wise to consider adding an interactive tool, such as webchat, to your website in order to address frequently asked questions and encourage guests to book a room on your website, rather than through a third party OTA. As an added bonus, a smartconcierge, such as Ivy, can automatically answer many common questions, freeing up the hotel staff to spend their time creating memorable, personalized experiences for in-house guests.

Software like analytics tools and webchat can help you to identify the travelers who are most likely to consider your hotel a perfect fit, but their impact on the guest’s decision-making process is minimal compared to reading reviews. Technology can help here too, albeit indirectly, by wowing guests while they’re on property and encouraging them to leave positive reviews that influence other travelers. 

Technology that makes a guest’s visit hassle-free, or that’s simply interesting to try, is often the difference between a traveler choosing one hotel over its competitors.

Many guests, especially frequent travelers, seek out hotels with the latest innovations. Everything from state-of-the-art fitness equipment to champagne vending machines to virtual concierge can make their stay easier, safer, and more fun. It’s no surprise that over 77% of respondents to a 2019 Oracle survey wanted the ability to request room service and other deliveries through their mobile device  — much like WiFi, guests have begun to view the smartconcierge and other tech perks as a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have.

woman texting Ivy digital concierge about upcoming stay

What to Look For In a Smartconcierge

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Everyone’s talking about hotel technology and the hotels of tomorrow. We hear about smart rooms, the Internet of Things (IoT), ambient intelligence, voice search and assistance, personalization, and artificial intelligence (AI). They may seem futuristic, but many of them are already realities. Take the AI-powered hotel smartconcierge, for example.

Like its human counterpart, the hotel smartconcierge exists to provide unparalleled guest service, a key hospitality objective. Unlike its human counterpart; however, the hotel smartconcierge can handle millions of guest interactions simultaneously and accurately. Managing this load is just one benefit a smartconcierge provides to both a hotel and its guests. There are plenty more.

Here’s a list of what you should look for… and what you should avoid when considering a hotel smartconcierge:

Considerations for Guests

  • Ease of use: Technology tends to be adopted when it’s intuitive to use; in other words when it leverages common behavior people are already used to doing. The hotel smartconcierge relies on one of the most common activities people do today – text messaging – to deliver guest service.
  • Natural language:
    Research has revealed that people prefer and respond to AI with human-like qualities. A hotel smartconcierge that sounds and acts human while providing accurate and appropriate responses quickly wins guests over. When guests are comfortable, they’ll be more likely to use the smartconcierge for future requests.
  • Instant responses: We live in instant gratification times. In the hospitality industry, that heightens expectations even further. A good hotel smartconcierge responds in seconds, enabling guests to have more time to enjoy their vacation instead of waiting on hold or in line at a guest services desk.
  • Ever-present: Even the top hotels with butler service cannot (and will not) be ever-present at a guest’s side, but a smartconcierge can be. Because it’s accessed by the guest’s smartphone, the hotel smartconcierge is likely to be conveniently located in a pocket, a bag, or on a nearby surface – waiting to address the guest’s whim or issue.
  • Guest control: Not only is the hotel smartconcierge ever-present and conveniently available, but it can also be less interruptive. For instance, the guest can request something of the smartconcierge while in the middle of a meeting and check for the response only after the meeting has concluded. Alternatively, for guests who prefer do-it-yourself interactions to avoid dealing with a human being, they can complete tasks like virtual check-out through the smartconcierge.
  • Seamless service experiences: When a smartconcierge cannot adequately solve a guest’s issue, the smartconcierge solution should escalate the matter to a human (hotel staff) counterpart. That hand-off should be communicated to the guest and executed seamlessly without requiring the guest to repeat their issue all over again. The right hotel smartconcierge can manage this process flawlessly.

When the hotel smartconcierge works as it should, hotels can expect markedly improved guest experiences and guest satisfaction scores to increase by 10-30%. These benefits alone could be powerful enough, but hotels with the right smartconcierge solution can realize additional gains operationally.

