As hotels and restaurants rush to keep up with the velocity of artificial intelligence (AI), most focus single-mindedly on one goal: improving guest experience. This is the correct aim, of course, but it leaves out a critical component for successful AI implementation. To truly enhance guest satisfaction, the worker experience needs to improve as well.
The backend operations of hospitality AI are often treated as secondary. A chatbot may allow hotel guests to instantly contact the concierge, but the concierge may find themselves buried under an onslaught of requests and unable to respond at the speed expected. In this example, the guest is frustrated by the slow reply and the concierge is scrambling to catch-up. No one wins.
In a scenario where the worker experience is prioritized, the bot would use AI to give an automatic response to the guest and provide an estimated wait time for service based on past data from similar requests. This provides the guest with instant answers and allows the concierge to address inquiries without undue stress.
It’s critical to consider both sides of this equation — the guest and the staff — when investing in AI technology. Workers need to understand how to use the tech and see tangible benefits in order to achieve a positive impact on the guest side. This will both boost employee satisfaction and allow for smoother operations, even during phases of turnover.
Hospitality has among the highest attrition rates in the industry, topping 70% according to the National Restaurant Association. This makes training critical to providing top quality service and ensuring that the staff knows the specific details of a property inside-and-out.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) have started using AI to mimic a supervised educational environment. Other features like mobile learning, offline access to resources, and automated onboarding are also revolutionizing hospitality training.
Once on the job, staff can continue to benefit from on-demand education and information. Digital assistants can instantly answer questions through text or visual cues. In restaurants, for example, servers are constantly asked about the ingredients in dishes to avoid potential allergens or dietary restrictions. Armed with the right technology, they can tap on any menu item on a tablet to see all the relevant information.
Apps tailored based on function that can be accessed via mobile are key. Most hospitality workers are deskless, so they rely on smartphones and tablets. In fact, there are over 122 million deskless hospitality workers worldwide.
Both inside and outside of the hospitality world, employers are investing in tech for their mobile workforce. According to a recent survey published in VentureBeat, 33 percent of respondents saw productivity increases as a result of improved technology for deskless workers. Cost savings and improved employee experience were also cited.
Many hotels are launching mobile applications tailored to staff based on roles. From housekeeping to maintenance, these apps allow real-time task management and collaboration with peers. The improved efficiency makes it easier for workers to do their jobs and increases productivity as a result.
AI can even be used to improve business operations. For instance, Airbnb leverages AI to help hosts price their listings. Similarly, this type of artificial intelligence is vastly improving property price optimization and the accuracy of occupancy forecasting. The business payoff is clear, but this also allows support staff to be prepared for traffic surges and procurement to plan accordingly.
The rise of AI in hospitality offers so much convenience to guests—mobile check-in, digital keys, instantaneous customer service, and more—but it is still the staff that makes or breaks the experience. With the correct tools, they are set-up for greater success. When their needs are not considered, the benefits of AI are strictly limited.
Mobile check-in should contribute similar convenience for workers, such as a push notification to the front desk and housekeeping supervisor. Staff should have access to view customer profiles, including preferences, a social media profile, and past stays, to allow them to better customize the experience. The goal is not to reduce interactions with guests or replace workers with robots—that’s the sterile Sci-Fi future of hotels and restaurants created for television. Instead, hospitality tech should make every visit feel more personal and attentive.
Artificial intelligence is all about the guest, but it’s equally about the staff. Make the technology useful to both and customer satisfaction will surge. Treat the worker experience as an afterthought and risk a sub-optimal guest experience.
About the Author:
Praveen Kanyadi, Co-founder and VP of Products, Groupe.io.
He is a product leader with deep experience building enterprise-ready, consumer-based, and web-scale products for startups and Fortune 500 companies. In his previous role at Yahoo, he built social experiences that reached over 750 million end users. Praveen also holds a patent publication in the social space.