Kids are back in school, the days are getting shorter, and pumpkin lattes are hitting coffee shop counters – all signs another busy summer travel season is behind us.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the work stops for hospitality managers and their staff. Whether for business or pleasure, guests are still checking in, and delivering top-level customer service remains a 365-day priority in an ever-competitive industry.
That is why now is an ideal time to evaluate your organization’s digital transformation and how modern communication solutions can help meet guest and employee expectations.
UC Continues to Drive the Customer Experience
Unified communications (UC) has long been part of the customer experience (CX), or guest experience, equation. Telephones have always been easy to spot at properties, from rooms to check-in desks, because they unpinned the concept that direct and accessible communication makes for excellent customer service. That hasn’t changed.
Today, telephones are still there, but when paired with modern UC technology, they deliver more than ever.
That’s why managers of properties of all sizes need to ensure they are modernizing their communications solutions to keep pace with the expectations of today’s customers. Expectations which have steadily increased in recent years and will continue to do so, especially as guest-host interactions evolve.
AI and Data Analytics Are Strengthening Guest Engagement
The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is leading this transformation by filling the need for instant and personalized customer service.
Many major flags have already invested in AI to complement front-of-house requests and streamline the reservation process. With customers growing comfortable with the ease it can provide, AI chatbots are becoming increasingly expected. However, human intervention will still be necessary, and the transfer between the two needs to be seamless.
This is where a modern UC system adds tremendous value. With the relevant integrations, it can ensure that all the variable data, or intents, inputted by the guest through a chatbot are transferred instantly to a requested live agent, ensuring the agent has all the information needed to resolve the guest's request quickly.
But the power of AI goes beyond chatbots. The data collected through each AI intent inputted by the customer is precious and will ultimately take the guest experience to the next level by further leveraging data analytics to align services with guest trends.
For example, if a hotel has AI integrated into its concierge service, tracked data may notice a rise in requests for car service or luggage storage information during check-out hours. In response, the hotel could look at ways to streamline check-out to serve the customer better and ensure they have all the necessary information in advance to reach their next destination quickly.
This data also allows the property to be more proactive with customer requests. As part of a more detailed guest profile, a property can see what type of room location a guest prefers well in advance to ensure it is available at check-in. It also means staff can anticipate requests, like dinner reservation times or wake-up calls.
Efficiency Creates Time for Proactive Customer Service
A key driver for streamlining the guest experience is the premium placed on time, which has only been exasperated by staff shortages across the hospitality sector in recent years. Even something as simple as providing fresh towels to a room can significantly impact productivity by taking valuable staff time away from more complex requests.
By modernizing communications solutions, property managers have the power to streamline simple requests for guests through integrations that work in tandem with their UC stack.
Simple guest requests can often get bottlenecked at a busy front desk, but a growing trend is leveraging off-site contact center agents to coordinate requests. Whether the initial guest contact is through a smartphone app, chatbot, or telephone call, an off-site agent can notify an on-site colleague to respond. This way, the front desk staff is not tied up with passing along the request, and the entire process becomes more efficient.
Removing just that one extra step might not seem like much, but compounded over days and weeks, it is a considerable time burden removed from frontline staff. It also allows supervisors to track request trends and, if required, realign staff resources to peak times.
This newfound efficiency isn’t necessarily about having fewer staff on-site; it's about making things easier for everyone. It gives staff more time to work on personalized requests and guests more time to relax or finish their workday.
Legacy Infrastructure Can Be Migrated to the Cloud with Expertise
A modern guest experience requires modern technology. Faced with upgrades, many property managers are looking at Cloud-based solutions as they need less IT infrastructure on-site and can be continuously updated with minimal downtime.
While these factors may make the Cloud seem like an easy win, the reality can be much more complex. Many properties, from large hotels to boutique spas, rely heavily on essential legacy infrastructure. Fortunately, with the right expertise, a move to the Cloud can be tailored to the property and its budget.
Hybrid Cloud solutions are popular in the hospitality sector because they provide the best of both worlds – security and flexibility. That allows managers to choose a CapEx or OpEx model on a private or public cloud. Upgrading your communications infrastructure shouldn’t be an all-or-nothing game, and with the proper guidance from a trusted UC provider, whatever path you choose will give you the versatility to grow, adapt, and evolve your business.
When modernizing your guest experience, it can be tempting to emphasize one solution, but that is rarely the case. The communications requirements can vary dramatically from property to property and team to team. While a softphone application might work well for a reservation agent in a call center, a DECT-enabled phone may be ideal for someone working in receiving.
What matters is that these systems work together seamlessly and let you take advantage of integrations, whether AI, chat functions, or video calls, that take the experience for the guest and your employees to the next level.