Considerations for Hotels

  • Ease of integration/startup:
    Even the impressive technology might be a nightmare to install, to transition to, and to train staff on. Hotels looking for the right smartconcierge should look for ease of integration, meaning less than a week to go live. Also, ensure the solution has a proven integration track record with their existing PMS.
  • Hyper-personalized messaging to best serve hotel objectives and guest needs: A casino resort has different objectives than a luxury resort in the rugged outdoors. The right hotel smartconcierge can be customized to address the specific requests of each property, including special promotions that can help boost engagement in on-site activities, check reward programs standings, and upsell revenue opportunities, to name a few.
  • Constant, automated learning: Through advanced machine learning programming, an AI-powered hotel smartconcierge automatically and continually learns how to respond better. The more seamless and accurate the responses, the more it reduces the load on their human counterparts. And since the smartconcierge manages mostly redundant, repetitive requests, it not only frees up employees for more high-value interactions, but also improves employee engagement, sentiment, and retention rates. Most guest services personnel would happily give up having to answer the same mundane questions over and over again.
  • Issue closure: A true hotel smartconcierge will follow a guest issue through until it’s resolved, which means providing both the guest and hotel staff with follow-ups and alerts until the task is complete
  • Communications transcripts: When issues do need to be elevated to a human guest services representative, it can’t be a seamless experience if the transcript of the guest conversation is not provided first. Such transcripts let the hotel staff immediately pick up where the smartconcierge left off and can also be reviewed and analyzed after the fact for trends and lingering issues the hotel needs to address.
  • Simple staff portal: For human staff to serve guests and access communications transcripts, there needs to be a simple, easy-to-use dashboard which centralizes all the information in one place.
  • Real-time analytics: Hotel operations leaders will want insights into how the smartconcierge-human counterpart tag-team effort resolves guest issues, leads to special offer redemptions and incremental revenue gains and improves satisfaction scores. Look for a solution that provides these data points in easy-to-absorb, real-time dashboards.

What to Avoid

A word or two of caution when venturing into the world of hotel smartconcierge or virtual concierge-like solutions: Look for a proven provider who has worked with properties like yours in the past, and further still, partner with one that specializes in the hotel and hospitality sector. The hospitality industry has unique needs and demands, and guest services isn’t an area you want to gamble and lose on. Also, avoid solutions that aren’t focused, try to do too much, or solve too many problems. You wouldn’t ask your Director of Housekeeping to also be your property’s Executive Chef, so don’t expect your technology to excel if it is positioned as a jack-of-all-trades either. Look for a smartconcierge provider that knows their lane and has laser-focus on it. Be a smart shopper of your smartconcierge selection.

minimalist front desk with no receptionist or guest

How to Adopt Express Check In at Your Hotel

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In response to the COVID-19 crisis, hotels around the world must take a second look at their procedures and assess whether they’re still viable in a world of social distancing and reduced staffing. Updating outdated processes will be a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to experiment with new ways of creating the best experience possible for guests.

Adopting express check-in (also known as mobile check-in or contactless check-in) is a natural starting place for hotels who want to encourage social distancing without sacrificing service. The goal of express check-in is simple: reduce lines at the front desk by encouraging guests to check-in from their mobile devices.

Express check-in boasts many benefits. For example, preventing crowds from forming at the front desk decreases the risk of spreading the virus, improving safety for both guests and staff. The guests who do need to stop by the front desk will appreciate not having to wait in line. Additionally, express check-in saves time and energy for the front desk staff, allowing them to focus on other tasks or connect more deeply with guests.

In short, express check-in makes life easier for both your guests and your staff. It’s a true win-win situation.

How to Inform Guests about Express Check-In

Numerous solutions exist for implementing express check-in at your property. Many chain properties and large hotel groups ask guests to download their mobile apps, but this isn’t always necessary for smaller, independent hotels — and even if it were, studies have shown that very few guests actually download and engage with hotel apps.

Pre-arrival messaging makes for a more effective option for express check-in. By using text messages or emails to communicate with the guest before they’ve even stepped foot on the property, hotels can easily guide guests through the express check-in process. What’s more, you’re connecting with guests via text message or email, platforms they already check several times a day, rather than asking to download something new. A smartconcierge platform like Ivy provides the most elegant solution for pre-arrival messaging, as it establishes a line of communication that’s open to guests throughout the entirety of their stay. Whether guests need help with express check-in, connecting to the WiFi, or ordering room service, all they have to do is send a quick text message.

What about the room key?

Perhaps the most important part of checking in is receiving the room key. With express check-in, you’ll want to make sure this part of the process is as streamlined as possible. If your hotel uses key cards or physical keys, it’s wise to create a dedicated line at the front desk reserved exclusively for key pick-ups.

