Digital Disruption in Hospitality: Seven Top Technology Applications

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Digital Disruption in Hospitality: Seven Top Technology Applications

By Jean Turgeon, Vice President and Chief Technologist, Avaya - 02/26/2019

Hospitality is one of the most underserved industries in terms of digital enablement. A recent study we conducted found that 33% of hotels have not upgraded their phone system in more than five years and only 50% can communicate with guests outside of phone and email. We see this as a significant opportunity for the industry to grow revenue and improve customer experience. 

Intensifying competition and evolving expectations have introduced a new era of hospitality; one in which technology has reinvented every step on the guest journey. With 66% of guests saying they have a better experience when hotels use the latest technology, industry leaders like Marriott, Hilton and Wynn Las Vegas are racing to launch next-gen offerings that provide differentiated market positioning and guest appeal.

Digital reinvention is key for delivering hospitality experiences that matter. This includes several technology applications organizations should consider this year:

Virtual concierge: The rise of virtual assistant technology is spilling over into hospitality, offering exciting new engagement and revenue opportunities. Consider Aloft Hotels’ virtual concierge, ChatBotlr. Guests can engage with the virtual assistant via SMS anytime, anywhere right from their smart device. They can text service requests, ask for more information on the hotel, and can even listen to the company’s “AloftLive” playlist. Early findings show that two-thirds of Aloft guests are interacting or making requests with ChatBotlr, which boasts an impressive five-second response time. It doesn’t stop here, voice activated voice concierge with translation services are here.

Voice activated technology: Voice interactions are steadily replacing screen time as the world rapidly adopts AI assistants. Hospitality organizations should prepare for a paradigm shift as consumers rely more on conversational exchanges to plan travel and interact with travel providers. Travel is complicated and voice developments aren’t simple, but heavy investment and demand is fueling voice technology in hospitality. Now customers can get the “Alexa/GoogleAssistant” like experience through voice activated devices in the rooms, even to the point of providing both textual and voice language translation in real time. Language barriers are being knocked down…

Stronger Authentication & Biometrics: Verification and identification information can be used to transform check-ins and check-outs, effectively skipping the processes altogether. For example, IoT—beacons, surveillance analytics—can immediately detect a guest’s presence and send a digital key card to their mobile device. Then, using that same intelligence, hotels can set up the room to meet that guest’s exact preferences all before they step through the door (keep in mind 73% of guests want in-room components like temperature to be automatically adjusted based on preference).

 

Automatic notifications: Eighty-five percent of guests say they want real-time notifications for such things as room readiness, booking confirmations, changes or issues, and new room options. An advanced omnichannel solution—built on open communications infrastructure—drives proactive guest engagement, reducing common errors and arriving at better outcomes more quickly. Using this technology, hotels can automatically or manually trigger notifications depending on property or guest needs, proactively reaching out with information, updates and engaging multimedia. Also the integration with IOT platform becomes critical to be able to send notifications to guests, security or emergency services. As more IOT/Sensors are deployed, a scalable notification system is a critical component to ensure all critical situations are addressed in real-time.

UCC integration: Over 60% of our study participants agree that the inability of staff to effectively communicate with guests severely diminishes the guest experience. Yet only half can resolve guest complaints using communication channels outside of phone and email (i.e. live chat, video, SMS). Hospitality organizations need an end-to-end engagement solution that seamlessly integrates dynamic communication channels to increase the value of each customer relationship. Internally, they should be eyeing a single app for voice, video, messaging, conferencing and calendaring to keep employees productive on any device, from any location. 

Advanced in-room application devices: A next-gen smart desk application device turns the traditional hotel room into a revenue-generator. It’s more than a phone, but it is fully integrated with your communication platform. This device can be used for controlling in-room needs (TV, restaurant/spa reservations, viewing local events), ordering room service or booking appointments at the touch of a finger. Over 60% of hotel managers we surveyed said the quality of the guest experience at their properties would be significantly improved by enhancing in-room services in this manner. A smarter in-room communications hub enhances experiences, profits and return (reducing costs of overhead for staffing). Last, it supports calling 911/112/000/999 for emergency too, very critical for all hospitality environments as per the law. 

Mobility: Mobile is bringing tides of opportunities for the hospitality industry, with 48% of our study participants believing mobile apps have the greatest impact on the guest experience of any technology. As such, 81% are making it a priority to create high-functioning mobile apps within the next five years to better engage and serve guests. Some ideas for a next-gen mobile app experience: interactive property maps, push notifications for events, activities and reservations, and 24x7 live chat with front desk workers. Imagine your “VIP guests” being able to be reached anywhere while on facility and even if desired offer free international calling within your own application. These transform guest experiences and build strong loyalty towards your brand.

Technology companies and hotel brands are working together to meet the various challenges that come with bringing cutting-edge innovations into the hospitality environment at scale. These challenges must be met to cater to a consumer-base that is comfortable with and expects smart technology in every experience when they travel just as they do with their devices at home. Over the course of the next few years, the technology applications listed above will go from emerging to mainstream. Digital twins will be seen in this market, more automated deliveries will be enable, but all the enhance experiences and focus on improving staff efficiencies. Those brands that recognize the opportunity and prioritize digital innovation will come out on top.