Better guest experiences with voice AI

by Karen Scates

Sep 26, 2019

5 Ways Voice Assistants Are Serving Up Better Guest Experiences

Exceeding customer expectations, delivering highly personalized guest experiences and streamlining processes are among the greatest challenges for the hospitality industry today. Our “always on” culture has created a new type of customer — demanding and always connected. In response, industry leaders are finding ways to turn potentially frustrating experiences into positive and memorable moments, and creating the kind of brand loyalty that results in guests that return time and time again.

The best hotel and cruise experiences have always been those that met the guest’s needs quickly and delightfully. One of the greatest barriers to meeting those needs has always been the availability of sufficient staff and rapid delivery of services and information. Enter the smart room. Providing each guest with an in-room voice assistant lessens the burden on hotel and cruise staff while delivering information and service faster than ever before.

In response to the need for greater guest satisfaction, HARMAN Professional Solutions recently partnered with Houndify to create sophisticated “smart room” experiences with voice-enabled speakers designed for the hospitality industry. The HARMAN solution improves guest experiences while providing custom, branded wake words for each hotelier and cruise line.

The voice AI revolution has driving innovation in nearly every aspect of our lives for several years. Here are five ways voice is already redefining the hospitality industry:

A personal concierge and guest service assistant

Today’s guest experiences need to exceed expectations for comfort, convenience, and connectivity. Sophisticated travelers are looking for frictionless experiences that persuade them to return in the future.

“Providing each guest with an in-room voice assistant has lessened the burden on hotel and cruise staff while delivering instant answers and better, faster service.”

Voice assistants in hotel rooms and cruise cabins not only improve the speed and convenience of everyday requests, they also lessen the burden on hotel staff. Instead of having front desk staff answer commonly asked questions over and over again, interactive devices allow your guests to get answers and services including:

  • Asking for restaurant hours and location
  • Asking for information on on-site amenities
  • Ordering room service
  • Requesting extra towels or other amenities from housekeeping
  • Submitting “do not disturb” requests
  • Scheduling a wake-up call
  • Booking hotel services, such as spa treatments
  • Making restaurant reservations

As the voice industry continues to evolve, the capabilities of in-room assistants expand to include additional services, such as helping your guests discover local places of interest and make reservations for destinations outside of the property. Other applications include providing booking hotel or cruise tours and getting reminders for outside activities booked through the assistant.

“For MSC Cruises, their voice assistant, ZOE provides answers to over 800 frequently asked questions and frees up time for the crew to interact with individuals and provide exceptional service.”

In the cruise industry, voice assistants can also alleviate the stress and strain on porters and other crew members during the peak hours during on boarding and off-boarding guests. For MSC Cruises, the introduction of a voice activated digital assistant has allowed the cruise line to personalize the experience for their passengers. Their voice assistant, ZOE, provides answers to over 800 frequently asked questions and frees up time for the crew to interact with individuals and provide exceptional service.

All the conveniences of home

If your goal is to deliver a travel experience that mimics the comforts of home, then providing a voice assistant is a natural expansion of the services and conveniences designed to delight your guests.

By 2022, 55% of all households in the United States will own a smart speaker, according to Invesp. In addition, Comscore predicts that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. As the popularity of smart speakers increases and people get accustomed to instant answers and total connectivity, hotel and cruise guests will begin to expect the same experiences when they are away from home.

“As the popularity of smart speakers increases and people get accustomed to instant answers and total connectivity, hotel and cruise guests will begin to expect the same experiences when they are away from home.”

The technology is already here to deliver extraordinary experiences that include all the conveniences of being at home and more, such as those now offered by Harman. The intersection of Voice AI and IOT means that hotel and cruise in-room personal assistants can provide guests with total control of almost all the elements of their room environments, including:

  • Controlling the lights in the room
  • Controlling the thermostat
  • Opening and closing curtains
  • Turning the TV on or off and changing channels
  • Accessing personal music playlists through streaming apps
  • Ordering movies

One size never fits all. As personalization becomes the mantra for the hospitality industry, it stands to reason that better communication would be the primary goal. Guests no longer feel the need to limit their requests and activities to the hours of the hotel front desk or cruise stewards. What if your guests could get everything they need without making the effort of getting out of bed or dialing a number?

Not only is a personal voice assistant available 24 hours a day, the best ones have the ability to understand multiple languages — a barrier to service for foreign travelers. With the help of voice AI, every guest can have a conversation in their native tongue without the need to seek a translator or tack down that one employee who is fluent enough to answer basic questions.

Using data to improve hotel and cruise experiences

Beyond just providing for guests immediate needs, voice tech can help improve hotel and cruise operations over time — but only if the hotelier and cruise companies own the data collected through smart speakers.

When hotel and cruise lines can gain insights from customer data, they can begin to see patterns in requests and make adjustments to ensure those requests can be met seamlessly in the future. Connected properties can also keep track of housekeeping to deploy staff where they are most needed and receive updated information about which rooms are ready for the next occupant.

In some future-facing scenarios, hoteliers imagine a time when they can greet loyalty members by name when they enter the room and have their favorite music playing and room temperature set. In fact, for the majority of U.S. travelers, they’re willing to give up some privacy to get more personalized experiences. According to research by G2 Crowd, 57% of U.S. travelers want brands to use their data to personalize their travel experiences and 36% of these people would be willing to pay more for such a personalized experience.

Happy guests lead to increased occupancy rates, repeat business and a marketing team’s best friend: word-of-mouth referrals. That’s why, in the age of rating sites like TripAdvisor, the importance of a happy customer shouldn’t be underestimated. Providing high-touch experiences through high-tech solutions not only increases customer satisfaction, it makes good business sense.

Early adopters are delivering customized experiences that have earned media attention and differentiate their brands from competitors who simply provide a third-party speaker in their rooms and cabins. Learn more about how we can help you create a custom voice solution for your guests.

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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