Alternatively, consider embracing a mobile key solution like OpenKey, which allows guests to access the property and unlock their rooms using only their mobile device. By combining pre-arrival messaging with a mobile key, it’s possible to entirely eliminate trips to the front desk during check-in. 

How soon can guests start the express check-in process?

Most hotels with express check-in open the service to guests either 24 hours prior or the morning of their arrival. This makes sure that the guest has plenty of time to complete the process without bothering them too far ahead of time. Be sure to communicate your regular check-in hours with guests, so they can plan their travels accordingly. Furthermore, if the guest’s room won’t be ready at the normal check-in time (things happen!), be sure to have a plan for breaking the bad news to guests and informing them of when the room is ready.

Is there anything else I should let guests know?

Remember to leave a phone number and contact info for guests, just in case something goes awry during the express check-in. Also, if guests will be required to download any apps ahead of time, such as a mobile key app or a hotel app, it’d be helpful to give them a heads up.

Like many new technologies, adopting express check-in can seem stressful at first. But when it’s done right, you’re not only creating a more convenient, safer experience for guests, but also saving the front desk team’s time and energy.

we're open sign on a bike outside a restaurant

Reopening Smart: How to Build Trust With Guests Before They Arrive

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As travelers emerge from their homes and get back on the road, they’re likely to carry new expectations and concerns in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The unprecedented crisis not only encouraged people to practice social distancing, but has also decreased trust in many traditional institutions. The paradigm has shifted, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing — it just means that businesses need to adapt to thrive in a new world.

For hotels and the hospitality industry, one of the most post-COVID important tasks will be building trust with their guests. After spending months cooped up at home, guests will be excited to resume traveling yet hesitant to put themselves or their families at risk. Hotels can build trust and make guests feel more comfortable by keeping them informed on the status of COVID-19 in their communities and up-to-date on what measures the hotel is taking to prevent the spread of disease. Guests will expect changes to both hotel policies and local laws, and they’ll appreciate any guidance the hotel can provide.

Of course, the best hotels won’t just do their best to put their guests’ minds at ease once they’ve checked-in. Instead, they’ll be in regular communication with guests before they’ve even arrived. If your property offers express or contactless check-in, it’s wise to share check-in details prior to arrival. You may also wish to communicate the steps you’re taking to ensure cleanliness and proper social distancing, such as changes to F&B service, housekeeping schedules, and other on-site amenities. Finally, if lots of your guests choose to stay at your property due to its proximity to a nearby business, attraction or transportation hub, it would be helpful to inform guests about any changes to their operational procedures.

The easiest way to implement pre-arrival messaging is via an AI-enabled guest communication platform like Ivy. Working hand-in-hand with your PMS, Ivy can automatically send text messages to guests before, during and after their stay, while also connecting the guest directly with a staff member when they’re in need of further assistance. This two-pronged approach ensures that guests receive all the information they need prior to arrival, while also creating space to connect directly with the staff. By leveraging Ivy’s pre-arrival messaging feature, you’ll help guests to feel at ease before they’ve even left home.

portside Southwest plane wing during flight

3 Ways Air Travel Will Change Forever After COVID-19

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Photo credit: Suhyeon Choi

As people throughout the world follow orders to shelter in place, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on air travel. Millions of passengers have canceled or rescheduled their flights, and airlines are scrambling to stay afloat during this difficult period.

To say the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted air travel would be the understatement of the century. Air travel isn’t likely to look the same again, even after society reopens. Prices will fluctuate due to changes in supply and demand, and airlines will institute new practices as they adapt to changing expectations. Here’s what we’re likely to see moving forward:

 

