How Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming the Hotel Industry
Artificial intelligence has found its way into many industries as businesses continue to search for ways to reduce costs and make the most of their employees' time. The hospitality industry has discovered ways to use AI in the form of virtual assistants and automated customer service that have enhanced productivity and improved their guests' experience. The ability of AI to personalize these automated interactions has improved the service provided to guests at many large hotels. Combining artificial intelligence with cloud-based infrastructure is one-way customer service in the hospitality industry is being revolutionized.
AI Is Transforming Guest Service
The combination of cloud-based and artificial intelligence technologies has brought a new era of convenience for businesses that need a personalized and scalable approach to customer service. The hospitality industry has seen a number of innovations that leverage technology to cut costs and improve the guest experience. Services like Epik Networks' Hosted Call Center Solution CC-One can be part of these guest service solutions.
Ways AI Is Automating Guest Service Interactions
1. Artificial Concierges
Robotic concierges have been developed by several companies that can serve customers for most routine tasks like travel advice and room service. These robots use artificial intelligence and voice recognition software to interact with customers, but also have a familiar physical presence that makes the interactions more comfortable. Many travelers today are already familiar with voice-activated digital assistants like Amazon's Alexa, making the addition of AI concierges at hotels less obtrusive.
One of the first examples of a robotic concierge is Hilton Worldwide's Connie, a 2-foot tall robot that mans the front desk. The AI it uses is based on IBM's Watson and integrates resources like the WayBlazer travel database. Connie is programmed to answer common questions, offer travel information, and use machine learning to improve its responses.
2. Voice-Activated Assistants
The explosion of AI assistants in the form of smart speakers like Amazon's Echo and Google's Home has made intelligent agents more accessible to people by interacting through voice commands. As more travelers come to consider a smart speaker a common household appliance, it has proved to be an efficient way to interact with them in their rooms. What's more, this way of introducing intelligent agents to guest service is cost-effective because special editions of products like Alexa are easily adapted to provide room and travel services.
Voice-activated AI agents can assist a guest with ordering room service, making travel plans, resolving complaints, and contacting an establishment's staff. A good example of this use of technology is Wynn Las Vegas's placement of Amazon's Echo in guest rooms to serve as the first contact for room service. It also provides smart home controls for the room's lighting, curtains, thermostat, and television.
3. Chatbot Assistants
Yet another communication channel that modern travelers use daily is instant messaging. AI-powered chatbots can provide the same services as voice-activated assistants and robotic concierges with the added convenience of using mobile devices. Chatbots can operate from popular messaging services like Facebook's Messenger, or they can be integrated into a mobile app that provides other services to customers. In this way, routine services like ordering room service or arranging taxis can be provided without the attention of human staff, freeing up employees to handle more demanding tasks.
4. Mobile App Integration
Some establishments have developed mobile apps that collect various digital services in a single place to enhance the guest experience. The ubiquity of mobile devices like tablets or smartphones among travelers can be leveraged with branded mobile apps to add a level of convenient guest service that isn't possible with other technologies. A guest can use the mobile app can access room service, set controls for their room's lights and temperature, and interact with AI assistants through voice calls or text from anywhere. Mobile apps can also be a convenient way to collect feedback about the services a guest received during and after their stay.
5. Big Data Customer Analytics
Hosted call center solutions like Epik's CC-One include data analytic tools that can leverage AI to improve guest service. Modern, cloud-based customer contact solutions can pull together all of the common communication channels including voice, text, email, and social media, giving them what they want, when they want it. The machine learning algorithms integrated into the software system are able to:
- Collect and process data regarding customers and their behavior
- Predict and identify customer issues
- Identify customer patterns
- Identify common preferences and selections
- Help resolve issues proactively
- Reduce call abandonment
- Increase first call resolutions
- Reduce customer complaints
- Understand call center agent and customer behavior
- Intelligently route customers to the ideal agent
Examples of AI Transforming Hospitality Operations
The hospitality industry has been deploying AI and robotic technologies to streamline customer service in recent years. Several notable examples have been successful in moving guest service forwards in the digital transformation of the industry. Many have been bringing AI assistants to their guests by providing text message chatbots or voice-activated smart speakers for in-room service. These modes of interaction can both be tied into cloud-based customer contact centers.
