Hospitality is a numbers game. Supply and its elasticity is limited. Demand is finicky and price conscious. Amorphous terms like "guest experience" are challenging to quantify, yet most argue critical to filling guest rooms at premium rates in competitive markets.

As a vendor to the hotel industry, we are often asked about the return on investment (ROI) of our technology product. The dirty truth is that there is no ROI on any vendor's product. The ROI comes from the optimized use of that product — whether by guests, staff or management.

Recently I heard a peer vendor say that when his company's technology is first implemented, the ROI is significant, measurable and quantifiable. After three years of staff turnover, structural changes, service adjustments, and evolving guest requirements, that return wains. Constant monitoring, tweaking and updating is necessary to maintain and optimize the return over the life of the asset — yet hoteliers too often view technology as a "set it and forget it" application. They shirk at license and support fees aimed at maintaining (even augmenting) the return they demand.

Return in the hotel industry is often derived from, and loosely connected to, the guest experience. It's a term that translates into improved net promoter scores, loyalty, online reviews, occupancy rates, average daily rate and coveted direct bookings.

As I considered how to quantify the guest experience resulting from the implementation of our product (secure, integrated, and accurate in-room voice assistant solutions), I set out on a 10-day, five city journey to illuminate the return that had led our clients to renew their agreement with us month after month. What I found was that the return derives from the use of the technology to drive business objectives. Here are some examples:

  • Direct Bookings in Portland

Hoteliers use our in-room voice assistant solution to enable a live intercom between the guest and staff, whether onsite or offsite. Most hotels immediately think to use this feature to service their guests, whether to facilitate special recommendations from the concierge or support highly customized service requests. It reduces friction and is a whole lot more appealing to guests than picking up the antiquated guestroom telephone.

One innovative hotelier in Portland is encouraging guests to use the solution to book their next stay at another hotel in the same group or brand. By directing the voice assistant to "call reservations," guests are connected to a helpful reservationist that enables them to book their next holiday or business trip direct. The Portland hotelier used the technology to reduce friction in driving a subsequent booking, thereby facilitating a business outcome.

  • Less Comped Rooms in Charlotte

Technology can save service issues resulting in fewer comped rooms and other credits on guestroom folios. During my recent visit to Charlotte, a hotelier told me that a construction project had begun across the street from his hotel. He budgeted to compensate guests for the noise that was billowing into the guestrooms facing the construction site. Then, one member of his team suggested that the hotel promote the white noise feature on our voice assistant to the guests in the impacted rooms. Guests loved the cool breeze and babbling brook so much that zero compensation had to be paid and guest complaints were replaced by increased satisfaction. The hotelier used the technology to alleviate a service challenge that threatened to impact the habitability of his rooms, thereby eliminating the need for guest compensation.

  • 'Instagrammable' Moments in Palm Beach

A Palm Beach hotelier said he used to believe technology threatened the personal nature of hospitality until he discovered that guests had been posting photos and videos to social media sites of themselves engaging with hotel's in-room voice assistant. The laughs and giggles from the happy guests made it clear that our technology had created an "Instagramable" moment that they'd remember, share and would forever associate with their stay at the property. The hotelier learned that technology can in fact be silly and being silly is part of the promised escape for many holiday travelers.

  • Reduced Friction in Tucson

People travel to escape the stresses of everyday life, yet the entire experience of travelling is too often wrought with the lines, waits, and failed service we are attempting to leave behind. Removing friction from a hotel stay is the promised value proposition of many hotel technology vendors. This promise is manifested in many ways, but a conversation with one guest in the lobby lounge of a client's hotel in Tucson put the value into perspective. He said he was enjoying a dirty martini after a long day at work. He normally worked from home but had been asked by his boss to present his project in person to management at corporate headquarters. That morning, he had not planned enough time to call his kids before they left for school, shave, and intake his daily coffee. So, handsfree while shaving, speaking aloud to engage his in-room voice assistant he requested coffee delivery and spoke with his kids. He arrived at the office with time to set up, a clear caffeinated head, and — after his executive team arrived — nailed his presentation. Friction reduction can take many forms and be quantified in many ways, but in this case, it resulted in a promotion for, and loyalty from, a grateful guest.

