Future-proofing the phone: Embracing voice assistants for hotel staffing challenges

October 4, 2023

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Hotel contact centers are under increasing operational pressure. 87% of hotels in the United States report insufficient personnel, and 36 percent face a severe staff shortage.

Underresourced teams have less time to deliver the personalized and welcoming experience that guests expect, resulting in missed reservations and revenue opportunities.

Many hotel contact center leaders have used voice automation to bridge this gap. However, legacy voice technologies have delivered disappointing experiences.

Serving guests on the channels they use

To meet growing demand, hotels have invested in apps that empower guests to check in, browse FAQs, and make service requests without requiring direct staff interaction.

While the introduction of apps has been a great way to allow repeat guests to self-serve, not all guests are eager to download yet another app, especially if they don’t have immediate plans to return. Instead, they rely on the phone and on-site staff for support.

Hotels are exploring the potential of AI to meet demand while enhancing guests’ experiences. A new generation of voice assistants presents new opportunities for self-service, enabling hotels to serve guests on the channels they want to use while alleviating staff pressure. Here’s how.

Increasing capacity

As hotels approach pre-pandemic occupancy levels, with less staff, efficient management of guest requests becomes critical.

Reservations, inquiries about room availability, check-out times, and questions about restaurant opening hours are just some of the questions and transactions a voice assistant can handle. During high call volume and seasonal spikes in demand, your staff has fewer routine inquiries to handle. They can focus on delivering tailored experiences, like arranging special celebrations or surprise reservations.

Consistent and welcoming experiences over the phone

Whether a guest calls to make a reservation or order room service, they expect a welcoming interaction, not a robotic voice.

If a guest does not feel comfortable engaging with the automated solution on the phone, they will insist on talking to someone, offsetting the benefits of automation and adding to the busy role of front-of-house staff.

Voice assistants should replicate the ease and comfort of speaking with a knowledgeable concierge, front desk, or central reservations team member. Guests should be able to make reservations, request housekeeping, and inquire about services and facilities without feeling constrained.


The call recording below shows a voice assistant’s effectiveness in engaging in a natural, guest-led conversation.


Alleviating staff pressure with guest insights

Every guest interaction creates insights highlighting trends in guest requests, enabling you to streamline operations. Frequent guests may have particular room preferences and dietary requirements. These insights empower staff to create a more efficient and personalized reservation experience.

Voice assistants surface actionable insights that help to predict demand patterns accurately, including historical booking data, seasonal trends, and customer preferences. Access to structured conversational data helps to optimize staffing, housekeeping schedules, and staff training, reducing the need for additional staff.

Faster response times

Fast response times are critical to delivering 5-star guest experiences. Rapid response times can be the difference between securing bookings and losing potential guests.

Voice assistants allow hotels to promptly handle incoming calls, address FAQs, and provide information on pricing and availability. Where staff input is needed, a voice assistant can gather essential guest information before correctly routing the call to a staff member, significantly reducing the time it takes to resolve the guest’s query.


Customer story: Improving guest experience during a labor shortage

Golden Nugget was finding it more difficult than ever to hire new staff due to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the busy summer approaching, the call center was tasked with taking on additional PBX calls and needed help.

Golden Nugget partnered with PolyAI to deploy a voice assistant that could understand and differentiate between 80 intents, route calls to over 120 Golden Nugget employees, answer FAQs about everything from housekeeping to parking, and take partial reservations to reduce the time agents spend on the phone.

On its first day of deployment, the voice assistant successfully routed 87% of calls, decreased agent utilization by 30%, and reduced reservation handle time by 45 seconds.


Conclusion

Incorporating voice assistants into your hotel’s operations can be a game-changer for addressing staffing challenges while enhancing the guest experience.

By leveraging AI to deliver guest-led experiences, hotels can provide efficient, personalized, and consistently welcoming interactions that meet guests’ evolving expectations. The future of the hotel industry lies in embracing these innovative solutions to create a seamless and memorable stay for every guest.

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