How AI can facilitate better interactions between hotel guests and employees |
Whether management wants to admit it or not, hotels are riddled with inefficiencies. The interactions between hotel staff and guests are essential in the hospitality industry. Premium service should be convenient, friendly and executed with a personal touch.
But sometimes these interactions can slow down or hinder guests during their stay. The front desk staff may be doing their best to focus on the customers in front of them, but when the phone rings they have to show the caller the same level of service and respect they show current customers, which ends up diverting the attention of whoever is in front of them. While hotel staff should always strive to give guests their full attention, sometimes technology is better suited to meet guest needs.
In 2022, we have the technology to help hotels serve their guests. Hotels can now strike the balance between delivering service with a personal touch and operating with machine-like efficiency.
Tech without a personal touch during the pandemic
The pandemic has deeply shaken the hospitality industry. It changed every aspect of hotel operations and upended customer service.
2020 changed the hotel experience by introducing plexiglass dividers, contactless check-in and technology-driven interaction. In many ways, the pandemic has exponentially increased hotel efficiency. It eliminated long front desk lines, valet delays, awkward housekeeping encounters, and more.
2020 also saw a sharp drop in customer service thanks to the increased security measure. For most of 2020 and well into 2021, hotel guests found themselves in hotels that were just shells of themselves.
Overwhelmed reception cannot provide quality service
Travel is back in full force. According to Axios, travelers are flying again in large numbers. “The Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 2.24 million air passengers on Friday, marking the highest number of air travelers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
While we are all happy to welcome travelers back to our businesses, at these volumes it is easy for staff to be overwhelmed. When front desk staff are too busy with current guest requests, reservation lines can be skipped. When the reservation lines are ringing non-stop, current customers will not receive the quality of service they deserve from the front desk.
Traditionally, hotels have turned to an offsite central reservations service (CRO) to manage their reservation lines and free up hotel staff to focus on current guests. Today, given the recent increase in travel, that may not be enough. Hotel bookings are increasingly in demand, and if you can’t keep up with the growing demand, you’re simply losing revenue and travelers who will most likely book your competitors.
An artificial intelligence solution
Technology has long been seen as the antithesis of genuine customer service. The line of thinking that technology creates a barrier between the customer and a service provider has been widely held in many industries. However, many consumer industries have successfully implemented automated services that enhance, rather than hinder, the customer experience. From self-checkout kiosks to call routing, technology has helped customers have a more efficient shopping experience.
As a service-oriented industry, hospitality has been reluctant to adopt certain technologies for fear that they will detract from the guest experience. 2020 and 2021 have shown us that technology has its place in the hospitality industry and that with the right technology, a hotel can improve a guest’s experience by removing inefficiencies during their stay.
Finding the balance between service and technology
The hospitality industry has experimented with the technology before, with mixed results. Hotels are using chatbots and voice robots to handle website inquiries, dinner reservations, and more. Chatbots, however, are limited to programmed responses and often lead to frustrated guests.
Voice robots help companies channel huge volumes of calls to the right departments without using manpower. Like chatbots, voice bots have been limited in their performance capabilities and often frustrate users. While traditional voice bots are effective tools for managing surges in call volume, most customers dread interactions with voice bots, in part because of the limited amount of information they can provide.
AI can improve the customer experience
Artificial intelligence appears to be the missing piece that could help the hospitality industry adapt its chosen technology systems to a service-oriented business model.
As Kelly McGuire, Managing Principal, Hospitality at ZS, said in a recent article she co-authored with others for Hospitality Upgrade, “Look for areas of friction that impact guests, employees or both. Find repetitive tasks that take time away from customers. Look for manual work, “hands on the keyboard”. Then think about how you would ideally like these processes to work. What should the interaction between customers and employees look like? Once you understand this, you can see where automation opportunities fit perfectly into the journey. »
That’s where Bella™, the hospitality industry’s first virtual agent, comes in. Bella is an AI-powered virtual agent that can answer over 100 FAQs, speak multiple languages, and be programmed with the talent voice from your hotel.
When guests call and Bella answers, they don’t hear a robotic voice bot, they hear a friendly chat tone that can direct calls, answer questions, and even send follow-up text messages.
According to Doug Kennedy, president of Kennedy Training Network, “Bella offers hotels the best of both worlds, cutting-edge technology to increase efficiency without sacrificing a personal touch. Bella empowers front desk staff to meet the most robust, human-centric needs, while she handles the reservation lines.
Powered by the latest artificial intelligence technology, Bella has the potential to revolutionize the way hotels operate and take the industry into the future. Learn more about the next generation of voice bots designed specifically for the hospitality industry. And find out how an AI-powered virtual hotel call center agent can improve your hotel’s voice channel while saving on fixed labor costs.
A veteran of the hospitality industry, John has owned, developed and managed hotels for many years. After earning a BBA from New Mexico State University, he began his career at AT&T, gaining invaluable knowledge and experience during the early years of the data revolution. His technology and hospitality experience merged in his development of Travel Outlook, the world-class hospitality contact center. More recently, it has branched out with the creation of ExpressRez, the first contact center for the B&B industry, and with the creation of Visit Bella™, The Virtual Hotel Agent™, the first voice-powered robot by AI for the hospitality industry. .
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