Beyond the Booking: How to Maximize a Digital Concierge
A digital concierge taps the power of AI to deliver an enhanced experience for guests and staff — as long as it is implemented properly.
Lisa A. Beach
When the pandemic hit, hotels sought ways to create a more contactless environment for safety, personalization, and convenience—ushering in the perfect opportunity to launch a digital concierge. By tapping the power of artificial intelligence (AI), a digital concierge can benefit the hotel and enhance the customer experience—if it’s implemented properly.
While this AI-based technology can assist with traditional concierge services (such as recommending onsite dining options) it can also build customer relationships, enhance the guest stay, and reduce operational friction. Some of the more robust apps even use predictive data-mining to upsell clients, reaching out to them with the right messaging at the right time to generate additional revenue.
With proper attention, a digital concierge can work for any hotel to automate and save time. “Hotels should consider implementing a digital concierge, especially for any function or information that is repeatedly requested for your specific guests,” says Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President & CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI).
However, it shouldn’t be used to cut staff. “Companies looking to save money and labor will sometimes pursue a digital concierge, and typically, it's not going to work in that environment,” notes Holly Zoba, a hospitality training consultant in Arizona. Why? “These tools are amazing, but it's how you implement them,” says Dan Wacksman, principal of Hawaii-based Sassato. “If you don't have people to manage it effectively, it's going to fail—even if it's the best technology in the world.”
Digital Concierge Best Practices
Zoba and Wacksman co-authored A Field Guide for Navigating Today’s Digital Landscape—the study guide for HMSAI’s Certified Hospitality Digital Marketer designation. They’re well-versed in using a digital concierge on both the operational and implementation side. Along with Gilbert, these industry leaders share digital concierge best practices.
Focus on the business problems you’re trying to solve. Identify the core things you want the technology to do and launch with that. “Base your success metrics on that,” advises Wacksman. Zoba adds, “You're either trying to automate or augment. Start with automating and maybe augment later.”
Understand the level of AI you need. “The biggest issue is language recognition—whether the app understands language nuances and is responsive,” explains Zoba. Know what you're going to use it for, from answering repetitive questions to upselling services.
Know what customers are asking. Take a data-based approach rather than just asking your front desk about FAQs. “When you're building your answers, you're taking real data into consideration,” Zoba explains.
Train staff well so they understand it. The success of the digital concierge lies in its attentive implementation and how it's managed going forward, stresses Wacksman.
Keep it simple—for staff and guests. “Make it easy and fun to use,” Gilbert says. You don’t want to overwhelm people with too many options or a complex process.
Pilot it with a smaller group. “Never start on a large scale,” advises Zoba. “Start small, test, work out the bugs, then add on.”
Assign a product “owner.” A designated employee needs to ensure it's working well and understand any integrations and associated costs, says Wacksman.
Make it easy to access a human. “Your guests should always have the option of talking to someone in person,” notes Gilbert. “We can’t forget that we’re in the hospitality business—human interaction is key to creating the perception of any brand,” advises Gilbert.
It's not effective if it takes as long as a human does. “The beauty of automation is that it's immediate,” says Zoba. “Otherwise, it’s not adding the value you want it to.”
Review the data and adjust. The technology can track a lot of data, from unexpected guest requests to employee response times. Someone must review that back-end data and make necessary changes. Also, look for unexpected results, such as pinpointing maintenance issues to improve your preventive maintenance schedule.
“The biggest value is that you can really build stronger relationships,” says Zoba. “You have an eager audience and you can capitalize on that by being responsive and proactive in communicating what you have to offer.”
About the author: Lisa A. Beach is an Orlando-based freelance journalist, copywriter, and content marketing writer. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Islands, Parade, Good Housekeeping, USA Today, Costco Connection, and dozens more. Check out her writer’s website atwww.LisaBeachWrites.com.