As we emerge from the pandemic, hotels around the world are turning to technology to attract guests and deal with the ongoing staffing crisis. One technology that is being widely adopted is the text messaging solution, sometimes called a digital concierge.
This solution allows guests to navigate their way through your hotel, on their own. Your staff, on the other hand, can depend on a digital concierge 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, see a demo of Revinate’s text messaging solution, Ivy.
What you can see here
You’ve decided you need a digital concierge at your hotel. Now comes the process of choosing and implementing the right technology. After all, you want to make the best decision for your hotel.
Many managers consider investing in new technology, however, the sheer volume of choices available can make the process seem daunting. We’re here to help. We’ve broken down the process into three main categories: research, stakeholders, and technical.
Researching your 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’s essential to be able to list all of the ways your digital concierge will impact your hotel!
Acquiring new technology is a significant financial investment. According to a 2020 Hotel Tech Report survey, the top technologies in demand by hoteliers are:
#1) digital concierge software (3.85%),
#2) guest messaging platforms (3.71%),
#3) staff task management software (3.71%),
#4) merchandising and upsell software (3.42%)
#5) reputation management software (3.00%).
There’s a wide range of digital concierge software to choose from, but doing your due diligence will ensure you stay aligned with your objective as you prepare for the potential business impact.
Defining your problem areas
Before considering any new technology, think of the business challenge you are trying to address. It could be focused on elevating your guests’ experience or reducing pressure on the front desk. Compile a list of all the business gaps your digital concierge needs to fill and prioritize them. Having this on hand makes your business requirements clear and improves your chances of finding the right digital concierge solution dramatically. There are a few digital concierges that can offer your guests unforgettable experiences and increase your ROI by up to 400%.
The digital concierge features you need
Most technology solutions will offer you a certain group of features and capabilities, around various key issues such as guest communication, payment gateways, and marketing outreach.
It’s good to start with your list of expectations. Include all the requirements you would like your digital concierge to meet and group-related requirements where possible. Remember that all products are not designed equally, so knowing what you consider nice-to-have vs. essential-to-have, will help you narrow down the list of potential solutions. This will make 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 how you will use it. You can choose from desktop or mobile browsers and even mobile apps for the staff to communicate with each other or with guests. Understanding the types of digital concierge solutions available to you can help you to identify your options.
Evaluating digital concierge vendors
Once you have an idea of the features and product type you’re looking for, it’s time to start researching vendors. You’ll want to look for vendors that have experience in the hotel industry and understand your specific challenges.
Read analyst reports and software listings for solutions. Pay close attention to reviews and feedback. Finally, look at the digital concierge technology that your competitors may have adopted and see how it measures up to your expectations.
How much will a digital concierge cost?
Once you have a shortlist of potential vendors, it’s important to understand pricing before you begin. Vendors of digital concierge technology offer various types of pricing models, and it is necessary to understand the pros and cons of these models first.
Digital concierge solutions are usually priced on a tiered pricing model. Your pricing will vary depending on the tier you choose. This will also dictate features that will be “turned on”. One clear advantage here is that you can test the digital concierge at a lower price and then scale up as 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 what you don’t.
Usage-based pricing 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, more guests would access the digital concierge and your charges that month would be higher compared to your normal charges.
By understanding the different pricing models, along with your hotel’s technology budget and future growth, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices. But remember to keep a small margin for additional costs such as software upgrades, maintenance, support, and training.
Know the stakeholders
The satisfaction of your guests depends on several factors. 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 on board
Over 173 million people were globally employed in the hotel industry before the pandemic. This included key decision-makers across Front Desk, Operations, Sales, Concierge, Catering, Security, and IT teams. Digital concierges enabled these teams to operate effectively in their interaction with the guest.
Start by understanding your team’s expectations, as they’ll be utilizing the new system. Change often brings resistance, but talking to your team and listening to their suggestions can ensure a smoother adoption. A few years ago, Marriott hotels tried to implement an app to save their housekeepers’ time. It ended up with a labor contract stating that the hotel management had to provide a 150-day notice ahead of any technology rollout that includes job training.
Getting initial buy-in from your team will create enthusiasm for the new technology. Take time to explain the advantages and uses of the technology so they can champion the effort.
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.
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.
Understanding this mindset while speaking with some of your frequent guests, will unlock key insights about how a digital concierge would be utilized by your visitors.
Digital concierge training & onboarding support
Once you have your team’s buy-in, consider the technical expertise of your staff who will be using the software. Approximately 75% of all system implementation projects fail because of end-user adoption challenges. Hotels have a better chance of keeping employees enthusiastically engaged if they provide employee training.
Training is critical from a technology ROI standpoint, since employees who don’t understand how to use the solution may simply ignore it.
You will want to factor in the impact of training, like downtime due to training itself, and onboarding of new staff. 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 keep guests happy and stay longer. Apps, websites, touchscreens, and chatbots are only a few of the ways hotel owners are incorporating technology.
And why not? More and more travelers are utilizing smartphones to research travel information and logistics. Moreover, 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, they can have a light tech footprint and a big impact.
Let’s delve into some of the key technical concerns:
Will there be tech support?
Implementing any new technology will come with a few hiccups. After product support ensures those hiccups are handled promptly and correctly, it’s important to consider the level of support you will need to minimize downtime.
Scalability of a digital concierge app
One of the key drivers of any technology acquisition 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.
Security concerns? Always!
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 through your existing internal security precautions before implementation.
Consider the data protection capabilities that are provided and whether all regulatory compliances have been followed. MGM Resorts revealed a massive data breach that compromised the personal information of more than 10.6 million guests. Your guests will be communicating with your staff on a large scale, and their privacy and your responsibility must be taken into account.
The value of digital concierge data with analytics
How do you make your digital concierge data work for your hotel? By offering true guest personalization across your hotel tech systems, including guest service. Integration with an analytical tool can help uncover insights about your guests’ preferences, identify triggers, push sales, and predict surges and drops in your hotel operations before they become an issue, or even worse, a bad review.
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, partnered 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’s 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. So, find the right solution that ticks all the boxes.
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 text messaging solution that has all the features and none of the things to avoid? Ask to meet Ivy, the AI-powered text messaging solution today!