This may not yet be obvious, but AI technology is increasingly shaping the way hotels service their guests. This has everything to do with the generations of digital native travelers at the peak of their purchasing power who are traveling more but are not willing to compromise on one thing – experience.
New demands from guests are pushing hotels to adopt new technologies that help them deliver enhanced guest experiences and meet their expectations for seamless, personalized and on-demand services. And they’re increasingly leveraging conversational AI interfaces to deliver what their guests are looking for.
In simplest terms, conversational AI is a computer program that can be trained to have conversations with users through a chat interface. It’s a form of automated communication with users that can be exposed on hotel websites, applications, or messaging apps.
Powered by AI technologies, such as machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), a chatbot can play the role of a digital concierge, providing this premium service free for hotel guests. But this is not all they can do! Let’s have a look at how hotels can use chatbots to wow their guests and tap into new revenue streams.
From booking to post-stay, guests expect most of their hotel interactions to be automated and services accessible on-demand from their smartphones. Whether it’s asking questions about their stay, making requests, or booking a meal, they want instantaneous responses. This is where conversational AI makes all the difference in response time, while at the same taking the load of hotel staff.
There’s nothing that can hurt a hotel’s reputation more than poorly managed guest requests. We all know how vocal guests can be about their disappointments and they won’t be shy to share them with the world on sites like TripAdvisor.
AI chatbots are the simplest way for guests to request any service from a hotel - if they need fresh towels, wake-up call, dry cleaning, room service, poolside drinks, etc. - all they need to do is tap a few buttons. It’s so much more convenient than having to call the front desk.
Having a 24/7 direct communication channel with the hotel during their stay gives guests a feeling of control over their experience.
But, what happens ‘behind the curtains’? How does this simplify things for the hotel?
Conversational interfaces don’t exist in isolation, they communicate with other hotel systems. They typically come with their own CMS and analytics but their true power is in ability to integrate with the hotel’s property management system (PMS). Advanced solutions like this notify hotel staff immediately as a guest makes a request. Due to PMS integration, the front desk can easily authenticate the guest name and room number, dispatch requests to appropriate staff, and then track the progress as the staff fulfills requests.
So, with AI chatbots, hotels can respond to requests much faster with almost no capacity limitations while giving instant access to information and services to their guests.
According to an Oracle study, “an average of 70% of guest requests are now handled automatically by AI-enabled response technology in hotels where the systems have been implemented. The results in terms of time savings, cost savings and guest relationship enhancement make for a strong business case for investing in hotel technologies that harness the power of artificial intelligence.”
Personalized recommendations have become a norm for today’s consumers. Just think how Amazon, Netflix, and other digital giants have spoiled users with their high-quality recommendations based on both historic data and real-time activity. Imagine how powerful this level of personalization could be if used in hotels!
For example, a hotel could provide restaurant or meal recommendations via a digital concierge based on a guest’s preferences and previous bookings/orders.
They could send them timely notifications on special deals tailored for them either based on historical data (e.g. send spa treatment deals to guests who visited hotel spa during previous stays) or predefined triggers (e.g. prior to checking out, send guests an offer for transfer service).
Smart technology used in chatbots will continue to make it possible for hotels to enable this level of personalization to create memorable experiences and foster greater guest loyalty.
“89% of hoteliers agree that targeted personalization is one of the most effective ways to improve the guest experience.” – Source
To provide a well-rounded experience to their guests, hotels need to be helpful and available to provide information about everything from check in time, hotel amenities, best dining options in the area, top attractions to visit, best sightseeing tours, and more.
Instead of turning to Google for information or calling the reception, guests can ask the hotel chatbot for tips on how to make the most of their time for the duration of their trip. It’s like having an experienced local guide on their phone!
The hotel chatbot can be ‘trained’ to answer simple questions like hours of operation to more sophisticated requests suggesting the best transportation options from the hotel to downtown, major tourist spots, airport, etc. It can keep the guests updated on local events and send notifications on happy hours in local bars and restaurants. Opportunities for hotels to be helpful and provide added value to guests are endless!
Conversational AI could also provide integration with 3rd party services to take things further and enable, for example, restaurant reservations or booking of top attractions in just a few taps.
All requests can be tracked according to many different categories including the nature of the request, number of requests, average response times, labor hours saved, escalated requests and results. This reports and analysis can help to determine strong and weak spots in the delivery team as well as highlight similar redundant requests such as heat, A/C and case goods. The team can be incentivized to improve or build upon these analytics. Today in hotels much of this guest feedback is not recorded or analyzed.
In 2020 and beyond (after corona situations settles down), what guests consider a premium service is going to be closely related to convenience and personalization. Hotels simply won’t be able to deliver this level of service to their guests without AI-related technologies that will power great guest experiences.
We expect these technologies to impact hotel operations even more in the future, touching everything from front desk to customer service and support. Even though implementing tools like conversational AI may cause some level of disruption, it will also open up a wide array of opportunities for hotels to increase brand recognition, boost customer loyalty, and drive more revenue in the long run.