Digital technology has revolutionised the way customers search and choose what hotel accommodation to book when travelling for business or pleasure. In addition, digital technology and social media now play a major part in forming customer expectations of hotels and helping to influence which hotel a customer will choose.
For example, most people now check TripAdvisor for reviews before booking a hotel or do a social media search to check what other customers have said about the accommodation and how the hotel has dealt with negative comments.
The same goes for restaurants, bars, and catering outlets like event and wedding venues, which are also frequently researched online by potential customers.
So, with digital technology having an increasingly large role for customers, how should companies embrace it?
Mobile bookings account for more than 50% of the market
At the centre of this is the ubiquitous mobile phone, now so commonly used to make hotel bookings that all catering and hospitality companies need to invest in their mobile platforms.
According to a recent study, 51% of searches for hotel bookings this summer were made via a mobile device. The study also showed that mobile phones have generated 19% percent of the total sales during this period.
This underlines the need to invest in a mobile-friendly platform that works well for all customers. But investment shouldn’t just focus on the front-end booking process – investment in back-end systems can greatly enhance the guest experience while customers are at the hotel.
By investing in the guest experience, hotels and other hospitality and catering outlets will improve the experience and service, which will enhance their reputation and help generate more favourable online reviews to attract future guests.
How hotels are using AI
This type of investment has already been made into new back-end digital technology, namely AI, which is already being used successfully in the catering and hospitality industry.
AI may make some in the industry nervous about frontline staff being replaced. But people working in the hospitality industry should view AI, especially chatbots, as valuable communication tools that can boost productivity and enable frontline employees to focus on their main priority: an exceptional guest experience.
For example, your hotel can implement a custom branded mobile app, a communication and productivity platform that helps frontline staff communicate and manage tasks efficiently.
Room service: Chatbots can virtually take the in-room orders of guests. Chatbots can also be programmed to ask a variety of detailed questions to ensure your guests get exactly what they need (like specific condiments on their sandwich, or extra ice in their water) and can even schedule delivery.
Guest check-in and check-out: One of the most useful applications of a chatbot is as a virtual booking agent. Chatbots can send reminders to guests regarding the details of their stay, such as check-in and check-out times, and augment them if necessary based on guest requests (for example, extra pillows or special food or beverage items to be in-room upon arrival).
Maintenance requests: When a guest encounters an in-room issue, such as a burned-out light bulb or a broken appliance, chatbots can field guest issue reporting so repairs can be made quickly.
Common and special requests: From wake-up calls, “do not disturb” notifications, or delivery of extra towels or toiletries, chatbots can handle instantaneous communication of many of the most common guest requests. Instead of picking up the phone and calling the front desk, guests submit requests with one click using the mobile app. Hospitality teams receive automated notifications of these requests directly, and can complete them more quickly and efficiently.
Concierge services: Think of a chatbot as a 24/7 virtual local guide to the best food and entertainment options in the area, including on-site dining and events. Chatbots can be set with the day or week’s latest events and promotions. Best of all, with your hotel app, guests can consult the chatbot concierge at their convenience, whether in their hotel room or on-the-go.
AI can also bring a host of internal benefits to companies in hospitality and catering. For instance, human resources teams are increasingly using HR chatbots to conduct employee surveys to streamline the on-boarding process.
This helps to save HR teams time (and money) by reducing the repetition of tasks like supplying information about staff policies and health and safety information to new hires. It also gives easy access to this information for new employees, which in turn helps them get up to speed in their new roles.
In addition to daily administrative tasks, chatbots can be a crucial, real-time internal communication method to quickly share important information about problems with guest rooms (e.g. broken toilet) so that the right team members are kept up-to-date with issues.
Digital technology has had an undeniably great impact on the catering and hospitality industry, and hotels need to get up-to-date now or get left behind by the competition.
Getting to grips with AI and chatbots now is probably easier than you think by using the right operational communication platform, which can connect your staff and greatly enhance your customer experience.
By Cristian Grossmann, CEO and co-founder of mobile employee platform, Beekeeper