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Balancing Act: Remington Hospitality's Approach to AI Integration

Jason Reader, COO of Remington Hospitality, shares insights on leveraging AI without compromising the core elements of human touch in the hospitality industry.

When it comes to service-oriented companies, such as hotels, IT executives often find themselves asking: Where do I draw the line between providing great service while also leveraging the benefits of AI? For Jason Reader, COO of Remington Hospitality, AI is a tool his brand isn’t afraid to leverage in a myriad of ways. In fact, innovation in technology is a key tenant for the brand, so it’s been implementing AI-based tech for years. However, he refuses to allow AI – or any other technology for that matter – to overshadow the essential elements of hospitality: warmth, empathy and a genuine connection. 

“We don’t want to interrupt the guest experience,” he explains. “This is still a people business, and there will always be guests who will want to interact with our staff. We never want to take away a guest’s choice to either use technology or speak with a human who can smile and say ‘Good Morning!’ The personality of a hotel comes from the people who work inside it, and I’m very protective of maintaining that culture for our guests.”

Armed with this knowledge, Reader and the Remington Hospitality IT team spend a lot of time testing technology before rolling it out, especially when the AI-based tech will interact directly with customers. For example, it tested room service delivery robots that were supported with AI. While they were at first positively received by guests because of the novelty of the technology, that positivity soon diminished when the technology regularly misinterpreted guest communications. So Remington Hotels decided it wasn't the right time to deploy this type of technology. On the other hand, the company’s REMi platform – a proprietary analytics platform running off of Microsoft Power BI – has been a resounding success. REMi uses AI to help owners, GMs and divisional vice presidents easily understand forecasts, budgets, sales efforts, and inbound leads. Additionally, it will often offer suggestions on pricing, marketing and more.

[For a deep dive into REMi, check out our recent interview with Zach Cunningham, VP of Analytics & Business Intelligence at Remington Hotels.]

But even for its most successful IT projects with AI, Reader’s team refuses to completely hand over the reins to artificial intelligence. 

“We’ve tested the technology to see if it performs better if we let it run free or if we have a hand in monitoring it,” he explains. “And the data shows that the best model is one where humans are still involved in monitoring the technology.”

When it comes to the future, Reader would only reveal that Remington Hospitality may have a few exciting technology announcements coming down the pike in the next 6-12 months. But until then, the brand will continue to “test and try new things and just see how it goes. You learn a lot by doing that, even if it doesn’t work out and you just end up keeping whatever tech practice you previously had in place.”

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