COVID-19 has caused us to reflect upon the fundamental operations of our global society and day-to-day lives, including the ways in which we interact with one another. As hotels around the world contemplate the implications of these changes in personal behaviors, they are faced with the challenge of how best to service guests and manage hotel operations.
To reflect on these new realities, Alberto Santana, Senior Vice President, Service Optimization, Amadeus, and David Berger, CEO, Volara met to discuss some ways in which hoteliers can boost guest satisfaction and drive operational efficiencies in this new era of hospitality.
Alberto Santana: There’s no doubt the COVID-19 crisis continues to have rippling effects on our industry. What do you think hotels across the globe can do in 2021 to ensure a safer environment to welcome guests back to?
David Berger: To thrive – even survive – in this new era of hospitality, hoteliers must provide touchless experiences along the guest journey. Travelers are now expecting more than ever to have their needs met without touching in-room equipment or going face-to-face with staff.
Standard contactless experiences now include digital room keys, mobile payments, and voice on-command technology. Not only do these offer convenience for the guest, but more than 4 in 5 travelers feel it will increase their confidence to travel, with 61% of travelers likely to use voice assistant technology if present in their rooms.
Since the onset of COVID-19, smart speaker adoption has reached 60 million people in the US and those who are constantly asking Alexa, Siri, or Google questions at home will appreciate a similar on-command experience during their travels.
Alberto Santana: When it comes to the hotel room, guests want to feel they have a safe space for relaxation. How can they fully relax when staying low-touch is so top of mind with COVID-19 concerns?
David Berger: The reality is anything you can do to limit direct contact with other people and even our own surroundings is part of widespread change in personal behaviors. Guests no longer want to have to touch the remote control or use the guestroom telephone to make service requests. If a guest has forgotten toiletries or needs to report maintenance issues for instance, or even play music, watch shows, set alarms, or request more towels, they will want to do so in a contactless manner. Having the ability to simply ask an in-room voice assistant to help fulfill special requests and preferences will be an opportunity to increase guest Loyalty.
Alberto Santana: On the staff side, hotel team members are suddenly wearing multiple new hats and have limited time. What can they do to help implement some of these new contactless practices?
David Berger: It’s a new world out there. People are finding themselves tasked with responsibilities that aren’t part of their normal routines. Without the help of staff-facing solutions to automate work, it can be extremely difficult to prioritize where people need to be and what can get done at any given time. Particularly with fewer maintenance and housekeeping teams on property, technology can significantly enhance the staff’s capabilities to ensure that requests are not only received and prioritized, but that staff only enters occupied guestrooms when it’s absolutely necessary.
Alberto Santana: In what areas of the hotel is staff-facing technology like you mentioned best used?
David Berger: The entire hotel team – from the room attendants and bellmen to the engineers and guest services managers. They can all use it to notify their colleagues if a room is out of service or ready for check-in, set a pick-up request, or alert their colleagues of a maintenance issue that needs to be addressed.
Alberto Santana: I know I have an accent from my Cuban roots. How do voice assistants understand when someone like me asks for something like more “peelows?” Will I get the pillows that I’m asking for or will Alexa say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know that one?”
David Berger: As hotel guests bring their own colloquialisms and accents, and verbally convey their intents to hotels in a myriad of ways, there must be an accuracy engine that enables today’s most popular voice assistants to satisfy their commands appropriately and with greater precision. Leveraging robust data sets, contextual awareness, AI, and Machine Learning can sharply reduce errors and increase guest satisfaction. That means, Alberto, you will most definitely get the “peelows” you requested.
Alberto Santana: So, what kind of technology should hotels be prioritizing as travel returns and guest numbers increase?
David Berger: Voice technology like Volara – particularly when combined with a Service Optimization solution like Amadeus HotSOS – can help streamline and prioritize workflow by enabling workers to do the most important tasks first. The two solutions work together to not only make workflow more efficient and touchless, but to create an environment for people to ask for what they need, without embarrassment.
The staff-facing flexibility of Volara integrated with Amadeus HotSOS is an important part of any hotel’s contactless safety program. Enabling staff to communicate by automated voice rather than touch is key to property-wide cleanliness and risk mitigation. Additionally, it helps to improve efficiency and allows team members to get things done in a quick and effective manner. This gives operational teams time back to provide the true hospitality their guests have come to appreciate.
By embracing digital tools based on a hybrid model of contactless and personal customer engagement, we will be able to help ease travel-related concerns and reimagine the hotel experience, together.
For additional insight into optimizing hotel operations and enhancing guest satisfaction amid COVID-19, download our eBook, “Planning for Hospitality Recovery – Operations” here, and “Guests New Hierarchy of Needs” eBook here.