Of all industries impacted by Covid-19, few have experienced the same level of disruption as the travel and hospitality sectors. Almost overnight, hotels pivoted their service delivery to ensure social distancing throughout a guest’s stay. The concept of ‘contactless’ was familiar to hotels already using some form of self-service technology, such as Premier Inn’s check-in kiosks or Hilton Hotels’ digital room key. But for many, the pandemic accelerated the hotel’s utilisation and roll-out of new technologies, changing customer behaviours and expectations.

As plastic dividers come off restaurant tables and travel demand surges, the self-service trend is again evolving.

The preference for contactless is here to stay.

In a survey by Zendesk, 20% of Gen Z and 18% of Millennials say the COVID-19 crisis has led them to use AI bots more often. In addition, survey respondents are so comfortable with AI that 62% of millennials and 43% of Gen Z indicated they would rather interact with a bot than a human.
With the maturing consumer preference towards AI and the continued labour shortage, hotels are upping their investment in contactless technologies; below are some examples.

Image: M Social and hospitalitybusiness.co.nz

Physical Robots
M Social Auckland’s HARI and Yotel’s YO2D2 are examples of room service robots that can provide in-house guests with everything from an extra towel to a late-night burger. Not only does this save staff time, but it also surprises and delights customers and encourages user-generated content on social media.

AI Virtual Assistants and Chatbots
When discussing chatbots, ChatGPT is likely the product that comes to mind. However, hotels have implemented Virtual Concierge and Chatbots for a while, adding value to the guest experience and increasing revenue.

An example is Equinox Hotel’s Omar, a text-based bot that helps guests book rooms, upsell packages, and provide information about available facilities, such as open hours and complimentary amenities.

How do AI bots like ChatGPT change the game?

Many bots used in hotels and hospitality are rules-based, meaning there is a degree of rigidity to what it can help with before needing to connect to the customer service team. ChatGPT (Conversational Generative Pre-training Transformer), on the other hand, is a machine-learning model that uses a neural network to generate text. This helps it to be better at problem-solving and respond to customer queries in a more human-like way. Here are a few examples of how ChatGPT can support a guest experience:

  • Natural language understanding: ChatGPT uses deep learning to understand the nuances of human language, which allows it to understand and respond to requests in a more natural and conversational way.
  • Personalised recommendations: ChatGPT can use its understanding of a customer’s preferences and past interactions to make personalised recommendations for services or upgrades.
  • Handling of open-ended questions: ChatGPT can handle open-ended questions and provide appropriate responses, whereas a rule-based AI is limited to predefined responses.
  • Proactive suggestions: ChatGPT can proactively suggest additional services or upgrades based on the customer’s behaviour and preferences
  • Handling of exceptions: ChatGPT can handle exceptions and provide appropriate responses, whereas a rule-based AI may not be able to handle unexpected or uncommon situations.

Image: Unsplash

So, can AI and bots power your next hotel stay?

Rather than us at BBT answering this question, we asked ChatGPT, and this was its response:

“Yes, AI and bots can power a human’s next hotel stay. They can be used for tasks such as room booking, check-in and check-out, room service, and concierge services. Additionally, AI chatbots can assist with customer service inquiries, providing quick and accurate responses to common questions. In some cases, these chatbots can even understand natural language and hold basic conversations with hotel guests. Additionally, AI-powered virtual assistants can be used to control room functions such as temperature and lighting, and to access hotel services such as room service and housekeeping.”

 

Our final 2 cents:

As Generative AI continues to develop, its use case and abilities will transform the customer experience and replace some functions currently performed by its human colleagues. However, even more so in hotels and hospitality than in other sectors, customer interactions with staff are still valued and essential in overall satisfaction. Therefore, businesses need to consider the synergies AI and their teams can achieve to deliver a frictionless customer experience.

 

References

Gorynski, Max . “Millennials vs. Gen Z: What Are the Key Differences?” Zendesk, July 15, 2022. https://www.zendesk.com/blog/millennials-vs-gen-z-customer-service-expectations-compare/.

M Social’s Robotic New Employee -. “M Social’s Robotic New Employee -,” November 28, 2022. https://www.hospitalitybusiness.co.nz/sponsored_content/m-socials-robotic-new-employee/.