“As more and more artificial intelligence is entering into the world, more and more emotional intelligence must enter into leadership.” – Amit Ray, AI Scientist and Author.
Have you ever heard about those geniuses who lock themselves up, isolated from the world, so that they can work on their latest theory? Yes. Well, being a genius in the hospitality world is the opposite of that. It is spending every waking second surrounded by every imaginable personality type, and that means having to have a fairly substantial EQ.
Most great hoteliers pride themselves on having this EQ and the IQ to realize that adopting the right technology solutions at the right time is how you maintain your competitive edge.
Typical guest behaviour is changing so quickly in today’s world and guests are more savvy than ever before. Seldom, they are without multiple devices to ensure a range of connectivity to access a wealth of information.
They expect to be able to get information quickly, easily, and often without talking to another human being. Younger consumers in particular are used to a connected world that responds quickly.
Research done by Invesp showed that 50% of all searches were voice searches in 2020 and voice shopping is estimated to reach $40 Billion in the U.S. alone by 2022. Digital assistants are becoming extremely valuable for hotels. Many hotels, however, are hesitant to embrace the technology.
Here at protel we totally get that it can be tough for busy hoteliers to keep up with rapidly changing technology trends, so we do it for you. We have put together these top 5 questions to help hoteliers dig a little deeper before deciding how to engage with AI-powered digital voice assistants.
1.How can AI-powered Voice Digital Assistants Help Hoteliers?
Create meetings, reminders, and to-do items: Have your voice assistant add meetings to your calendar, invite guests to dinner and staff to meetings.
Get a quick overview of your day: While you drink your morning coffee, you can ask your voice assistant to recite an overview of your day to you, including the details of your meetings.
Make phone calls/send texts: You can download the Google Assistant or Alexa apps to your phone to have your preferred voice assistant make calls, answer calls, send texts, or read texts you’ve received when you are running around your hotel.
Perform calculations: If you’re in a mobile phone-free meeting and need to perform a quick—but complex—calculation, you can ask the voice assistant to solve an equation for you.
Take notes during meetings: Ask your voice assistant to document takeaways during meetings, record full meetings, or have your voice assistant read you a summary of a recent meeting.
Place orders: Quickly purchase hotel back-office and front of house supplies. With technology like Amazon Dash Replenishment it won’t be long before a simple “order now” voice command will do all the stock control and ordering for your hotel.
AI assistants can “learn” to perform tasks that can sometimes be overlooked by staff e.g. Adjusting the temperature of the room based on the temperature outside. Changing lighting levels according to the time of day. Opening certain entrances and exits during peak periods to allow for better guest flow.
With the advancements being made in voice biometrics soon hoteliers will be able to send payments to staff, contractors, or suppliers quickly by just giving verbal instructions .
Better for your health: Reduce the time spent behind screens, on a keyboard and with a mouse in hand.
Communication with foreign guests can be done with voice assistants just like with Google Translate.
With customizations, hoteliers can build voice-enabled applications to do just about everything:
- Need to know the nutritional value of a meal for a menu or guest query? The Nutritional Facts app has all the information you need
- A guest needs to see a specialist in an emergency? Health Services Finder can assist
- Tired of dealing with HR admin? Smart COCO can handle most HR functions
A recent Gartner report predicts that by 2021, 25% of digital workers will use virtual assistants at work daily, up from less than 2% in 2019.
2. Why is Guest Communication, Via an App, So Important?
A study from OpenMarket found that more than 90% of respondents would find messaging hotels, directly, very useful.
Guests need to know everything your hotel has to offer, but the typical in-room menus and brochures are less suited to today’s connected world. In fact, many guests want to know what you have before they arrive for their stay.
This information hungry generation of guests need to be able to control everything possible without leaving their room, and during COVID-19, if you can offer contactless services such as contactless check-in they are sure to show their love.
Guests like having a direct channel of communication with the hotel. Many guests now want to be able to communicate with hotels through the hotel’s app, and with technology like protel’s Voyager, creating apps, with voice commands enabled has never been easier.
Guests love it because essentially they have a personal concierge in their pocket and if they can do it without even having to lift that heavy behemoth that is a mobile phone… even better.
3. How can AI Assistants Help Guests?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help at all stages of the guest journey.
When it comes to on-site concierge service, more and more guests are expecting to be able to use the same voice-based digital assistants they use at home.
A voice-controlled, AI-enabled concierge bot, can make a huge difference to the guest experience. These bots can answer the phone and give answers to routine enquiries, working in much the same way Alexa or Siri does.
