It may sound like something out of an episode of The Jetson’s but AI (yes, this includes actual robot assistants, like The Jetson’s beloved Rosie), particularly in the form of chatbots, is making frequent appearances in the hospitality industry. The goal? To improve the guest experience through more efficient internal communication with digital workforce solutions.
This year’s AAHOA Annual Conference takes note of this growing hospitality trend with a seminar, “Technology To Improve Housekeeping and Maintenance Efficiency,” featuring Dorothy Creamer, Editor, Hospitality Technology; Micah Green, Founder, Maidbot; David Mitroff, Founder and CBC, Piedmont Avenue Consulting; and Raman Rama, President, Sarona Holdings. The seminar focuses on how hotel owners can leverage the latest digital workforce products and services to simplify and improve hotel operations to enhance the guest experience and ultimately drive occupancy rates.
How Digital Communication Tools Help Increase Bookings
According to a study of travel review sites conducted by Christopher Andersen, Ph.D, Assistant Professor at the Cornell School for Hotel Administration, higher occupancy rates are directly linked to how high a hotel’s reviews and ratings are. Specifically, the study analyzed Travelocity data that demonstrated that if a property increases its review scores by 1 point on a 5-point scale, the hotel can raise rates and still maintain the same occupancy.
Notably, Anderson’s findings point to social media as a powerful ally when it comes to consumer booking habits and to making sure a curious browser goes through with booking a room in your hotel. More broadly, these findings reflect an equally important insight: the way we navigate and complete much of the tasks in our personal and professional daily lives revolves around digital technology and informs our expectations of consumer experiences.
Fast Mobile Search Experiences Matter With Chatbots for Customer Service on Hotels’ Websites
The access to and ease-of-use of digital technology, particularly when it comes to mobile devices, affects purchase follow-through. A 2017 Think with Google study showed that if a website takes longer than three seconds to load, 53% of consumers will leave the site and conversion is lost. Put simply, with the vast, instant access to information digital technology provides, consumers aren’t afraid to take the time to compare lodging options—otherwise known as ‘shopping around’—and are using consumer opinions to inform their transactions.
AI and Chatbots: Partners in Providing an Exceptional Guest Experience
Far from worrying about frontline workforce replacement, those working in the hospitality industry should view AI, especially chatbots, as valuable communication tools that can boost productivity and enable frontline employees to focus on their primary priority: an exceptional guest experience.
A hotel’s consumer ratings and reviews will always reflect guest experiences, for better or for worse. The benefits of AI assistance in the form of chatbots are two-fold for your digital workforce, and have far-reaching, positive implications for the hospitality industry. Increased service efficiency means better delivery of a memorable guest experience, leading to brand loyalty and thus greater occupancy rates.
Here are some of the major hospitality service areas that impact the guest experience that can directly benefit from chatbots and AI automated operations:
- Room service: Chatbots can virtually take the in-room orders of guests. Chatbots can be programmed to ask a variety of detailed questions to ensure your guests get exactly what they need (like specific condiments on their sandwich, or extra ice in their water) and can even schedule delivery.
- Guest check-in and check-out: One of the most useful applications of a chatbot is as a virtual booking agent. Chatbots can send reminders to guests regarding the details of their stay, such as check-in and check-out times, and augment them if necessary based on guest requests (for example, extra pillows or special food or beverage items to be in-room upon arrival).
- Maintenance requests: When a guest encounters an in-room issue, such as a burned-out light bulb or a broken appliance, hotel employees can use chatbots to field guest issue reporting so repairs can be made quickly. Once the guest notifies a hotel team member, a message can be sent via chatbot to the maintenance team that notifies them of the request.
- Special requests: From wake-up calls, “do not disturb” notifications, or delivery of extra towels or toiletries, chatbots can handle instantaneous communication of many of the most common guest requests. Upon notification from guests, hospitality teams can send automated notifications to the necessary internal hotel staff using a mobile employee communication app to handle these requests directly, and can complete them more quickly and efficiently.
- Concierge services: Think of a chatbot as a 24/7 virtual local guide to the best food and entertainment options in the area, including on-premise dining and events. Chatbots can be set with the day or week’s latest events and promotions. Best of all, guests and hotel staff alike can consult the chatbot concierge at their convenience.
This is all good news for the hotel industry, which is already uniquely profitable and, according to hospitality experts, is poised to experience even higher occupancy rates in 2018. Loyal customers will continue to patronize a hotel property even when rates increase because they are loyal to the guest experience you have created.
With the help of a digital workforce app like Beekeeper, guest services that previously commanded substantial staff time and energy can be more automated. When tasks like these are delegated to digital technology, your workforce is free to assist with more complex guest needs and requests that require face-to-face interactions.