Are artificial intelligence and virtual reality the future of hotel concierge?
Guests almost always stopped by the concierge for directions on their way out, seeking their expertise, particularly when it comes to planning and scheduling their stay, arranging tours, booking reservations for local theatres, finding out the hottest new restaurants in town etc. This individual, who, at the better establishments, often sported a golden lapel pin with two crossed keys as a member of Les Clefs d’Or, would take out a map and make notes for guests. In many hotels the concierge is the conduit for the guest experience, and guests will therefore ask concierges for services and amenities outside the purview of the concierge role.
But with the emergence of applications and new technologies, the future of concierge as a ‘person-based’ service is in a state of jeopardy. Virtual technology has substituted and supplemented the full-time concierge job. Today, particularly in smaller hotels, the friendly faces of these helpers are more likely to pop-up on our phones just as at The Arrive Memphis. Hotel concierge applications are becoming a must-have for major hospitality brands seeking to tap into guests’ smartphones to anticipate their needs before arrival on premises.
In some hotels, in-lobby LCD touch-screen kiosks, that provide information on restaurants, flights, shopping, city tours, and other services, have supplemented or even replaced concierge. Guests can use them to print out maps, coupons, and tickets without ever interacting with a human being. Marriott’s Renaissance brand uses its proprietary Navigator technology to help guests find their way around town or do a deep dive experiential journey, with a database culled from the opinions of local experts.
AI Powered Chatbot Concierge: The next generation of customer experience
To meet the challenge of growing customer expectations, the hospitality industry is turning to technology which plays a critical role in the modern hospitality landscape. Modern hoteliers are increasingly relying on functions such as mobile services, cloud-based interfaces, centralized communications, native apps, push notifications, new and improved loyalty programs. These platforms let hotels continually aggregate guest data, creating actionable guest insights and additional opportunities for enhanced personalization.
But as guests continue to push for more convenience and customization, next generation systems, burgeoning AI and machine learning chatbots, are changing the future of customer service and engagement, allowing hoteliers to deliver on their promise of an even more connected and personalized experience. Chatbot technology and artificial Intelligence are being more and more leveraged to help the concierges provide better, more personalized, experiences. In fact, chatbots are used to respond to inquiries and handle simple requests, simulating human conversation with natural language processing. This automates aspects of the business, enables human concierges to spend more time on complex requests while the bots provide 24/7, uninterrupted coverage.
Next generation of bots leverages machine learning and applied experience to become smarter over time. As a result, AI powered chatbots are able to provide a more meaningful response to customer requests, to bring speed and efficiency to the concierge market and minimize human error, all while still delivering a very personalized experience. Concierge apps, combined with an advanced data aggregator, enable human concierges to better predict what customers want and make fast, personalized expert recommendations, anywhere in the world. This helps provide an anticipation of needs that is uncannily aligned with the clients’ own. And it also means that, in the coming years, we will see more instances of the data being mined from external sources and combined with internal data to create an even more advanced customer profile.
An appetite for mobile devices
Recent advances in artificial intelligence are already revolutionizing the hospitality industry, dramatically enhancing personalization, connectivity and revenue generation. Hotels around the world have introduced robots and apps that handle repetitive tasks like giving directions. And guest interacting with a hotel via a messaging app on their smartphones has proven to be the most effective way for hotels to stay connected with guest through all phases of the journey.
In 2015, Aces HotelTonight’s in-app human concierge service was unveiled. This in-app chat assistant is available to guests who pay over $200 for a hotel stay on their booking platform at any of their properties in over 30 cities. That same year, the New-York based concierge app Bellhop was launched, bringing hospitality and travel-related services to travelers seeking on-demand services via mobile. It offers tours, activities, deliveries and connections with Uber and Resy.
To continue, in Japan, AI in hotels are not just a novelty but a reality. Since 2017, the on-the-go hybrid concierge service Bebot, developed by Tokyo-based Bespoke Inc., offers a combination of humans and AI and includes seamless transition from chatbot to live chat with a concierge which is crucial to the success of AI in the Hotel industry. It aims to provide personalized expert
recommendations and authentic experience at scale by bringing people the top recommendations as rated by locals or hidden gems only those living nearby would know. With options such as getting directions, checking restaurant reviews and immediately booking restaurants without ever leaving the chat screen, Bebot takes the planning – and communication – hassle away.
Fueled by decreasing technological costs, predictions are also made for the growth in hotel robots. In 2016, Hilton partnered with IBM to create a resident robot at its McLean, VA, property named Connie to help guests find nearby attractions, places to eat, and other ideas on guest experiences. Botlr at Aloft Cupertino in the Silicon Valley and Hannah at the H. Hotel Los Angeles both handle room service deliveries. Robots will soon be able to entertain guests and deliver clean guest amenities and rooms, cleanliness being very important for overall guest satisfaction. Thus, in the 5 coming years, you might just find Maidbots cleaning your hotel room. But this doesn’t mean that every touchpoint should be served through an AI-powered robot. Technology should never replace a commitment to service excellence.
Working hand in hand with hotel staff
While there is no doubt technology has a huge role to play in shaping the hotels of the future, hotel operators must remember that there are some things any technology can never completely replace: the importance of the human touch. The reality is that whilst human interactions are becoming less and less common, when they do take place, they are more precious than ever before. The solution is finding the right balance between high-tech and high-touch hospitality on which the industry was founded.
In the future, hotel concierge services will likely be best facilitated by the coexistence of the human or “old-fashioned way” and the machine or “next-generation way”, each doing harmoniously what they do best. The scope, responsibilities and areas of accountability of traditional staff roles will change somewhat with further advances in AI-enabled devices, voice-activated speaker systems, and text-based personal assistants. But if human and technology are combined smartly, they can offer big business opportunities to hoteliers and offer extremely high levels of service quality and personalization to hotel guests.
For instance, Hotel Indigo on the lower eastside, in New York City, has a graffiti concierge, an artist who answers questions about local graffiti and help guests explore local street art done by native and international artists. Whereas Le Richemond in Geneva has a watch concierge service. Guest with a watch wish list are connected to VIP visits at very high-end and luxury watchmakers such as Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Chopard, Piaget, and many more!
The rise of the private and personal concierge service
Along with the emergence of digital, booking platform, AI hotel-generated services, mobile applications and the rise of bots, modern, ultra-private and personal luxury concierge are the perfect companion in a growing sector. These specialists help save time and get privileged access to private, VIP events and exclusive experiences that money can’t buy. They are setting the long-lasting standards of taste for tomorrow.
Quintessentially is one of the best-known luxury concierge companies in the world with an average client net worth of $36 million. It has 60 offices and a team of more than 1500 concierge specialists across the world.
The Billionaire Concierge is an invitation-only high-end luxury concierge service for high-net worth individuals (HNWIs) which not only provides lifestyle services such as shopping for rare watches and jewelry but also celebrity chef private reservations.
Knightsbridge Circle is an invitation-only very high-end private concierge service with a client base with an average net worth of $800 million and a membership fee starting from $25,000. Knightsbridge Circle helps busy Ultra high-net worth individuals (UHNWIs) save time, get very exclusive invitations, organize a wedding vow renewal with the Pope, and book a private dinner in front of Leonardo da Vinci painting, The Last Supper.
So, with a sharp focus on the absolute finest the world has to offer, exclusivity, opulence and extravagance being at the core of their DNAs, along with unparallel roaster of customized, exclusively assorted services to every customer’s request, the privilege of having a dedicated human concierge is absolutely unique and unlikely to be changed. Unless we limit our imagination.