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Rethinking AI in Hospitality: Enhancing Operations, Customer Experience

Here are 11 ways AI can optimize operational efficiencies and garner customer respect.
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In hospitality, you lose the game if you aren’t competing with the best technology available.

Robots won’t run the hotel of tomorrow—but hotels may have in-room voice technology, virtual property tours, automatic floor lighting, self-service check-in kiosks, and keyless room entry where travelers can use smartphones to check into their rooms.

“What’s driven transformation at Hyatt is the scale at how much we’ve grown. Ten years ago, we had 300-400 properties. Now we are at 1,300—just the way you do business has to change,” says Michael Cohen, Director of Productivity Solutions at Hyatt Hotels in episode 12 of the Great Digital Transformation podcast, The Hotel of Tomorrow

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the guest experience across the travel lifecycle, including the on-property experience. In a recent in-depth study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, data shows AI can’t replace the majority of jobs right now in cost-effective ways. Hotel and casino leaders should identify how AI can augment their human capabilities to reduce operational inefficiencies and create seamless customer experiences while ensuring new tech is collaborative with consumers and the workforce. 

Empower Employees, Optimize Operations

To truly understand the value of AI, Cohen says it is essential to listen to employees and identify areas where technology can enhance hotel operations. Rather than solely comparing costs, businesses should explore how AI can provide added value, save time and generate long-term cost savings. Fixing a routine problem that saves five minutes for one employee across a network of hotel systems can significantly reduce operational redundancies. Here are a few ways AI can help in this realm:

1-Personalized Customer Interactions: AI can analyze customer data to personalize interactions, providing tailored recommendations and services based on individual preferences enhancing the overall guest experience and satisfaction.

2-Predictive Analytics for Demand Forecasting: AI algorithms can analyze historical data and current trends to predict future demand for rooms, services, and amenities. This data helps optimize inventory, pricing, and resource allocation, improving operational efficiency and revenue management.

3-Staff Optimization: AI can assist in optimizing staff schedules, ensuring adequate coverage during peak times, and reducing labor costs during slower periods. AI insights lead to more efficient operations and better service delivery.

4-Hyperdynamic Pricing: AI can assist with hyperdynamic pricing, allowing booking engines to automatically search social media, past user data, and world news to display rates that maximize earning potential.

5- Predict utility usage: Improve revenue management with energy, water, and waste-monitoring tools. In 2019, Hilton reported they reduced carbon emissions, equivalent to removing 390,350 cars from the road while saving more than 1 billion in utility costs. 


Enhancing Customer Service

AI-powered tools can significantly assist customer service teams, enabling them to excel in their roles and stripping out repetitive tasks that keep them from delivering better service. Consider these ways AI can enhance customer service:

6-Chatbots and Virtual Assistants: Implementing AI-powered chatbots, virtual assistants/concierges can streamline customer service by handling routine inquiries, reservations, and requests. Chatbots improve efficiency and provide quick responses, enhancing the customer experience.

The Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotels in London use AI concierges to check guests in or out, order room service, and answer questions 24/7, allowing guests to text Edward (their concierge) right from their phones.

7-Personalized Customer Interactions: AI can analyze customer data to personalize interactions, providing tailored recommendations and services based on individual preferences enhancing the overall guest experience and satisfaction.

8-Automated Billing and Check-Out: AI can streamline the billing and check-out processes, reducing wait times and providing a seamless experience for guests. Automated processes also minimize errors in transactions.

Unleashing the Power of Data 

To unlock the full potential of AI, hotels must first focus on collecting and analyzing relevant data. Businesses can gain valuable insights by leveraging the data generated by employees' system usage and customer interactions. 

“With our data trends, we can gain some insights on how to work better. For example, we have a team member in workforce management that looks at labor forecasting and occupancy; that’s where AI and data come into play so that teams can operate more efficiently,” Cohen says.

This data-driven approach enables the creation of seamless consumer experiences, optimizing operations and enhancing customer satisfaction. Consider these three ways AI can make a more frictionless experience for guests:

9-Facial Recognition for Check-In and Security: AI-driven facial recognition technology can expedite check-in, making it more convenient for guests. Additionally, it can enhance security measures by identifying and monitoring individuals on the premises.

10-Smart Room Controls: AI-powered systems can enable smart room controls, allowing guests to customize their room environment (temperature, lighting, etc.) through voice commands or mobile apps. This level of personalization enhances comfort and satisfaction.

11-Augmented Reality (AR) for Enhancing Experiences: Implementing AR applications can enhance guest experiences by providing virtual tours, information overlays, and interactive maps of the hotel and its surroundings.

Undoubtedly, AI will continue to seep more into everyday customer service activities. The discussions should now center on how to make the most of this technology—testing it along the way. Before implementing solutions, you’ll want to understand how your company could use the technology and have a plan for technology adoption. Ultimately, you’ll also need to listen to customer feedback to know where AI fits best.

About the Author

Gerard “Gerry” Szatvanyi is the Founder, President & CEO of OSF Digital. In his latest book, “Workforce 4.0: How AI, the Home Office, and the Gig Economy are Disrupting the Status Quo", he shares his insights about the future of work.  

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