IoT and Hospitality: The Evolution of Customer Contact

The hospitality industry is awash in a sea of technology that transforms both customer expectation and engagement methods. This is best demonstrated in the rise of “omnichannel” customer service, wherein a business must accommodate contact in-person, on the web, from mobile phones, through social media platforms via voice or text or chat, and so on. Fueled by the breakneck pace of innovation, the latest must-have technologies center on the Internet of Things (IoT). Though it may seem like a gimmick, news of Amazon Echo virtual voice assistants in guest rooms at a Las Vegas hotel actually marks the IoT-driven shape of things to come. In this article, Genesys explains what the IoT could mean for the hospitality industry.
IoT is about devices, appliances and machinery of all kinds communicating to perform directed functions. These systems collect enormous amounts of data, analyze and route information, and provide automated services through web applications. There are about 17.6 billion IoT devices connected today, and there is one application in particular where their use is already treasured. In a recent IDC report, 38% of respondents identified better customer service as a key driver for their organizations’ IoT initiatives over the next 12–24 months. Tech-enabled, personalized communication between businesses and customers is the new normal, and the widespread adoption of IoT will further highlight this trend. Thus, the contact center is at the core of IoT’s massive information flow in many industries, including hospitality.
Today’s hospitality contact center must provide gadget-enhanced engagement with customers. Business technology allows for the capture of voluminous data on preferences and problems, but that information then needs to be maintained, filtered, and acted upon to translate into the bespoke interaction consumers want. Having proactive and integrated systems in place is the first step, but being able to adapt their function to suit specific service interactions is key to delivering improved customer experience. It makes no difference if you are collecting all the data in the world; if the pertinent information isn’t available to the agent during the transaction, it’s useless.
Hospitality customers are now more internet-savvy and mobile-dependent, more informed and apt to share socially. They regularly switch amongst all the new channels at their disposal to communicate, and the industry follows their lead. For example, most hotels and restaurants have adopted mobile-first strategies and increasingly deploy mobile apps, with offerings up 61% year over year, per 2016’s Dimension Data benchmarking report. But as each new channel is facilitated, it needs to be integrated to work seamlessly with the others. In addition to mobile accessibility, customers will expect to be engaged around the decision points triggered by all the “things” now feeding information into contact center systems.
Hotel chains, for example, operate across geographies, and part of the brand promise is a consistent experience regardless of location. Mobile communication must be carried over with full context to the web and agent-assisted interactions, spanning regions and cultures. IoT enables this type of consistency. The cutting-edge hospitality contact center automatically updates both agents and self-service apps about customer history, anticipates likely preferences, and assists in delivering seamless service. With IoT-enhancement, a repeat visitor to a chain’s London hotel, for example, will automatically be greeted in his preferred language when he texts to book a stay at the Shanghai branch (and his peanut allergy and fondness for extra blankets will already be highlighted in his new reservation form).
The creation of data-driven omnichannel service models allows businesses to customize and personalize consumer interaction in remarkable ways, but it also introduces new opportunities for failure. What if you adopt the latest technology, but implement it poorly? If your customer grows accustomed to check-in alerts, reservation reminders, or price-watch notifications, she’ll be bothered if such conveniences malfunction or get bricked.
In the IoT era, when your business detects service disruptions or changes, customers will expect to be looped in. They will not want to repeat information to a service agent after they’ve already provided it elsewhere. They will assume the availability of a host of transaction methods. They will expect agents to already know their location, preferences, and activity. And the hospitality contact center must be able to fulfill these expectations.
IoT-augmented customer service will be delightful – but only when it’s done right…like a chocolate on the pillow during turn-down service. 
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