Almost daily, media outlets buzz with stories of how some new technology will make consumers’ lives better, many of which seem far-fetched, or far out in the future. Some – like Apple’s iPhone or Amazon’s Kindle – are met with skepticism only to be adopted in record time. These huge leaps, however, are often an evolutionary step forward from something that people are already used to doing — like using a mobile phone or reading a book — accelerated by a friction-free, intuitive user experience.
Enter the smartconcierge. Leveraging a common activity that consumers already comfortably do – messaging – the smartconcierge is a next evolutionary step for hotels to provide exceptional guest service. Unlike rudimentary chat bots with limited scripted responses, today’s smartconcierge combines machine intelligence with human customer service in a seamless experience for the guest. Even better, a smartconcierge continues to learn and become even smarter over time.
Inspired by their human counterparts, smartconcierges anticipate and meet guests’ needs by context, preferences, and prior requests, then deliver timely and relevant alerts, content, and offers. Without such intelligence, how else could a guest who asks, “I need help getting Gwen Stefani concert tickets tonight” not only get a 2-minute response, but also have tickets delivered via email, with a text notification ten minutes later offering transportation to the concert? How could a mere chat bot know where in the world this guest was, when “tonight” was, where the concert location was, and if there were seats available to book? That’s the power of the smartconcierge.
Benefits of Smartconcierges
Unlike a human concierge — who wouldn’t be expected to help book a return reservation or help dispatch housekeeping — smartconcierges serve as the guest’s single point of contact for their entire visit. In the spirit of hospitality, why are hoteliers today taxing the guest with figuring out which department to route their query to? By reading between the lines in the guest’s message, smartconcierges automatically route issues to the appropriate staff member. This enables the guest to control their entire hospitality experience with a few taps on their mobile device from anywhere, at anytime.
Smartconcierges are more successful at delivering exceptional guest experiences because the smartconcierge constantly learns to cover every scenario that may arise in a guest’s journey. That learning is retained and used in future situations. This breadth helps fulfill not only the guest’s service needs, but it truly transforms the request fulfillment process. Simple transactional asks – like more towels, the hotel WiFi password, or borrowing a phone charger – and even more complicated ones, like booking dinner reservations or finding show tickets, can be satisfied with record efficiency by the smartconcierge. This speed and effectiveness reinforces smartconcierge usage. Many guests even report finding the smartconcierge experience fun — like a game or buzz, the way the back-and-forth of everyday messaging is! When this kind of interactivity works well, it drives guest engagement to new highs without requiring more staff. What hotelier wouldn’t want that?
Pleased with unprecedented convenience, guests quickly learn to message the smartconcierge first, which frees up human staff for customized requests. What used to take a hotel up to eight separate staff members to address can now be handled by one smartconcierge, enabling the hotel to regain as much as 30% of guest service man-hours. The smartconcierge can also be seen as an amenity and an enhancement to the on-property staff, who may not have time to handle simultaneous guest requests during peak hours.
Using a messaging-based smartconcierge comes naturally to most guests. Messaging now represents 12% of the five hours per day that US consumers spend on their mobile phones, and 86% of travelers already say they want to interact with their hotel via their smartphones. To today’s guest, this means not having to pick up the hotel room phone and call someone, possibly wasting time having to wait on hold before even being able to ask for help. With their handy smartconcierge, even off-premises guests can easily message for assistance, which gets provided with the same immediacy as if the guest were on-site. The real-time gratification provided by the AI-powered smartconcierge has led guests to use it ten times more than calling for human assistance. Plus, AI-powered smartconcierges are mindful of etiquette and exhibit a can-do, positive disposition 24/7 – smartconcierges never get harried or have a bad day.
But smartconcierges do more than just respond to inbound guest inquiries. Their hybrid programmed and organic intelligence also enables them to proactively anticipate needs by checking on guests and asking them questions that can enhance their stay, avoid guest issues, and deliver “up-serve” revenue opportunities. For instance, offering a guest a late check out for a modest fee, an incentive for extending their stay, or even food and drink suggestions all adds revenue to the hotel’s bottom line.
With each positive and satisfactory guest experience comes incremental improvement in brand reputation and customer loyalty. The new-ness factor of these intelligent smartconcierges still has the ability to delight the guest with each interaction, so much so that guests often write about these smartconcierges in glowing online reviews using words like “classy” to describe their enhanced experience. One guest from Nobu Las Vegas raved, “Excellent guest service by Ivy at this hotel. She’s efficient and friendly and never misses a beat with ours needs. This is why we return to this hotel time after time.”
To the guest, AI-enabled smartconcierges seem like a simple, enjoyable, and frictionless way to get an improved customer experience. And though the technology that powers them is anything but simple, to the hoteliers who benefit from positive guest perceptions and reviews, experiences, and revenue gains, these smartconcierges are simply fantastic, too. One day, as with the iPhone, we may look back and wonder: “How did ever make do without a smartconcierge?”
Raj Singh is a product design expert and CEO at Go Moment, a Google-backed company dedicated to making customer service instant. Go Moment’s Ivy is the world’s largest customer service automation platform for hotels as seen on NBC.
Singh brings cross-discipline design, technology, and marketing experience from hundreds of large-scale technology projects for leading brands like Virgin, Lady Gaga, and HEB Grocery Company. Blending his deep expertise in UX and market research, Singh works alongside leaders in hospitality to address the industry’s needs using next-generation technologies like Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and labor automation. In partnership with IBM Watson, Go Moment’s Ivy platform automates up to 90% of guest communication and is currently available to millions of hotel guests.
Select speaking engagements include:
- HITEC 2018
- Phocuswright 2016
- CWT VIP Summit 2018
- Plug and Play Ventures 2018
- Hotel Interactive BITAC 2016-2018 (multiple appearances)
- IBM Insight 2015
Go Moment® created Ivy™, the world’s largest chatbot for the hospitality industry. Ivy has served millions of guests, automatically answering 30 percent of customer service questions in 1 second. Besides automating typical service questions, Ivy™ routes complex requests and service issues to hotel staff for improved efficiency and delighted guests. Ivy™ can also book restaurant reservations, spa appointments, and other revenue-driving services. Ivy™, uniquely powered by IBM Watson’s™ artificial intelligence technology, streamlines operations, increases satisfaction, and revenue for its hospitality clients.
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