  1. Crossing international borders will require more paperwork…and more timeAs jokes go, riffs about the absurd wait times when passing through customs are already stale, but don’t expect to stop hearing them in the future. In response to coronavirus, you can expect the customs and immigration process to skyrocket.In the short term, many countries, including South Korea and Singapore, are not only checking passports, but they’ve also begun swab testing each and every traveler who steps off an international flight. This practice mitigates the risk of secondary infections, but it also creates longer waits.That said, on-the-spot swab testing isn’t a practical or sustainable long-term solution. Instead, countries are likely to begin asking for health and immunization records, in addition to your passport (technically you’re already supposed to bring your immunization records on international trips, but in our experience, this is rarely enforced). Not only will border protection officers need to double-check your identity, but they’ll also need to verify that your medical history won’t put their citizens at risk.
  2. Automation and self-service as safety features, rather than a convenienceBetween check-in kiosks, self-tagged bags and mobile apps, airlines have already begun to embrace the growing role of automation and self-service in the travel experience. After COVID-19, however, consumers won’t view these features as luxuries, but instead as necessities. In addition to promoting good hygiene and health practices, a shift towards automation and self-service can also be a boon for airlines. Rather than having to use their limited manpower to perform the same repetitive (yet necessary) duties day in and day out, airlines can rely on technology to accomplish these tasks more efficiently and frugally, leaving staff free to connect with passengers and work on the kinds of problems that require a human touch.
  3. Air filters, hand sanitizer, and thorough cleaning will be positioned as selling pointsSelecting the right flight is already a complicated dance — it can be tough to find a flight that fits your schedule, contributes to your travel rewards points, and offers the on-flight features you need to get through a long journey without losing your mind. And of course, you’ll need to meet all these requirements without breaking the bank.

    In the post-coronavirus era, you’ll have to add a new item to your list of things to consider when booking a flight: safety features. Airlines are likely to tout their state-of-the-art air filtration systems, unlimited hand sanitizer, and extremely thorough cleanings in an effort to persuade travelers that their planes are a safe environment.Airlines aren’t going to stop at onboard features, either. Expect to see a wave of changes to the boarding process designed to reduce contact and promote social distancing whenever possible. For example, Delta began experimenting with virtual queueing in their app earlier in 2020, and they’re likely to broaden the scope of this feature moving forward.

COVID-19 has already changed the face of the airline industry. As the world begins to travel again, passengers will hold a different set of expectations for air travel, and it’ll be up to the airlines to respond. It’ll be a shift, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing: through collaboration and listening to passengers, the airline industry can reshape itself to be safer, more efficient, and more sustainable than ever.

Ivy_Go_Moment

What is Contactless Hospitality?

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As the hospitality industry continues to adapt to challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, one phrase seems to come up over and over: contactless hospitality.

Developed to assist travelers and hotel staff with social distancing, contactless hospitality is a set of best practices that minimizes the risks of transmitting COVID-19 while still offering guests the high-quality service they deserve.

Contactless hospitality provides a safer alternative to many traditional hospitality practices. For example, rather than serving a breakfast buffet in the lobby, many hotels are preparing grab-n-go bags to eat back in the guest room. Other properties have begun to insist that guests utilize express or mobile check-out services, rather than dropping their room key off at the front desk. Some hotels have even reduced the frequency of housekeeping, opting to clean rooms twice a week instead of every day unless the guest asks otherwise.

woman lying on bed white holding board

A social distant — but still delicious — breakfast! Photo by: Toa Heftiba

The specifics of contactless hospitality may look different at each property, but the goal is always the same: creating the safest possible experience for both guests and staff while maintaining great service.

Here at Go Moment, we’ve been proud to see hotels throughout the world rely on Ivy to help them practice contactless hospitality. From pre-arrival messaging to room service to check-out, Ivy offers a convenient channel for guests and staff to communicate with each other while avoiding face-to-face contact.

Between Ivy’s AI-enabled smart responses and the hotel team’s expertise, guests can control the entire hotel experience from their mobile phone, eliminating any risk of exposure to COVID-19 and making it simple to contact the staff with any requests or inquiries.

Many of the changes spurred by contactless hospitality are likely to disappear once the COVID-19 pandemic passes. On-site amenities like pools, gyms, and spas will reopen, and restaurants will again welcome guests to their tables. Continental breakfast buffets will be a staple of American highway travel once more.

However, some aspects of contactless hospitality are likely to persist. In particular, guests will be more open to communicating with the staff remotely, and they’ll see less of a need to walk down to the front desk for every little request. In the last decade, we’ve already seen a shift towards self-service models in retail, banking, and food service — it’s likely that with contactless hospitality as a catalyst, we’ll see similar changes take hold in the hospitality industry.

The smartest hotels not only view contactless hospitality as an important step in their response to COVID-19, but they also anticipate a change in guest’s expectations of the hospitality industry. By leveraging technology and embracing self-service, hotels are well-poised to meet guest’s needs more efficiently and sustainably than ever before.

 

Interested in hearing more about contactless hospitality? We’d love to hear more about your property’s needs and how you’re evolving to thrive post-COVID. Please reach out to Jennifer Suski (jennifer@gomoment.com) to learn more!