Counting on the New Concierge
The pandemic ushered in a new era of travel. When hotels began reopening, the atmosphere had changed as guests favored contactless experiences from checking in on their phones or behind plexiglass dividers, to scanning QR codes for menus. Now, with a new surge of tech-savvy travelers ready to get out and explore again, guests are still prioritizing safety as well as looking for quick, convenient assistance coupled with a memorable stay.
With staff shortages still plaguing the hospitality industry, the traditional role of a concierge has also drastically changed. Normally the go-to person at a desk, with all the best hook-ups and recommendations from buzzy restaurants to must-do tours, in-person concierges are now juggling multiple tasks like helping with guest check-ins to even cleaning rooms.
81% of respondents report that their guest-facing technologies are either on par or better than their competitors, according to 2022 Lodging Technology Study
Enter the new wave of hospitality: digital or virtual concierges. Some hotels have already adapted digital concierges, also known as smart concierges, which harnesses artificial intelligence technology to interact with hotel guests through text messages, a website chat window, a mobile app, or even through in-room TVs. These smart concierges can have names like a real person, and even communicate like one, so it still feels personable for the guest.
A digital concierge can take guests through every stage, including the beginning processes of booking a stay. Instead of a hotel relying on a physical sales team, these assistants can check dates, accommodate early check-ins and room preferences, and arrange airport transportation. Once a guest arrives, a digital concierge greets them by text or through the hotel’s app, and diligently checks on them throughout their stay. They can update them on hotel activities, promotions and even the weather forecast for the day. It’s also a great way to get immediate feedback from guests, good and bad, and quickly have on-property staff attend to the guest or fix problems. This can alleviate bad reviews later and offer important intel on what’s truly going on with hotel operations.
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A Cost-Effective Solution
Similar to what’s happening in the retail space, hotels can utilize virtual concierges, where guests interact with a live agent via a Facetime-like experience at a kiosk. For hotels, it can be more cost effective than hiring full-time staff, and it means fast and convenient service for guests. All they have to do is walk up to the kiosk to get immediate help. These virtual assistants can answer questions, share videos of the property and its offerings, and even print out maps, coupons and other essential paperwork like final bills.
One of the biggest benefits of a virtual or digital concierge is guest accessibility. Whether they’re staying for business or pleasure, hotel guests don’t always keep the regular daytime schedules of traditional in-person concierges. It becomes frustrating when guests have to wait in line to chat with a concierge, or even worse, can’t locate one. Having a virtual concierge that’s available at a kiosk or by smartphone offers speedy help no matter the time of day. These virtual assistant kiosks can even aid in check-in and check-out processes at hotels during high-volume seasons.
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Virtual or digital concierges can also relieve in-house staff, especially the front desk, by answering common questions from the hotel’s Wi-Fi password to restaurant availability. A digital concierge can assist with everything from requests for more towels, directly alerting housekeeping, to calling for transportation around the property or to the airport. This frees up more time for on-property staff to take care of more pressing tasks.
And those dreaded “lost in translation” moments that often torture guests and hotel staff? Virtual assistants can speak numerous languages, so it helps break down language barriers that often exist with a traditional concierge who may not be multi-lingual. It can also make communication easier for the hearing impaired.
While guests will always want personable experiences, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen virtually. And if done properly, it can be a win-win for both the hotels and their valued guests.