  • Personal Connections in Philadelphia

Hoteliers know that engaged guests spend more money during their stay, how we define "engaged" has evolved over the years as guests' preferences have changed, and hotel services have evolved to meet both those preferences and budgetary constraints. Apps have replaced concierges, text messages have replaced general manager's greetings, and robots have replaced service delivery agents. But it's not necessary to trade off personalized hospitality in the pursuit of efficiency and cost reduction. During a recent visit to Philadelphia, a hotel general manager showed me how she was greeting every guest and bringing the voice of the hotel's concierge into her guest rooms through her voice assistant solution. She freely admitted that her responsibilities as a general manager simply didn't permit her to welcome guests as she used to enjoy, but by uploading a recording of her own voice to the in-room voice assistant solution, she now was able to scale her own hospitality to every guest in every room. After seeing success with this voice-automated yet highly personal greeting, she asked her concierge to pass her curated recommendations for dining, tours, and other excursions along to guests in the same way. She noted that "the concierge recorded perhaps the most dramatic description of the Liberty Bell that anyone has ever heard!" Guests leave the hotel feeling a personal connection not just to the city of Brotherly Love, but to the elite hotel staff who enabled their experiences during their visit.

  • Experience Curation in Chicago

Leading hotels today aren't boxes with beds; they are destinations sought after for the experiences they provide. Yet many hotels are blessed with overwhelming amenities (from spectacular views and relaxing spas to creative restaurants and mind-blowing entertainment) inside and outside the four walls of the hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel's curation of the guest experience is too often left to cardboard flyers left in guestrooms and the occasional sign in the elevator. Guests can miss the best features of the hotel —whether it's the rooftop bar overlooking the skyline, complimentary wine hour in the lobby, or that elite staff member who stands out for making a personal connection with guests. One Chicago hotelier said she's guiding guests on the optimal use of time during their stay. When an engaging thoughtful and enthusiastic member of staff recommends the oysters at the Sunday brunch via the in-room voice assistant, the conversion rates are measurably higher than when that same meal is promoted on a piece of cardboard. Experience curation can take many forms, but the impact and influence of well used technologies in that process provides a clear return.

So, what's the lesson to be learned? Purchasing a technology solution is not going to change your business outcomes. Well implementing, maintaining, using and creatively optimizing that solution will.

About Volara

Volara is THE provider of custom voice-based solutions for the hospitality industry and the partner of choice for Josh.ai. It's the only provider of voice-based solutions to the hospitality industry with the Alexa for Business Service Delivery Designation from Amazon. Volara is also a launch partner of Alexa for Hospitality, Google's Hotel Solution, and Google Assistant Interpreter Mode. Volara's proprietary software creates a hotel business tool atop the leading smart speakers and natural language processing platforms. Volara's proven best practices ensure high utilization rates and an optimal guest experience that creates personal and remarkable engagement with brands. Volara is the largest manager of Alexa and Google Assistant solutions in the enterprise today and over 20 million people have used voice-based solutions powered by Volara. To learn more about Volara, visit https://volara.io.

About Uniguest 

Uniguest is a global leader in providing connected technology solutions to enable those in hospitality, senior living, sports/stadiums, entertainment, retail, education, government, corporate, and enterprise to engage with their audience. Uniguest is highly focused on creating deep client relationships as evidenced by its most recent NPS score of 78. Uniguest provides turnkey technology solutions that include hardware and software solution packages, professional services, system implementation, and 24/7/365 multi-lingual support. The Uniguest family incorporates the Tripleplay, Touchtown, Volara, Planet eSteam, UCView and JANUS Displays technology and teams. For more information visit www.uniguest.com or contact Uniguest Head of Marketing, Stephanie Scott, [email protected]

Barb Worcester
PRPRO
+1 440 930 5770
Uniguest