AI at the Front Desk: Better Smart Hotel Technology
Smart hotel technology…What is it what does it mean?
Industry disruption, phone-synced keyless room entry, job displacement, privacy, and data security are frequently discussed, but what about AI at the front desk? The hospitality industry is buzzing about smart hotel technology but hasn’t quite figured out what to make of AI at the front desk…yet.
What does front desk AI mean now and what will it include in the (near) future? Will you replace your front desk hosts, or will they work alongside an AI personal assistant? Ultimately, is this a smart hotel technology worth investing in for your hotel?
“Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions) and self-correction.” — SearchEnterpriseAI
You’ll find plenty of blogs and articles discussing various smart hotel technology topics. but finding something about AI that relates to the hospitality industry—especially AI at the front desk—is a bit tricky.
In truth, AI is a difficult topic to talk about. Even the leading experts in development have trouble pinpointing what AI is going to look like in three, ten, or thirty years from now.
The biggest challenge is the unpredictable nature of AI itself. There are plenty of doom and gloom conversations about workforce replacement, industry disruption, and even robots that can outthink humans. There’s also the fear that AI will one day surpass humans in all ways, making the human race obsolete (thank you Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and all those wonderfully terrifying Sci-Fi films…).
AI has the potential to greatly enhance the way that we live, work and travel. It’s certain that AI is going to help us to create more customized, memorable, and unique experiences. When it comes to smart hotel technology and guest services, AI may just outshine them all.
Hotel Smart Technology Right Now
Today, hotel smart technology includes things like remote check-in and check-out, smart room controls, specialized services booking, electronic concierge services, and green energy-saving technology.
There are plenty of ways to integrate a guest’s mobile devices into their hotel stay. Mobile phones as wireless room keys are becoming more common, along with Guest Apps that can be downloaded and used for a wide variety of services, room reservations, and remote check-in/out.
By providing a central hub where most—or all—of a guest’s needs are just a few taps away, smart hotel technology is already working hard at helping hotels to create those unique, personalized guest experiences many travelers crave.
In a survey on travel, it was revealed that 75 percent of travelers have trust issues with smart hotel technology, but 44 percent want it anyway. This 75 percent of travelers reported having at least some privacy concerns over smart hotel technology—ranging from digital check-in, keyless room entry, and smart voice-activated listening devices like Alexa, Google, and Siri.
Additionally, travelers would rather opt-in to technology on their own. As many as 69 percent of survey respondents would rather be informed about the features available and have the opportunity to opt-in than to have them automatically included and opt-out.
So, how do hotels integrate smarter (and more) hotel technology to enhance guest experience while mitigating the major concerns many travelers have?
AI at the Front Desk: Advantages and Challenges of This Smart Hotel Technology
There are a lot of questions and considerations you need to ask before buying a service like Frontdesk AI, linking it up, and expecting to increase your profits and revenue stream. There are many differing viewpoints surrounding smart hotel technology that change depending upon who’s examining it.
As a hotel manager, you may see an AI personal assistant at your front desk as a major advantage, while your workforce may feel their jobs are threatened. You may be excited about the 24/7 automated guest experience, while your guests may avoid it entirely due to personal data and privacy concerns.
Here are some of the important questions you should be asking yourself about front desk AI at your hotel.
How would a front desk AI personal assistant impact my workforce?
AI will continue to develop and advance in capabilities, adaptability, and eventually, creative thinking and problem-solving. Though we are likely a long way from seeing AI systems this advanced, it is almost certainly in our future.
Therefore, replacing staff with AI systems is also a long way off. So, what does this mean today and how will it both impact and involve your staff?
AI at the front desk will begin as an assistant. For example, Frontdesk AI is a company that provides AI software that engages guests and customers as a smart chatbot. The “Sasha” AI responds to missed calls through text messaging and will chat with customers online in real-time through a chat window.
Sasha is able to complete administrative tasks such as reservations, schedule appointments, and answer commonly asked questions. The front desk AI gets better at these tasks through its machine learning capabilities while maintaining a human-like persona.
Can the Sasha AI replace your front desk staff completely? No.
The benefit is Sasha AI can assist your staff with the more mundane and repetitive tasks of their jobs, allowing your front desk staff to focus more on providing outstanding guest service.
AI like Sasha are at the forefront of what AI can successfully accomplish today. AI assistants can help your hotel to engage more guests effectively and efficiently, helping to create a more personalized experience.
How will this impact guest services?
Improving guest experience is one of the hotel industry’s main goals. Real success lay in providing a highly personalized, unique, and (hopefully) unforgettable experience for every guest—be it travel for business or pleasure.
AI can help your hotel to achieve this through data collection, data interpretation, and providing ways to better understand what that data means.
One of the biggest challenges businesses face today is in figuring out what to do with all that data. This is where AI can assist us in ways that the human brain simply cannot process. In short, there’s a reason why we use computers to deal with complex math and calculations.
When people visit your hotel online, data is collected. When they check-in and use your Wi-Fi, more data is collected. When they query in-room personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality, more data is collected.
AI at your hotel won’t just collect guest data, but will be able to organize, interpret, and provide useful feedback and information to help you create the ultimate guest experience.
For example, what would you do if your AI reported that 67% of your guests asked questions like, “where is my iron located in this room?” or “set the room temperature to 70 degrees.” Ideally, you’d place the rooms clothing iron in a more obvious location, and set standard room temperature to the most common settings people find comfortable. Your AI might include a brief questionnaire asking guests about their Netflix and Spotify preferences.
Whatever data is collected by, and shared with your AI can be interpreted to improve guest services. Data collection is extremely important to providing the best guest experience, but it also comes with some major issues. Namely, data privacy and data security.
How do I protect guests’ personal data and privacy? What are the security risks?
With data being continuously collected, analyzed, interpreted, and re-implemented across all aspects of the hospitality industry, it’s no wonder smart hotel technology is already speeding up the rate of change.
However, with this comes a number of concerns, two of which being privacy and data security.
Protecting your guest’s data is not an option—it’s a necessity. As so many businesses, both large and small have learned, careless treatment of guest/user/client/customer data can result in data breaches that may potentially compromise millions—even billions—of individuals’ information. This has ruined otherwise very successful companies.
In the hotel industry, Marriott International reported that cyber thieves had stolen data on approximately 500 million customers. In some cases, only names and contact information were compromised, but for others, everything from passport numbers, travel information, credit card numbers, and even preferred guest numbers were stolen.
What does this mean for AI at the front desk?
Great measures must be taken by both your hotel and your staff when it comes to data security practices, including implementing smart hotel technology.
While it may seem like it would just be easier to avoid AI at your front desk entirely, this is akin to burying your head in the sand and hoping the danger will go away. Your hotel already has guest data security and data privacy protections in place; integrating and AI at the front desk doesn’t change this reality.
Therefore, the conclusion is not to avoid AI technology, but to integrate it correctly with your existing technology systems.
Is Now the Time for AI at the Front Desk?
So, is smart hotel technology, like AI at the front desk, the right choice?
AI can help your hotel respond to, interact with, and ultimately capture more traveling guests to your hotel. It can assist with creating more revenue by enhancing your guests’ experience, improve your booking data collection, allow your hotel staff to focus more on providing better customer service, and a host of other benefits that can improve your profits.
The question of whether you integrate AI smart hotel technology desk isn’t really even a question—it’s just a matter of time.
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