As we emerge from the pandemic, hotels around the world are turning to technology to attract guests and deal with the ongoing staffing crises. One technology that is being widely adopted is the digital concierge.
Digital concierges allow guests to navigate their way through your hotel on their own. Your staff on the other hand can depend on digital concierges to offer instant responses to guests’ requests through text messages.
Digital concierges are smarter than ever, thanks to the power of AI. If you’d like to see how AI can automate guest interactions without sounding different, see a demo of Ivy right here. (Guests ask her out on dates, write her cards mistaking her for a human.)
What you can see here
Researching the digital concierge solution
Know the stakeholders
The technical impact of a digital concierge
You’ve decided you need a digital concierge at your hotel. Now get the process of implementing the technology right. You want the best business results after all.
Many managers consider investing in new technology. But often the sheer volume of choices available can make the process seem daunting. Most IT heads or hotel owners usually start by vetting software and vendors.
We’re here to help. We’ve broken down the process into three main categories: Research, Stakeholders and Technical.
Researching the digital concierge solution
It’s not enough to know that you want a digital concierge to improve your guests’ experience and optimize your business. It is essential to be able to list out all of the areas of your hotel a digital concierge will impact.
Acquiring new technology is a significant financial investment for any hotel. According to a 2020 Hotel Tech Report survey, the top technologies in demand by hoteliers are digital concierge software (3.85%), guest messaging platforms (3.71%), staff task management software (3.71%), merchandising and upsell software (3.42%) and reputation management software (3.00%). Hoteliers have a range of concierge software to choose from.
Doing the due diligence will ensure you stay aligned to your core objective while being prepared for the potential business impact.
Defining your problem areas
Before considering any new technology, think of the business challenge you are trying to address. You could be focussed on elevating your guests’ experience. Or reducing pressure on the front desk. A few digital concierges can offer your guests unforgettable experiences and increase your ROI by up to 400%.
Compile a list of all the business gaps your digital concierge needs to fill. Whatever your expectations are, list them out and prioritize them. Having this on hand makes your business requirements clearer. And the chances of finding a tech vendor with a digital concierge solution that best matches your hotel requirement improves dramatically.
The digital concierge features you need
Most technology solutions (be it an app, software or platform) will offer you a certain group of features and capabilities, around various key issues such as guest communication, payment gateways, marketing outreach, etc.
It is therefore good to start with your own list of digital concierge features expectations. List out all the requirements you can imagine being handled by a digital concierge, and group related ones where possible.
Remember that all products are not designed equally. Knowing what you consider nice-to-have versus essential-to-have, will help you narrow down the list of potential solutions, making your search and decision-making process much easier.
Digital concierge app? software? platform?
Finding the right digital concierge technology solution will depend largely on a clear understanding of your use cases. You can choose from desktop vs mobile browsers, mobile apps for the staff to communicate with each other and with guests and a lot more. Some digital concierge solutions offer you all these options.
Understanding the types of digital concierge solutions available to you can help you identify your options better.
Evaluating digital concierge vendors
Once you have an idea of the features and product type you are looking for, it’s time to start researching vendors. Eliminate the vendors that do not demonstrate any past credibility. Look for vendors with demonstrable experience with the hotel industry – you want to work with a vendor who already understands your specific challenges.
Read analyst reports and software listings for solutions. Pay close attention to reviews and feedback from the vendors’ clients. Finally, look at the digital concierge technology that your competitors may have adopted, to see how it measures up to your expectations.
How much will a digital concierge cost?
Once you have a shortlist of potential vendors, it is important to understand pricing before you begin to contact them. Vendors of digital concierge technology offer various types of pricing models, and it is necessary to understand the pros and cons of these models before moving forward.
Digital concierge solutions are usually priced on a tiered pricing model. Your monthly or yearly pricing model will vary depending on the tier you opt for. The tier model also dictates features of the digital concierge solution that will be “turned on”. One clear advantage here is that you can trial the digital concierge at a lower price to begin with and then scale as your team gets comfortable with the solution or more modules or features are needed.
Feature-related pricing allows you to pay for the functionalities you need. In such a scenario, you are paying only for what you need and not for a lot of seldom-used bells and whistles.
Usage-based pricing is another type of pay-as-you-go pricing model. The price is calculated based on the number of guests or the number of texts that you send using the solution. If your hotel is hosting an event, and more guests access the digital concierge, your charges that month would be higher compared to off-season or normal charges.
By understanding the different pricing models for a digital concierge along with your hotel’s technology budget and future growth prospects, you’ll be able to narrow down an expected budget for investing. But remember to keep a small margin for additional costs such as software upgrades, maintenance, support, and training.
Digital concierge solution: demo or trial?
While the tiered paying model may help you test the product at a lower price point, sometimes it’s good to be able to test all the features before buying. For this reason, digital concierge companies offer trial periods or product demos. And many will even offer you a test run if you ask.
So if you are close to making a decision, request for a chance to use the digital concierge in your environment before buying.
Know the stakeholders
The satisfaction of your guests is dependent on more than one factor. From booking to arrival, food to room service, to local attractions, travelers want the full experience. And to offer it, multiple teams at your hotel or resort need to be involved. Knowing who your internal stakeholders are will help you in your research and evaluation.
Getting your staff onboard
According to an article by Condor Ferries, over 173 million people were globally employed in the hotel industry in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. These people include key decision-makers across Front Desk, Operations, Sales, Accounts/Legal, Concierge, Department Heads, Catering, Security, and IT teams. Hotel digital concierges enable these teams to operate together effectively, in their interaction with the guest.
