AI Assists Our Advancement Into a Virtual World

By Michael Blake Chief Executive Officer, Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) | January 14, 2018

Artificial Intelligence (AI) provides systems the ability to perform tasks which would normally require human intelligence. This intelligence encompasses visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, translation between languages and more. Consider the use of AI occurring in three separate instances. The first is when an object is simply asked to do something. The second being when an object augments things that were previously routinely performed. And the third, when an object can learn and perform more complex tasks. Each of these generic instances can be transferred over and applied to the hotel setting.

An object has the ability to be programmed to perform certain tasks to avoid dedicating human resources to brainlessly complete the same job. One way we have seen this branch into the hotel industry is through the use of robotics. Hotels have implemented robots to perform simple tasks including check-in services, luggage storage and retrieval, and room service delivery. If jobs can be completed by objects without taking away from the guest experience, why should these tasks not be taken over? These objects may also offer additional benefits such as improving the accuracy of output and lowering the cost of labor.

AI augmenting system processes can save significant amounts of time and labor for a hotel. This would enable the routing of more difficult questions, and potential emotional ones, to a human guest representative. The entering of guest information on a routine reservation is one reoccurring practice of an employee that could be replaced by the implementation of a chatbot. The chatbot would seamlessly be able to fill in the necessary data fields, lightening the workload of a hotel employee and allowing them to spend more time on other responsibilities.

Learning and performing complex tasks ties machine learning to AI. Machine learning is comprised of an object using a wide variety of algorithms and methodologies to first pull data and then learn from that data to complete the task at hand as well as improve its performance over time. Machine learning plays a great deal of application in the understanding of guest behavior and pricing. If a guest books a spa package on one visit, during the next visit, the machine will be capable of detecting that information and then providing a discounted rate for the same spa service or a similar one. AI and machine learning can also work in junction to automate room features. For example, a guest could set their wake-up time for their alarm to go off, but then AI would trigger the drapes to open and their preferred news station to also turn on at the same time.

Benefits for Both the Guest and the Hotel

A return on investment is always an imperative factor for any company. Therefore, it is important that we make sure these emerging concepts or products will actually benefit both the guest and the hotel. AI enables guests to engage on platforms which were previously absent. These platforms may include a chatbot on a hotel’s app or a voice control in the guestroom. Both of these technologies create convenience as well as enhance the guests’ experience and guest-to-hotel relationship. Without these platforms, guests would be forced to walk down to the front desk or call the front desk (assuming they are in their room) to receive an answer to what may be a simple question. These routes would both account for more time out of the guest’s stay and may not always ensure immediate feedback.

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Coming up in March 2018...

Human Resources: Value Creation

Businesses must evolve to stay competitive and this is also true of employment positions within those organizations. In the hotel industry, for example, the role that HR professionals perform continues to broaden and expand. Today, they are generally responsible for five key areas - government compliance; payroll and benefits; employee acquisition and retention; training and development; and organizational structure and culture. In this enlarged capacity, HR professionals are no longer seen as part of an administrative cost center, but rather as a member of the leadership team that creates strategic value within their organization. HR professionals help to define company policies and plans; enact and enforce systems of accountability; and utilize definable metrics to measure and justify outcomes. Of course, there are always new issues for HR professionals to address. Though seemingly safe for the moment, will the Affordable Care Act ultimately be repealed and replaced and, if so, what will the ramifications be? There are issues pertaining to Millennials in the workforce and women in leadership roles, as well as determining the appropriate use of social media within the organization. There are new onboarding processes and e-learning training platforms to evaluate, in addition to keeping abreast of political issues like the minimum wage hike movement, or the re-evaluation of overtime rules. Finally, there are genuine immigration and deportation issues that affect HR professionals, especially if they are located in Dreamer Cities, or employ a workforce that could be adversely impacted by federal government policies. The March Hotel Business Review will take a look at some of the issues, strategies and techniques that HR professionals are employing to create and sustain value in their organization.