The hotel that talks back is the future
Hotels are only just beginning to deploy chatbots and smart speakers but these early experiments herald the beginning of a major shift in guest communications finds The Future of the In-Stay Experience report, which is free to download now.
The hotel of the future might become an interlinked artificial intelligence that can speak back to the guest through speakers and chatbots to suggest activities to the guest, answer their queries and solve their complaints says the report. Using AI-powered voice and chat capabilities to do these tasks provides more convenient channels for guest interactions that can not only improve satisfaction with their stay but also drive revenues.
Both chatbots and voice systems working through smart speakers can be integrated into a whole system, recording all requests and integrated into a Property Management System (PMS). Largely these early investigations into interactive AI are as smart concierges for hotels, with both big and independent chains deploying the tech.
"We created a conversation concierge so that people can get all of their informational experience through channels they are more used to operating. It delivers specific responses very quickly. It positions the hotel as a trusted advisor," says Charles Cadbury, Co-Founder of Dazzle Technology, a start-up that implements and operates smart speakers for the hospitality industry.
"Hotels are able to listen to what the guests want and get real time data of who is asking for what and when. Then they can make real time adjustments to their product or services to cater to those requests."
The other benefit of offering these services out to guests through voice or chat interfaces is that hotels staff are alleviated of a lot of mundane tasks and can really focus on delivering a high quality of service to guests.
Jeffrey Parker, Vice President of Hospitality Systems, Red Lion Hotels Corporation, says that, according to experts, between 50-75% of guest questions can be responded to by a Bot. "This can relieve questions to the desk staff and other departments. The appropriate way to do it is to also link to your service app infrastructure and have a warm hand-off to a real person."
"Conversation allows you to ask very specific answers in a type of communication you are most comfortable with," says Cadbury. "And because it's not a live conversation, you're not tying up staff on the phone."
However, Parker has a warning: "Don't ever let your app pretend to be a real person. Be transparent with your guests." (For more on chatbots click here for our free report).
The human element is also still highly relevant in creating the background that can make these interactive AIs possible. Humans are necessary to create a culture of recording and measuring guest interactions and building up the background data. IHG used their customer service call centres to help build up their Alexa offering, for example.
"The best way to build a picture of the guest is to leverage the hotel's greatest assets, their people, to capture every seemingly relevant detail humans need to build personal relationships," says Armand Rabinowitz, Senior Director of Strategy and Workgroups at Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG).
Similar to putting a data strategy in place, hotels need to think about the individual guest when implementing voice and chat functions. Hotels can't just charge in and introduce voice to every room and client, privacy issues are at play too. "We need to take clues from the guest and offer services based on what profile we think they are, but not to the extent we ruin that relationship," says Parker. Hotels need to offer guests the choice and respect their decision if they ask for connected devices to be removed. Chains such as Marriott and IHG are working closely with Amazon to develop solutions that provide the guests with a seamless experience while also protecting their privacy. Data collection and privacy issues will only be highlighted as the EU's GDPR regulation comes into force warns the report.
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