Hospitality Industry and Voice Assistants
May 11, 2021
7 MIN READ

Why Hospitality is Booking Voice Technology for Personalized Stays

Despite recent setbacks as a result of COVID-19, the hospitality industry is still putting aside money to innovate with voice technology. According to a survey by Hospitality Net, 79% of hoteliers reported voice-enabled technology investment plans this year. Specifically, 90% want to improve customer support, 88% want to boost convenience and speed, 60% want to increase customer loyalty, and 38% want to advance operational efficiencies, according to the recent Opus Research Survey. Why is the hospitality industry investing in voice AI and other innovative technologies now? Let’s examine both the guest benefits and business value of adopting voice technology for the hospitality sector. 

How voice assistants are becoming a key amenity

According to a survey by Hotel Technology News, 49% of guests say their hotel selection is influenced by high-tech features. With voice assistants emerging as key technological advances, leaders in the hospitality industry understand that including voice technology among their list of offered amenities will increase their number of bookings and return stays. In addition, hospitality leaders in the Opus Research Survey stated that the top end-user benefits of voice assistants include:

  1. Better customer service
  2. Shorter customer service wait times
  3. More hygienic stays
  4. Increased accessibility
  5. Improved customer satisfaction 

With voice assistants emerging as key technological advances, leaders in the hospitality industry understand that including voice technology among their list of offered amenities will increase their number of bookings and return stays. 

In the last few years, hoteliers have had to keep up with the quickly evolving customer demands. No longer content with booking a room simply for sleeping, people are looking for travel experiences. The more hotels can be the hub of those experiences, the better the guest stays will be, and the greater the brand loyalty. Let’s dive deeper into how voice assistants are improving guests’ stays

Touchless rooms

Cleanliness and adherence to hygiene standards have always been of utmost importance when building a hotel brand. Recent events have made people hyper-aware of all the potential touch “hot spots” for possible germ exposure. In the past, light switches and TV remotes were likely two areas not regularly cleaned by staff and have been identified as some of the dirtiest places in a hotel room. In fact, a study by the University of Houston discovered that the main hotel room light switch had 112.7 colony-forming units of aerobic bacteria and TV remotes had 67.6 colony-forming units of bacteria. The recommended amount of bacteria is 5 per cubic centimeter squared, making the amount on a light switch equivalent to that of a trash can

With voice assistants and voice-enabled TVs, hotel rooms can become completely touchless—eliminating guest concerns about contact with common surfaces. Lighting, room temperature, TVs, drapes, and music can all be controlled through a custom, embedded voice assistant. According to Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2021, 78% of hospitality companies are expecting voice-activated devices to become mainstream for room lights and temperature controls.

Including cloud-based voice assistants in the room further elevates the experience by allowing guests to get the services they need without calling the front desk or housekeeping. Using an in-room voice assistant to request more towels, reserve a table at a nearby restaurant, or order room service provides a contactless, convenient guest experience. 

Personalized stays

In a survey by Hotel Technology News, 84% of business travelers stated that they think a personalized guest experience is important. Voice assistants connected to the cloud allow guests to customize future bookings by saving stay preferences, such as room temperature, lighting, drapes opened or closed, wake-up calls, and the number of towels, pillows, or blankets required. 

By improving the level of personalization offered to guests, hotels can create a better customer experience and increase brand loyalty. Guests will be more motivated to continue booking stays at a specific hotel brand if they can save their preferences and customize their future visits. In addition, with an estimated 90 million people now owning smart speakers, having in-room voice assistants allows travelers to enjoy the same level of convenience as they have at home—delivering that home away from home feeling hoteliers aspire to provide.

Guests will be more motivated to continue booking stays at a specific hotel brand if they can save their preferences and customize their future visits.

Virtual concierge

A voice assistant can improve on a variety of tasks that guests would otherwise have to call down to the front desk or head downstairs to talk to the concierge to achieve. For example, a voice assistant can manage wake-up calls, requests for more towels or blankets, reserve a table at the hotel restaurant, provide local information, order in-room dining, handle maintenance requests, and some can even perform guest checkouts. They essentially become an always-available, virtual concierge with decreased wait times and increased accessibility. By recording the request through a voice assistant, guests can also be reassured that their ask has been heard and will be attended to, further improving the customer experience. 

Another benefit of in-room voice assistants is decreasing language barriers. When using a voice assistant compatible with different languages, the guest can feel more comfortable speaking in their native language and knowing that their requests are being heard and understood. 

In addition, voice assistant kiosks can be set up near the front desk for easy check-ins and checkouts—reducing long lines and wait times. According to hospitality leaders in the Opus Research Survey, 91% of hotels offer the voice-enabled in-room control of smart devices, lights, and appliances and 78% have implemented voice-enabled kiosks. These voice AI innovations help streamline guest experiences, improve Net Promoter Scores, and generate positive online reviews, according to the executives.