Henna na Hotel in Japan
Japan was an early adopter of automation technologies including robotics and artificial intelligence because of labor shortages in the country. Henna na Hotel was the first in Japan's hospitality industry to employ smart robots to provide service to its guests. Entirely staffed with robots, Henna na Hotel has a female robot serving as a receptionist at the front desk and a dinosaur-themed robot that onboards guests as they arrive. An AI-assistant called Churi-chan provides room service that goes as far as adjusting the lighting and providing weather forecasts.
Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
The Cosmopolitan has become well-known for Rose, an AI-controlled concierge. When guests check-in, they receive a calling card to use when they need anything. They can call a number or send a text message to contact Rose. The AI concierge system handles most guest service requests and answers common questions. It forwards the guest to the appropriate staff member if it doesn't recognize a request or know the answer to a question.
Edwardian Hotels has incorporated intelligent chatbots that guests can use to access their services. Guests can simply text "Edward" to the chatbot's contact number to initiate a conversation. Edward is programmed to help guests with finding local attractions or points of interest like restaurants, tourist attractions, resorts, and bars. Edward is also the initial contact for guest complaints, forwarding requests to on-duty staff when it isn't able to resolve a problem that it encounters.
Clarion Hotel in Stockholm
Clarion's Stockholm location has added artificial intelligence to its guest service with an AI chatbot-based butler using the Amazon Echo to provide room service. It's able to help guests with tasks like hailing cabs, accessing travel information, ordering room services, and answering other hotel-related questions. By using Amazon Echo, Clarion was able to quickly design a voice-activated AI-assistant for their hotel rooms that have a physical presence. Using smart speakers instead of contact numbers makes Clarion's solution feel more personable.
What Are the Benefits of Artificial Intelligence?
AI continues to prove itself to be an innovative constellation of technologies that are transforming the way businesses operate by introducing new capabilities and eliminating the need for humans to perform routine services. Below is a list of the most important ways AI is benefiting businesses.
AI Reduces Costs
One way AI reduces costs is by eliminating the need for human gatekeepers to field and route initial customer contacts. Intelligent agents can handle the initial routing of calls, and chatbots can answer commonly asked questions in a personalized way. These tools free up your employees' time to focus on more complicated or unusual customer requests that require human attention.
AI Improves Customer Service Processes
Artificial intelligence can also be a tool for creating well-defined business processes designed to ensure customers receive the best service possible. When provided with the right data, intelligent agents will move customers through your customer service pipeline efficiently and consistently by eliminating delays and errors that sometimes happen with human service agents.
AI Improves Your Brand's Image
A brand is important in the hospitality industry to attract and retain customers. Instilling brand loyalty ensures that frequent travelers become life-long customers. What makes or breaks your brand's image in the hospitality business is the customer service experience it delivers. Consistency is also important, as one bad experience can ruin your brand's image for a customer. Artificial intelligence helps with these problems, too, by minimizing the need for customers to interact with your service providers and ensuring that the service provided is the same for each customer. This lowers the chance of a poor experience taking place.
AI Ensures Customer Privacy
Intelligent agents instead of human employees can collect customer information when providing standard services and executing transactions. This eliminates the problem of insider fraud by removing the human from the data collection process. Once the data has entered your business's system, it can be further protected with encryption techniques, so human customer service agents only see a customer's information on a need-to-know basis.
AI Improves Security
Intelligent agents improve a business's security in many ways. They can manage records of customer interactions, including video, photographs, and transactions, so you can track down who had access to your facilities during investigations. They can also proactively flag suspicious activity, whether on your computer system or around your physical properties, alerting your staff or local authorities when action is needed.