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, personalization, and artificial intelligence (AI). These may seem futuristic, but many of them are already a reality. Take the AI-powered hotel text messaging solution, or digital concierge, for example.
Like its human counterpart, the digital concierge exists to provide exceptional guest service, a key hospitality objective. Unlike its human counterpart; however, the digital concierge can handle millions of guest interactions simultaneously and accurately. Managing this load is just one benefit a digital concierge provides to hotels and their guests. Alleviating the pressures of a short staff is another.
Here’s a list of what you should look for and what you should avoid:
Considerations for guests
- Ease of use: Technology tends to be adopted when it’s intuitive to use; in other words, it leverages common behavior. The digital concierge relies on one of the most common activities people do today to deliver guest service: text messaging.
- Natural language: Research has revealed that people prefer and respond to AI with human-like qualities. A digital concierge that sounds and acts human, producing accurate and appropriate responses, quickly wins guests over. When guests become familiar with the technology, they’ll be more likely to use it for future requests.
- Instant responses: We live in a time of instant gratification, with the hospitality industry further heightening expectations. An effective digital concierge responds in seconds, creating more time for guests to enjoy their vacation.
- Ever-present: Even the top hotels with butler service cannot (and will not) be ever-present at a guest’s side, but a digital concierge can be. Because it’s accessed by the guest’s smartphone, the digital concierge is conveniently located in a pocket, bag, or on a nearby surface, waiting to address a guest’s request.
- Guest control: The digital concierge is ever-present and conveniently available, but it can also be less interruptive. For instance, a guest can make a request in the middle of a meeting, then check back when they’re ready. Alternatively, guests who prefer DIY interactions without a human component will be pleased that they can complete tasks like virtual check-in through the digital concierge.
- Seamless service experiences: When a digital concierge is unable to adequately solve a guest issue, the solution needs to be escalated to a human member of the hotel staff and should not require the guest to repeat themselves. The right hotel digital concierge can manage this process flawlessly.
When the 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 appropriate solution reap operational benefits.
Considerations for hotels
- Ease of integration/startup: Even the most impressive technology can be a nightmare to install, integrate, and train staff on. Hotels looking for a digital concierge should look for ease of integration. This means less than a week to go live and a proven integration track record of aligning with their PMS.
- Hyper-personalized messaging: A casino resort has different objectives than a luxury resort in the rugged outdoors. The right hotel digital concierge will be customized to address the specific requests of each property. This may include special promotions to boost engagement in on-site activities, check rewards program standings, and upsell revenue opportunities.
- Constant, automated learning: Through advanced machine learning programming, an AI-powered hotel digital concierge automatically and continually learns how to respond better. The more accurate the responses, the less load on hotel staff. And since it manages often redundant, repetitive requests, employees can spend more time on high-value interactions. As a result, you can expect improved employee engagement, sentiment, and retention rates. Most front desk agents would happily give up the grind of answering the same mundane questions over and over again.
- Issue closure: A true hotel digital concierge will follow a guest issue until it’s resolved, which means providing the guest and hotel staff with follow-ups and alerts until the task is complete.
- Communications transcripts: When issues need to be elevated to hotel staff, a transcript of the guest conversation should be provided first. Transcripts allow hotel staff to immediately pick up where the digital concierge left off and should be reviewed and analyzed for trends and lingering issues to address.
- Simple staff portal: A simple, easy-to-use dashboard should be created to centralize all the information in one place.
- Real-time analytics: Hotel operations will want insights into how the hotel staff and digital concierge tag-teamed to resolve guest issues, that lead to special offer redemptions, incremental revenue gains, and improved satisfaction scores. Look for a solution that provides these data points with easy-to-absorb, real-time dashboards.
What to avoid
A word of caution. When venturing into the world of hotel digital concierges or text messaging solutions: look for a proven provider who has worked with properties like yours in the past, and 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.
Be a smart shopper of your digital concierge selection.