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New technologies often turn out to be complements, not substitutes, for the old technologies (and even the manual processes) they are meant to replace. A new technology may simply be better suited to meet a different user need and in a different situation.

By Jeff Zabin, Editor – 7.1.2019

Artificial intelligence has been disrupting and transforming various industrial sectors for years. While the hotel industry as a whole may not have been at the forefront of adopting AI-based technologies, hoteliers are now paying close attention to the potential benefits as well as the threats. potential that AI can present for them.

In many cases, as noted, they are investing significant resources in AI-related technologies, especially those that allow them to take advantage of developments in customer experience management. At the same time, they seek to understand the potential impact of artificial intelligence on front desk staff, guest service representatives, concierge and other guest-facing hotel staff positions and hotel resources. assistance.

For most hoteliers, regardless of the size or type of property they operate, it seems clear that sooner or later they will have to adopt the fusion of speakerphone systems and personal assistants compatible with the AI, advanced in-room IoT controls, consolidated device service, and even robots that might seem straight out of Star Wars to transform their properties and redefine their customer service standards.

The financial benefits are obvious. Indeed, according to to research conducted by Starfleet Research in partnership with Oracle Hospitality, 89% of hoteliers agree that AI significantly reduces the cost of operating the guest support function. By integrating artificial intelligence to redefine the meaning of an exceptional guest experience, hotels also have the opportunity to increase positive brand awareness and increase guest loyalty, which should result in revenue gains. tangible income.

An important question for hoteliers to ask themselves as they embark on this journey is: to what extent will the migration from humans to machines redefine, or even eliminate, existing jobs? Can humans and machines work together in complementary ways and benefit both hotel staff and hotel guests?

The answer, in most cases, would seem to be a resounding “yes”. Indeed, according to to research86% of hoteliers agree that AI improved employee satisfaction. It does this, in part, by managing mundane tasks, such as answering frequently asked questions, freeing up employees to focus on higher-value tasks, and improving their knowledge and performance.

At this point, it should be borne in mind that new technologies often turn out to be complements, not substitutes, for the older technologies (and even the manual processes) they are meant to replace. A new technology may simply be better suited to meet a different user need and in a different situation.

Customers who prefer interacting with real humans in some situations may be fine with interacting with AI-based technologies in other situations. Thanks to artificial intelligence, hotels are better able to manage guest requests and provide assistance much more effectively and efficiently, reducing the pressure on employees while improving guest satisfaction in the process, and in a way that complements and enhances existing processes.

In a growing number of large hotel groups, artificial intelligence is already dramatically reducing the workload of human customer service representatives. Until recently, the team of a large hotel group struggled to manage the tens of thousands of support tickets they received each year. Her multiple support systems were operating at full capacity. Responses to customer inquiries were often delayed or incomplete, putting the company’s reputation at risk. To meet its capacity demands, the company introduced AI-enabled virtual assistants with natural language integration and self-learning capabilities that could provide customers with a conversational assistance experience.

Integrated with hotel case management tools, the technology has the ability to adapt over time. It can quickly get up to speed with customer support processes while returning information that continues to help improve the customer experience with every support interaction and engagement.

To date, the technology has accelerated call resolution times across a wide range of tasks, reducing contact time by over four minutes per interaction and with over 85% accuracy on queries received for many tasks. . This has gone a long way in reducing the pressure on human support staff, who are now free to focus on higher value tasks, while improving the customer experience at scale.

The complementary nature of AI is such that it can also improve the knowledge, performance, and speed of human customer service representatives. Some hotel groups are experimenting with an AI-enabled voice-activated speakerphone to listen in on sales reps’ conversations with potential guests. If the rep fumbles on an answer, technology comes to the rescue.

Some companies use AI bots to suggest answers to guest queries that a human agent can then approve or adapt before sending them. In some cases, this approach has doubled the number of SMS requests a hotel can handle without increasing the number of reps on its payroll.

In a hotel group, bots are now able to process more than 2 million requests per day, a workload equivalent to approximately 7,000 human employees. By offering a virtual concierge that automatically responds to customer queries via text message, it has reduced calls to the human concierge by 30%.

Adopting technology requires a change in internal culture. Employees need to understand the benefits of artificial intelligence and how it can not only improve the customer experience, but also improve their own experience. They need to overcome their fears, especially around job security, and see how AI allows their jobs to fit into higher-level roles.

AI-based technology must be an integral part of the overall business strategy. Employees need to be included in the strategy and understand how they can work with technology to their own benefit as well as the benefit of the organization as a whole.

Jeff Zabin is director of research at Starfleet Research and editor of Hotel Technology News and Restaurant Technology News. He has written, spoken and consulted extensively on improving business through technology in the hospitality industry. His bestselling business books on transforming e-commerce and improving data-driven marketing have been translated into over a dozen languages.

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