For example, a voice assistant can easily answer questions like “Where is the nearest Italian restaurant?” or “How do I get to the art museum?”
AI assistants are already being used for routine tasks such as wake-up calls, calling a cab, and ordering room service. According to Zebra Technologies Corporation, 74% of guests appreciate hotels that customize messaging and offers.
Modern AI can use machine learning to personalize the travel experience. These new voice bots can, for example, use the internet not to give the traveller the nearest Italian restaurant, but the one with the best reviews within five miles.
Or, recommend the restaurant the guest went to on their last stay but can’t remember the name of.
Hilton Worldwide hotel has introduced the AI-based concierge robot Connie, which actually hangs out at the front desk to help guests.
AI helps guests by eliminating a lot of frustration in the quest journey. No issues with cross cultural communication. No getting frustrated waiting in line. No incorrect orders or misunderstandings.
4. What Else Can AI Assistants Do?
AI assistants are there to compliment human staff, they essentially connect the guest to the physical hotel building itself.
Modern hotel mobile apps allow guests to unlock and lock their room, adjust the thermostat and lighting, and make special requests of staff.
The app allows guests, without having to leave their room or mess around with the front desk phone, to bring up issues with the room or ask for extra towels or pillows to be brought.
This also helps a hotel get great scores for accessibility by providing much better service to disabled guests as they are not required to be mobile to make requests or ask for help.
By offering a voice assistant and a text assistant, people with both visual and hearing impairment can be catered to without the need for expensive interpretation services or braille menus.
In actual fact there are almost limitless possibilities, Amazon and Google have already released features that makes it possible for users to custom-make their own functionality as needed. Here are some examples:
- Answer FAQs – Valence Group Inc., a digital transformation solution provider, has a Bot that answers employee questions and handles requests related to the company.
- Retrieve data – Core Digital Media built a customization that connects to its BI platform so employees can ask questions about the business and get immediate answers.
- Locate assets/guests/staff: Express Dedicated LLC is a logistics company that uses a customization to quickly identify where their vehicles are located. It also automatically notifies drivers if they’re in violation of service regulations.
- Monitor IT infrastructure – Capital One has built an add-on that monitors the performance of its AWS infrastructure, allowing employees to check system statuses using voice commands and request more information when security events occur.
The possibilities of what AI Assistants can do for your hotel are limited only by the constraints of the human mind.
5. Do AI Assistants Replace Staff?
Maybe one day AI assistants will be able to replace staff and hotels will be run by robots. That day is still a good way in the future.
In 2015 Japan opened the world’s-first robot-staffed hotel, The Henn na, they started off employing 30 human staff for 140 rooms and eventually brought that down to just 7 staff. However, like with any tech, flaws in the system started to form.
The in-room voice assistant would confuse snoring with a command and issue a response that would wake guests up. Guests, especially with accents, were struggling to be understood and the robots also struggled with the different passport and identity-card formats and photocopying the documentation, so human staff constantly had to step in.
The hotel has subsequently laid off 243 of the robots workers. Dr Björn Schuller, professor of AI at Imperial College London says, “Where a bot is most useful is not in place of a social context, but when you want precise information in as short a time as possible or to save you waiting for something”.
The idea, for now, is that AI Assistants do not replace staff; they replace routine, repetitive, time consuming tasks. Tasks that hoteliers can be confident the assistant will get right 100% of the time.
What AI assistants do is make your life easier because staff no longer need to deal with routine requests that are handled by the assistant, staff are free to deal with matters the assistant can’t handle; the most interesting and complicated issues still require a human touch.
This allows your staff to provide a superior experience for your guests by focusing on their very real needs.
As the example of The Henn na demonstrated there will be situations where humans are needed to deal with complex queries, especially when requesting recommendations, and, as a result of the AI assistants doing the grunt work, those guests will spend less time on hold or waiting in line. Everyone wins.
The concierge will be much more available to assist those who want their direct help, and will also be able to use the data gathered by the AI to improve the recommendations they give.
The bottom line is that AI-powered digital voice assistants can provide an engaging and interesting guest experience, both by handling routine requests faster and by allowing staff the time to go above and beyond when guests need them.
Hotels need digital voice assistants to help their guests throughout their stay and to improve all services. Voice assistants also help to capture data fast, especially when you need to add a quick note to an important VIP guest profile. One cloud-based PMS has already incorporated voice notes into their system.
The fact of the matter is that your guests are getting used to interacting with voice based technology and if you aren’t catering to that market, you are missing out on a whole generation of potential guests.