Hotels seeking to drive customer loyalty need to focus on providing a unique, yet consistent, experience for guests. One of the tools that many hotels, especially the larger chains, are already using to improve the guest experience is artificial intelligence (AI). However, the hospitality industry hasn’t fully explored all the possible applications of AI yet.
Many people believe that AI is meant to replace humans in the workplace, but in reality, the technology can assist employees and free their time for more important tasks. AI can also improve the guest experience. For example, it can streamline the amount of work that guests need to do to book a room, check in, and request services during their stay. Furthermore, AI can even be used to predict guest needs and make personalized suggestions to provide a higher tier of customer service. Some of the most exciting current and future applications of AI in hotels include:
1. Personal guest assistants
A number of hotels have already implemented AI in the form of guest assistants. For example, Hilton has developed Connie, a concierge who provides tips on nearby attractions, from restaurants to tourist attractions. Through machine learning, Connie learns what different customers like, so that it can make recommendations tailored to the guest’s preferences.
Other chains have implemented Ivy, a direct messenger AI program that serves as the primary point of contact for guests. About 90 percent of requests are handled directly by the program. If a question cannot be answered or a service not ordered, Ivy refers the guest to the relevant employee at the hotel. Some hotels have even experimented with guest assistants that have a distinct personality, such as Rose at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. However, there’s an inherent risk in using a guest assistant with a strong personality: not all guests may respond favorably to it. In the future, guest assistants may provide services outside the hotel by using GPS to point out interesting attractions that guests may want to see.
2. Automated maintenance
One of the applications of AI that hotel owners may not immediately expect involves maintenance and updates. AI systems can analyze guest feedback and occupancy data, as well as other sources of information, to gauge which upgrades are most important to tackle first at a hotel. These systems can also predict which rooms will require maintenance, so that hotels can be prepared to respond to a call or fix something before it bothers a guest. Much of this predictive work derives from pattern recognition over time, but with the increasing use of the Internet of Things (IoT), AI may soon be able to get direct “health reports” on rooms so that issues can be addressed before any guest ever complains. In addition, AI can detect which lights are on in the hotel and when they can be turned off to conserve energy and potentially lower utility bills.
3. Personalized gifts and rewards
As AI systems track guests’ preferences, they may become able to provide suggestions about products the guest would like. In upscale boutique hotels, it is not uncommon to provide a customized check-in gift, such as a particular bottle of wine or scotch. Sometimes, these personalized details don’t even have to be special gifts. For example, if a guest has requested a certain type of pillow previously, then the AI system could remind hotel workers to stock the room before the guest arrives. These personalized touches can also be applied to the hotel’s rewards system. When guests receive personalized rewards based on their preferences, they’re more likely to book with the brand again. In addition, AI systems could also help identify the customers most likely to participate in a rewards program. All of these benefits derive from AI’s ability to process massive amounts of data and distill it into important action points.
4. Streamlined customer service
Many hotels already use mobile technologies to streamline the guest experience at check-in, but AI can take this process to a new level. AI systems can automatically sync to a guest’s phone or even use facial recognition technology to identify a guest, so that they can go directly to their room without a check-in at all. Mobile room key codes eliminate any kind of need for a formal check-in, especially when AI can verify the guest’s identity. AI systems could also be used to deliver food and beverages to guest rooms, or to facilitate valet services. If hotels integrate AI into their apps or in-room technology suites, guests may be able to request these services and others by simply speaking voice commands, rather than having to make a call or text a chatbot. In addition, AI can detect when people are in a room and when it’s empty and therefore able to be cleaned, so housekeeping can avoid disturbing guests.