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.