The business value of booking voice technology

From touchless rooms and personalized stays to virtual concierges, the guest benefits of voice assistants are abundant. But the returns on voice AI investments don’t stop there. According to the Opus Research Survey, hospitality leaders identified the 5 greatest measures of a voice assistant’s business value as:

  1. Convenience and speed for users 
  2. Controlling brand identity and UX
  3. Operational efficiencies
  4. Improved customer support
  5. Increased customer loyalty 
Houndify Hospitality Infographic

Houndify Hospitality Infographic

Decreased operational costs

By having the voice assistant manage requests for more towels and blankets, check-ins and checkouts, reservations, in-room dining, and local information, hoteliers are able to reduce operational costs. Staff can focus on more important tasks, receive clear instruction on what the guest needs, and optimize workflows. According to Hospitality Net, 30% of all service requests at voice-enabled hotels are being made through the in-room voice assistants, which then efficiently communicates to housekeeping, operations, and maintenance, improving customer experiences. 

According to Hospitality Net, 30% of all service requests at voice-enabled hotels are being made through the in-room voice assistants, which then efficiently communicates to housekeeping, operations, and maintenance, improving customer experiences.

In a recent study by Energy Star, it was discovered that hotels spend an average of $2,196 per available room each year on energy. By having voice assistants with access to temperature, lighting, and drapes, guests can more easily adjust the settings. The in-room assistant can also shut off air conditioning and heat when no guest is booked in the room—saving energy usage and costs to keep each room at a set temperature whether it’s in use or not. The same study revealed that decreasing energy consumption by only 10% “would have the same financial effect as increasing the average daily room rate (ADR) by $0.62 in limited-service hotels and by $1.35 in full-service hotels.” By optimizing workflows and decreasing energy consumption through voice AI, hotels will save time and money. 

Improving guests’ experiences

In-room voice assistants can also help hospitality companies collect valuable guest data without encroaching on their privacy. The voice assistant can ask guests survey questions during their visit or the hotel can examine the guests’ requests—room temperature, towels, blankets, in-room dining, local information, or reservations—to further understand which elements of the customer experience can be improved. Custom voice assistants allow hospitality brands to provide personalized experiences and improve guest stays by collecting only aggregated data and not sharing guest information with a third-party voice assistant. By collecting data in a nonintrusive, secure way, voice assistants can improve guests’ stays. 

Control brand identity

In the Opus Research Survey, 66% of hospitality leaders consider consistent brand experience across channels to be the top reason for implementing voice assistants in hospitality, and 84% of business leaders feel a custom wake word is very important. By having a custom voice assistant with a branded wake word and voice persona, hospitality can extend their brand to in-room technology. Just as the lobby, hotel uniforms, brochures, concierge, and sometimes even towels are branded, a custom voice assistant can be used to increase brand recognition, customer loyalty, and create consistent guest experiences.

By having a custom voice assistant with a branded wake word and voice persona, hospitality can extend their brand to in-room technology. 

Monetize the Experience

As technology continues to advance, hospitality leaders are looking for ways to monetize voice solutions, according to the Opus Research Survey. 62% of those surveyed plan to invest in voice ads/shopping, and 72% of respondents think monetization is very important when compared to other goals. Monetization, such as making ordering room service easier, is a great way to fulfill guests’ needs while proving the ROI on voice technology. The key is to monetize in a non-intrusive way that provides value to the guest while increasing hospitality’s profit on voice assistants. 

By making rooms touchless, personalizing stays, and providing a virtual concierge, voice assistants are becoming a key amenity for the hospitality industry. The ROI on custom voice technology investments can be proven based on decreasing operational costs, greater understanding of guest needs, controlling brand identity, and monetizing the experience. 

As voice assistants are increasingly incorporated into the hospitality industry, we’ll see further innovation and improvements in the guest voice experience. Hotels not currently budgeting for voice-enabled technology may want to seriously consider the guest benefits and business value of in-room voice assistants and voice-enabled kiosks before customers choose hotels that are offering these high-tech amenities.

Interested in more information about voice assistants in the hospitality industry? Check out our infographic, Voice AI Boosts Trust in Hospitality

Recently, Opus Research published a research report based on a global survey of 320 business leaders in 8 industries conducted to get the pulse of the state of voice assistant implementation and the trends toward custom voice AI solutions. You can read the report in its entirety and see the on-demand webinar to learn, “The Business Value of Customized Voice Assistants”.

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore Houndify’s independent voice AI platform at Houndify.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

Kristen is a content writer with a passion for storytelling and marketing. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, reading, and spending time with her nieces and nephew.

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