Hoteliers get the message that admin can be automatedNews / Technology | OnlineBy Viewpoints | April 24, 2017Share This article was originally published on Hospitality and technology have long been awkward bedfellows. Whereas other industries have been able to incorporate the automation of tasks with relative ease, hospitality has lagged a little behind.NB: This is a viewpoint by Sam Weston, marketing manager at 80 DAYS.Most of us would admit technology will never replace the true essence of hospitality. But all of us should consider how it can complement it. New and emerging opportunities exist to help automate the routine tasks, freeing up resources to deliver of exceptional guest experiences. Hotel chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI)Talk of the town at many a hospitality conference, hotel chatbots have evolved from fad to ‘conversational commerce' in just two short years.Guests are increasingly time sensitive. Immediacy is no longer a luxury, it’s expected, and those hoteliers who can respond fastest may well capture the direct booking.The success of automating your communications with chatbots could rest upon the following three elements: Delivery: The old adage of under promise over deliver is especially relevant here. Chatbots may well be able to handle the more common enquiries and if there’s a real person on standby for those enquiries the bot’s unable to handle then guests have the best of both worlds. Be where your guests are: Don’t go it alone with your own messaging app. Integrate with the familiar platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat, WhatsApp, Skype MessengerForcing your guests to download an app to use your chatbot is likely to reduce the adoption rate, defeating the objective of its introduction. Add value: Automating your communications has an obvious resource value to you, but make sure that guests perceive some value too. How about a chatbot that can help answer queries outside of your reservation team’s opening hours, or a chatbot that can recommend local events?Share this quote When it comes to human involvement, make sure that you manage your guest’s expectation on when they’ll receive a response from you. Some hoteliers are even committing to specific response times.CitizenM states on its website that sending them an email gets you an answer within 24 hours, Facebook enquiry – 1 hour, WhatsApp – 1 hour. If you have the infrastructure to make that promise to a potential guest, why not?Hotel operations automationHotel staff are no longer tethered to reception desks. Mobile and tablets utilising ‘desk extension’ software allow your team to keep in touch with each other, offering guest services from the basement to the penthouse.These platforms often integrate with your PMS (Property Management System) meaning guest information can be accessed on the move, tasks can be routed through a central point, meaning that nothing should be forgotten.Alice is one such tool. Co-founder and president, Alex Shashou, explained what he thinks the main advantage of automating hotel operations is: “Hotels have so many tasks to take care every day, many of which are repetitive and mundane. To compete with the alternative accommodation sector who sell services on an as-needed basis, hotels need to be thinking about increasing operational efficiency and automation is one method to do so. Additionally, the less time that staff spend doing administrative work, the more time that staff member can spend with your guests, improving the guest experience.”Share this quote Meanwhile, emerging, award-winning technology such as Angie offers in-room voice-controlled technology for a range of purposes; think weather information, flight times, Uber booking and concierge services, alongside light and temperature controls, alarm clock, voice controlled TV etc. All provide convenience to the guest, while reducing the load placed upon your operations team.Booking process automationSmart services such as Voyat and Hotelchamp help personalise the booking experience for your guests, contextualising the messaging they see to ensure that it offers the best chance of conversion. A hybrid of conversion rate optimisation and marketing automation, they offer good potential for incremental revenue or increasing the average transaction value of your guests.Kasper Middelkoop, co-founder of Hotelchamp, explained: “Data shows that the key solution to increase direct bookings and improve guest relations is personalisation. By personalising the online booking experience you are engaging and interacting with your hotel guests on a personal level. It is way more relevant and it makes sense to suggest a family room to a family or offer a Christmas special if a visitor selects Christmas dates in the calendar. "Personalisation means being relevant for your guests and the higher the relevancy the higher success rates. By analysing and identifying your website visitors in real time, you can instantly trigger your guests to take action in the most relevant way.”Share this quote RoboticsFrom the slightly eccentric dinosaur receptionists to Aloft's butlers, robotic technology is an interesting prospect for hoteliers. Not quite mainstream, but certainly something to watch for the future. Whether it could ever replace a welcoming smile, is very much up for debate.Increasingly more commonplace is the use of technology to enhance the guest experience. The Renaissance New York Midtown's ‘Discovery Portal’ serves as a city guide for guests to discover restaurants, bars and attractions with the wave of a hand or point of the finger. It doesn’t replace their concierge desk, but it does serve as a complementary tool for guests that could well free up the concierge's time to improve the guest experience in other ways.Self check-inSelf check-in is becoming mainstream, often with staff on standby to assist. Self check-in technology that integrates with your PMS (Property Management System) is becoming increasingly more affordable, with companies such as Clock Software producing kiosks that can offer guests a room update or special offer upon checking in – ensuring that automation doesn’t mean the opportunity to upsell is lost.CEO of Clock Software, Krasimir Trapchev, thinks that self check-in offers hoteliers a great opportunity to improve the experience of your guests: “Most hoteliers do not engage with their guests prior to the arrival, not just to offer self check-in or room selection, but propose room upgrades, extra services, useful information, booking self-management, special requests, table bookings and many more. "That’s not just failure to cope with modern day expectations, that’s a huge loss of auxiliary revenue potential, guest loyalty and experience."Share this quote Digital self check-in on mobile devices or kiosks is just the tip of the iceberg, but the truth is that hoteliers can add a “digital edge” if their hotel PMS could actually shoot relevant messages to their guests, with active self-service links so guests could get control of their own booking, check-in and stay experience.Automate to accentuateHotel and travel marketers must adapt to the market and manage an increasingly complex set of hotel technologies in order to achieve the optimum guest experience, both online and offline.Recent research by Egencia and Phocuswright talks of an ‘Emerging Tech-Driven Corporate Travel Revolution’, projecting that in years these sorts of technologies will be mainstream. Ultimately, it’s in your guests interests to invest in automation and those who start now, may well reap the rewards later.Automating the admin and more menial tasks allows you to accentuate the positives and focus attention on continually improving the guests' experience. Happier guests lead to better reviews and repeat stays. Technology can’t replace good hospitality, but it can be an excellent accompaniment.NB: This is a viewpoint by Sam Weston, marketing manager at 80 DAYS. It originally appeared here and is reproduced with permission.