Start by understanding your internal core team’s existing expectations, as they’ll be the most impacted by any new system. Change often brings in some resistance from hotel staff, but by talking to your employees and listening to their suggestions, you can ensure a smoother adoption. A few years ago, the Marriott hotels tried to implement an app to save housekeepers’ time. It ended up with a housekeeper labor contract stipulating that hotel management has to provide a 150-day notice to workers ahead of any technology rollout with job training.
Talking to key stakeholders helps gain their inputs early on, and creates enthusiasm for the new technology at all levels of the hotel. Take time to explain to employees the advantages and intended outcomes of the technology so they can support the effort to other employees later on.
Keeping the focus on guests
Digital concierge solutions help coordinate efforts across the entire hospitality experience, keeping the guests at the center. By enabling guests to drive their own experience, hotels can meet their guests’ expectations at scale.
According to a 2019 PwC report, 81% of travelers want greater digital customer service from hotel brands. Millennials, in particular, are keen to tailor their own experiences and gather information for themselves. In fact, 66% of millennials book trips with a smartphone while 74% use it for research according to the Condor Ferries report in 2020.
Understanding this mindset, and more importantly talking to some of your frequent guests will unlock key insights about how a digital concierge may be utilized by your visitors.
Digital concierge training & onboarding support
Once you have employee buy-in, consider the technology expertise of your staff who will be using the digital concierge software. According to Gartner, approximately 75% of all system implementation projects fail because of end-user adoption problems. By providing opportunities for employee training and learning, hotels have a better chance of keeping employees enthusiastically engaged.
Training is critical from a technology ROI standpoint too, since employees who don’t understand how to use the solution may simply ignore using it.
Training and the impact of training (like downtime caused due to attending classes) and onboarding new staff must be factored. Vendors that offer you support through your training process, can help save time and money, especially in cases of frequent staff turnaround, or temps hired during peak season.
The technical impact of a digital concierge
It’s not surprising for hotels to be looking at opportunities to leverage technology in ways that help them keep guests happy and stay longer. Apps, websites, touchscreens and chatbots are only a few of the ways hotel owners are incorporating technology into their hotels.
And why not? In 2017, McKinsey stated that smartphones were used in 43% of the total travel-related requests, and 23% of all logistics-related searches. Moreover, PwC states that 70% of millennials are more likely to book holiday accommodation using a technology-based amenity. Think of mobile payments, Smart TVs, or keyless entry.
Digital concierges help hotels focus these innovations around guest demands. By operating over seamless text messaging, digital concierges can have a very light tech footprint and a big impact.
Let’s delve into some of the key technical concerns:
Will there be tech support?
Any new technology when implemented goes through a few hiccups. After sales product support ensures those hiccups are handled promptly and correctly.
Unless you have a dedicated IT team that can handle any issues arising from your digital concierge, it is important to consider the level of support that will be needed to ensure product downtime if any is minimized.
Scalability of a digital concierge app
One of the key drivers of any technology acquisition like a digital concierge is its ability to accommodate growth in traffic and usage without having to revamp your entire system.
Your choice of digital concierge solution must be geared to scale up as your business grows and its processes become more complex.
Security concerns? Always!
Consider your existing internal security precautions before implementation. Who will have access to communicating with your guests? How will the digital concierge solution offer users control and permissions? How will it ensure the right staff can connect at the right time? Think in terms of access authentication for your managers, and trackability for system changes.
Additionally, consider the data protection capabilities that the service provider offers, and whether all regulatory compliances have been followed. Just this year, MGM Resorts revealed a massive data breach that compromised personal information for more than 10.6 million guests, when files were leaked. Your guests will be communicating with your staff on a large scale, and it is therefore essential that their privacy and your responsibility are taken into account.
The value of digital concierge data with analytics
Technology is generating vast amounts of data, and the key to your future hotel business value is to make that data work for you. In fact, a recent acquisition by CoStar Group put a dollar figure on just how much hotel industry data is worth. The Group purchased STR in 2019, which collates data from over 65,000 properties worldwide, for $450 million.
Your digital concierge can help you offer true guest personalization by offering actionable data across your hotel tech systems, including guest service. For this to be achieved, integration with an analytical tool can help uncover insights about your guests’ preferences, identify triggers that push sales, and predict surges and drops in your hotel operations before they become an issue.
Tech integration: do digital concierges work well with other systems?
With increasing digitization, hotel management has undergone a drastic change. From payment to property management systems, CRMs to marketing solutions, every aspect is now supported by technology.
AI, facial recognition, voice recognition and smart mirrors are all making their way into hotels. Hilton, for example, is partnering with Netflix to allow guests to control their streaming straight from the Hilton Honors mobile app. A PwC report in 2019 states that at least eight of the leading global hotel chains have already implemented a VR experience in their marketing strategy.
For an effective 360-degree view of your hotel operations, your technology systems need to be able to “speak” to each other. How will your digital concierge be used to handle requests for a VR experience, and upsell?
Digital concierge must be able to integrate with existing technologies, as well as have the tools in place to work with any futuristic innovations.
Any established technology can be a real game-changer for the hotel industry. But it is important to remember that effective implementation starts with fulfilling the basic objective for which the technology was sought.
In a guest-centric industry like hotels and casinos, hotels should focus on how digital concierges will impact guest journeys positively. This is important to find the right solution that ticks all the boxes.
For a more direct experience of how to get started with a digital concierge in your hotel, ask to see Ivy in action.
By 2025, the virtual concierge will become standard. When the hotel digital concierge 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 digital concierge solution can realize additional gains operationally.
According to a study by Oracle Hospitality and Phocuswright, nearly two-thirds of American hotel guests said it was extremely important for hotels to continue investing in new technology to enhance the guest experience. Whether you are just getting started in assessing technology or are shortlisting your digital concierge, the way forward is clear.
Want a digital concierge that has all the features and none of the things to avoid? Book a free demo of Ivy, the AI powered digital concierge today!