3 Areas Where AI Can Improve CX
Customer experience is at the forefront of everything hospitality professionals do. From the search for a hotel to the moment a patron checks in, through check-out and post-visit engagement, it is imperative that hotels provide a welcoming and memorable customer experience to enhance customer loyalty and drive long-term success for their business.
Like many good ideas, this sounds a lot simpler than it is to execute. While the fundamentals of the hospitality business, such as providing clean and safe rooms, professional staff, and competitive pricing haven’t changed, the smart use of technology to improve customer experience is increasingly critical for both brand loyalty and operational efficiency. Managing data effectively, and the application of AI solutions can help in numerous ways. Below are three core problems that are good targets for a next-generation solution: minimize wait times, understand customer feedback, and personalize the customer experience. In any of these cases, consequential improvements can be made through the incorporation of artificial intelligence. Let’s dive into each use case further and look at specific ways improvements can be made by incorporating AI.
1. Wait Times
Nobody likes waiting in line. Usually, if not always, people check into hotels after a long day of traveling. The last thing these people want to be bothered with is long check-in times. Hotels have already employed several strategies to improve the experience, such as incentivizing customers to share preferences in online profiles and collecting payment information in advance and the use of self-service kiosks, but a more advanced AI may play a role in our future check-in experience.
The use of AI during the check-in process is still relatively new, but there are several examples of successful use cases across the industry. The “weird” Henn-Na Hotel in Nagasaki, Japan, claims to be the first hotel in the world to support customers almost exclusively with AI-powered robots. From multilingual humanoid receptionists, porter robots to carry luggage, cleaning robots, and robots to help play music or change the tv channel. In the United States, Hilton Hotel, in partnership with IBM, introduced a concierge robot named “Connie” to customers of a Virginia location in 2016. “Connie” helps check customers in, answers any questions customers may have, and has created an easier, more seamless experience for all patrons.
What is driving the introduction of robots is partly because it’s a differentiator in a crowded industry (obviously what Henn-Na Hotel is going for), but it’s also partly driven by limited labor supply. The service industry labor market is stretched thin, especially during busy times of the day and busier times of the year, such as the holiday or summer seasons. This can have severe consequences on hospitality companies. Just last year, research indicated that out of the 4.5 million people who quit their jobs during the Great Resignation, 1 million left the hospitality industry. To ease the strain on remaining workers, and to fulfill customer requests in a timely manner, smart personalization management and AI-powered robots and chatbots can be valuable tools.
2. Customer Feedback
Oftentimes, patrons leave feedback and comments after their stay or service. These comments can vary from feedback on staff or satisfaction with the facilities. Knowing what those issues are is critical to the industry to improve brand reputation. Natural Language Processing (NLP) can be used to filter massive amounts of multilingual data for trends and risks in those comments through both internal and 3rd party platforms.
NLP also plays a role in chatbots and robotic concierges. Applications can identify common questions to robots like “Connie” or customer service chatbots to provide better responses through those channels or make improvements to their facilities. Being able to answer simple questions like the hours of the hotel restaurant or the quickest route to the airport seems obvious enough, but being able to provide timely information about live music in town tonight requires more sophisticated speech recognition and linguistic understanding, not to mention good back-end data.
One final piece where AI can help improve customer satisfaction and experience is through personalization. By analyzing customer behavior, hospitality providers can provide tailored services and recommendations before, during, and after a stay. By identifying and synchronizing services and messaging, smart customer data management allows providers to better predict patrons' needs and support them with fewer resources.
Personalized services can help in many ways from providing the preferred types of pillows before check-in, providing rooms on the preferred floor, and personalizing the welcome message on the room tv, to arranging preferred ground transportation and dining and entertainment options. Smart applications can also be applied to personalize sales and marketing based on booking patterns of patrons, seasonal demands, down to differentiating between work and personal travel preferences. Other applications ahead may include checking in with facial recognition, integrating guest experience with a digital assistant or ride-share apps, personalized room service menus delivered by robots, and more.
In short, we are already seeing several different ways in which AI is creating a more robust, inclusive, and quality experience for companies in the hospitality space. By furthering investments in AI technology, hospitality providers will realize immediate improvements and benefits across their entire service model and differentiate themselves from competing companies that are not sufficiently adapting their businesses to the expectations of tomorrow’s travelers.
About the Author
Erik Vogt passionately advocates for tomorrow’s solutions, with a keen focus on pragmatically getting there today. With over 20 years’ experience in operations, sales, and engineering in the language services and data annotation industries, Appen’s VP of Enterprise Solutions brings a holistic approach to building creative fit-for-use solutions from discovery through delivery. Erik’s broad background in business strategy and people-centric leadership is focused on building more compelling and ethical value propositions for clients, people, and shareholders.