From travel bans to dining
restrictions and heightened sanitation expectations, the hospitality industry
has taken one of the hardest hits from the pandemic - forcing many businesses
to adapt or fall behind the competition (or even go under altogether).
agility and maintain continuity amid ongoing disruption, hospitality companies
can turn to emerging technologies like automation and artificial intelligence,
which can provide critical support in the face of stunted business and limited
workforces and prepare them for a new normal.
However, with the ability to
streamline workflows, increase efficiencies and improve the ways in which
agents service guests, automation technologies are not only a solution for
addressing pressing challenges resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak but also
optimizing customer-facing operations in the long-term. Together, these
capabilities work to free up hospitality workers to focus on the more
personable activities that attract guests and drive the industry forward.
how automation can help get the hospitality industry back up and running in
2021 and beyond.
Promoting health and safety
It’s imperative the hospitality
industry be capable of demonstrating its commitment to guests’ health and
safety - a responsibility that automation can help them tackle. Software robots
(the automation technology) can keep staff and guests safe by managing health
screening data across locations.
Before guests arrive on the property, software
robots can send out an online health survey to check whether guests have any
symptoms of the virus and
automate alerts or entries in the appropriate systems based on the responses.
Alternatively, robots can be configured to regularly reach out to employees for
their own health status. That information is then delivered to employers to
monitor employee health.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
Automation software can also be
more involved in operations to ensure adequate supplies of PPE for staff and guests.
To execute this, a robot may
work with sensors and AI to record stock levels. A robot then captures,
assembles and tracks the data for reporting and can automatically reorder when
stockpiles are low.
It can also send a notification triggering a shipment
order. With these robots in place, hospitality businesses can more conveniently
meet new health and safety requirements without overburdening their employees so
that they can instead remain focused on guest satisfaction.
Fostering a more manageable
As case counts swell and vaccine
timelines remain uncertain for many, so too are post-pandemic travel plans,
meaning guests are bound to amend their bookings in line with fluctuating travel
restrictions. As a result, contact centers can expect to experience high
fluctuations in the volume of guest inquiries, which can lead to long wait
times for callers or low occupancy rates for the contact center.
many agents working remotely to stunt the spread of the virus, increases in
workload may feel unbearable during this period, resulting in employee burnout
at a time when business success is dependent on every employee working as
efficiently as possible.
Automation gives contact center
employees the tools to support increased demands outside of the traditional
office setting. As a first point of contact, companies can deploy automation
software to field guest inquiries across their channels (e.g., phone, email,
online chat, etc.). These robots can either handle a task end-to-end depending
on its complexity (e.g., producing a reservation invoice) or elevate it to an agent.
In instances when the engagement is elevated, the robot can then share the data
it has collected with the agent so that they don’t have to spend time sourcing
it or asking the guest themselves.
Similarly, robots can provide
agents with next-best actions to support upselling and cross-selling opportunities
(e.g., room updates, car rentals) so that they can boost the value of
transactions already underway. Assisted by automation, agents can achieve
guests’ goals and conclude the inquiry sooner, creating a more efficient and
pleasant customer experience while enabling the agent to service more guests
during their shifts.
Alternatively, robots can help
companies manage inbounds upfront by capturing and presenting metrics such as
the numbers of calls in the queue, which can help operators manage workloads by
monitoring how many guests the agents are interfacing with. Then, automation can
work to reduce the average call time by processing the manual aspects of the interaction,
such as monitoring the call and taking notes, so the agent doesn’t need to spend
minutes afterwards recapping what was discussed.
Supporting productivity under
Beyond alleviating customer
service wait times and backlogs, automation can drive efficiencies in back-office
tasks to streamline cumbersome processes - an essential level of support as
businesses combat internal pressures such as staff shortages.
To relieve busy
employees of excess paperwork and unlock the engaging potential that makes them
so valuable within the industry, hotels can automate tedious form processing,
such as the way folios are generated. For example, instead of having hotel
employees source guests’ details either from records on file or through
communications, the guest can request a copy of their folio via a chatbot and automation
software can capture this information and plug it into a designated format to
share with the guest.
Because they allow for increased efficiency
within the industry - benefitting guests and staff alike - automation
technologies can drive value long after the pandemic subsides.
businesses may be accelerating their adoption of automation to offset the pressures
of COVID-19, dynamic programs can be configured to address new demands as they
emerge, so that companies can adapt quickly and position themselves for success
no matter the circumstances.
About the author...
Brad Beumer is UiPath's customer experience and contact center lead for the Americas.