The current climate of the hotel industry is drastically changing. With increased popularity of AI and the impending disruption from blockchain, those who wish to stay competitive must effectively leverage these new opportunities to improve guest engagement and resolve issues in-stay.
AI has taken the world by storm. By 2020, 80% of businesses will have adopted AI as their main customer service solution. As one of the eight essential technologies in business, it should come as no surprise the market is expected to be worth approximately 2.5 billion this year. And leaders from all around the world agree AI has the potential to completely revolutionize the customer service market.
We reached out to Dipalli Bhatt, the Marketing Lead at MindBridge AI, to better understand the full potential AI can have. As she notes, “AI is here to enhance the capabilities of human beings. They get the tech out of the way, so humans can achieve greater heights.” In essence, curating a perfect customer service team may no longer just be a figment of the imagination.
AI agents are increasingly knowledgeable, always available, and understand the needs of each customer. They can resolve issues almost immediately, which not only decreases guest wait time, but also frees up human agents to focus on more complicated matters.
Bhatt believes the power of AI will drastically change the hospitality industry by creating new standards of operation for hotels. As she explains, “In hospitality as well there are so many low cognitive jobs like checking customers in, billing, checking them out etc. that AI and machines can help with — hospitality is for personal experience and personable charm!” With the help of AI, hotels can enhance the guest experience at every touchpoint — by increasing guest engagement and in-stay service recovery.
At its core, the hotel industry revolves around customer experience— on paper AI and the hotel industry should be a perfect pairing. However, in reality, the hotel industry has not yet fully grasped the full impact AI can have on their in-stay service recovery and guest engagement.
Hoteliers need to ask themselves what’s missing from their current AI strategy, and what changes have to be made in order to maximize their current efforts and improve their overall guest satisfaction.
Already, a large number of major hotel players have integrated, or are in the process of integrating, some form of AI technology. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas introduced Rose, their AI concierge, in early January of this year. When guests check in they are given a calling card with Rose’s number, which they can text for anything they may need throughout their stay.
Like Rose, AI technology in the hospitality industry has mainly revolved around messaging strategies. As Hilton’s Vice President of Digital Product Innovation explains: “Messaging, especially messaging done right at scale, is really going to be a big game changer for the hotels”.
While messaging does open doors for increased guest engagement, the focus tends to be limited to physical requests. Guests are not being given a channel to express their emotions and opinions on their current stay. In order to truly provide your guests with a memorable experience, you must delve below the surface and unlock a deeper understanding of their true satisfaction.
Take, for example, a guest checking in after a long flight to find their room has not been properly cleaned. Using the hotels SMS system, they send a quick message notifying the front desk of the issue. A maid promptly cleans the guest’s room and leaves. The guest believes more should have been done to resolve the issue, such as a complimentary breakfast. Even though the guest’s request has been filled, they are not completely satisfied with the service recovery. Unfortunately, with a messaging system staff may only be alerted the task was accomplished, not whether it was accomplished up to the guest’s expectations. By only focusing on the physical, hotel staff may never understand the connection.
We created Helix to solve this extremely prevalent problem, a solution that focuses on creating a channel of communication for guests to disclose their true overall in-stay experience. With Helix, hotel staff are immediately notified of unsatisfied guests and have the opportunity to remediate any issues in-stay. Since guests are able to fully voice their concerns, the hotel staff can guarantee each guest feels valued and leaves with memorable experiences.
Some companies have ventured outside the realms of in-stay requests and have begun to use AI to unlock new levels of guest understanding. Systems like the Profile Engine by Dailypoint transform complicated big data into smart data. Hoteliers are able to create a constantly growing, and incredibly accurate, centralized guest profile. Through this, hoteliers can better understand their customers and individualize their service and personalize their experience.
The Ritz-Carlton recently introduced their “Mystique” system, which allowed members of the staff to create centralized guest profiles and update guest preferences to better personalize their next stay. If at any point a staff member noticed a guest enjoyed a certain snack or drink, they could enter it into the guest’s profile, and keep it on reference for future stays. With this, guests can travel to any Ritz-Carlton and receive the same high-end personalized service.
AI is the future of customer service. By effectively utilizing artificial intelligence and implementing AI technologies into their overall CRM strategies, hotels can create more in-depth guest profiles and ensure guests leave fully satisfied with memorable experiences.
While the hotel industry is stepping in the right direction, those should be cautious of taking two steps forward and one step back.
Outside of the realm of AI, blockchain threatens to disrupt the hospitality and distribution monopoly held by Priceline Expedia and Airbnb. As explained by Skift, blockchain will make it increasingly difficult for travel intermediaries to have sustainable business cases. Those in the industry will need to adapt their business model, to both work within the new landscape created by Blockchain and to compete against the increased competition that will follow lowering entry barriers.
Undoubtedly, the current landscape of the hotel industry is shifting. Hoteliers must recognize the powerful impact both AI and blockchain will have, and be able to leverage these new opportunities to improve their overall guest understanding and experience.
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