Artificial intelligence (AI) is upending many industries and transforming everything around us. Self-driving cars, drones that deliver packages and AI assistants that provide instant and accurate responses to your questions would have been considered science fiction just a few years ago. Now, they are a reality, thanks to advances in AI and machine learning.
The hospitality and travel industries have been some of the first to embrace these technologies to improve the guest experience during all stages of a trip, from providing inspirational and personalized travel recommendations to activity planning and assisting with various services while on a property. Many hotel chains and hospitality brands have already taken steps to take advantage of the power and insights that AI offers, and more are following suit all the time.
While you should keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are the ways that AI could change the in-room hotel experience for the better as it continues to improve its capabilities.
Staying Connected From Start To Finish
The impetus used to be on the hotel guest to reach out when something was needed, but the days of having to call down to the front desk are long gone. Hoteliers are rapidly adding chatbots to ensure that their customers can get 24/7 assistance and information from check-in to check-out — processes that, by the way, the chatbots can also help to handle. Thanks to their own takes on digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, hotel chains like Marriott can also ensure that guests can get questions answered just by speaking them aloud.
Breaking Down Language Barriers
Bespoke customer service at hotels has long been the domain of the concierge, many of whom are excellent at their jobs. However, it’s somewhat unfair to expect them to understand every language a guest might speak, especially in locations where international travelers are common. This isn’t an issue for chatbots or digital assistants, which can use natural language processing (NLP) to understand anything guests throw at them. Programmed properly, they can hand off to the concierge for queries that are more complex or situations that require the human touch to resolve.
Personalizing Stays For Every Guest
The paradox of choice is something every hotel would prefer to avoid for its guests, particularly at resort-style destinations where there are many amenities on hand. AI can help prevent customers from feeling overwhelmed in two ways. These technologies start by keeping guests informed on everything that’s available and even guiding them to what they want, if necessary. More importantly, AI can access a wide range of data from previous stays to suggest exactly the kind of food, entertainment or shopping that a guest wants based on their prior preferences — or help them discover something new if they’re feeling more adventurous. MSC Cruises is already testing out these kinds of capabilities in its ZOE digital assistant, which will provide personalized suggestions for activities when it rolls out in 2020.
Upgrading Room Service
Perhaps no part of the traditional hotel stay has been as inefficient as the typical room service transaction, which involved calling someone on the in-room phone and placing an order, often without the guest knowing all the available options. They may even be talking to an employee whose first job might not be serving food. That’s no longer the case, as hotels like ARIA Resort & Casino can integrate all their restaurants into the room service ecosystem, making ordering as simple as finding what you want and tapping on it. After that, it’s simple for AI to keep guests in the loop on the status of their order and suggest additional food and beverage items they might like.
Ensuring Return Visits
“We hope you visit us again” is a phrase you might still hear as we head into the 2020s, but it’s one that hotel companies can now feel more confident is said more out of politeness than anxiety. AI-enabled devices and assistants can gather feedback about a guest’s stay easier than ever, helping management clearly see where they need to step up their game. Or, this technology could simply provide a road map for future amenities and services. On top of that, they can keep in contact with customers and help them book their next stay, taking what was once left to chance and making it far more certain. Both hoteliers and third-party booking services, like Expedia and Booking.com, are investing in these kinds of features right now.
The Future Of The In-Room Experience
One thing that won’t change no matter how many new AI-based technologies are inserted into a hotel room is the need to put the guest’s satisfaction first. No chatbot or voice assistant will be sufficiently dazzling enough to make up for an experience that is substandard in other ways, and companies need to ensure that the AI itself isn’t the reason a guest might leave unhappy.
As with other applications of AI over the next decade, it will be of utmost importance for hospitality companies to think carefully about which areas can be best served by applying new technologies — and the specific challenges they want to solve. Starting small with these pinpointed challenges will help you — and your patrons — ease into the support that AI can offer. Once you’ve found exactly the right ways to harness its power, AI will be able to help you provide even more ways to anticipate and satisfy your customers’ needs, transforming expectations of hotel stays for the better.