Using an AI-Powered Virtual Agent to Stay Ahead of Guests’ Wants and Needs

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When the phone lines are manned by the hospitality industry’s first AI-powered virtual agent, hotel staff can shift their attention off the phone lines and to current guests.
By John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook - 8.16.2022

A good hotel is always a few steps ahead of its guests. Any experienced concierge will tell you that it pays dividends to anticipate guests’ needs before they may even be aware of them.

If a guest is checking in for a one-night stay, make them feel welcome by offering a later checkout time to better suit their schedule. If a family arrives around dinner time, hand them their room keys with a list of restaurant recommendations, and offer to have the concierge call ahead and make reservations if needed. Simple anticipatory actions, like offering an umbrella to guests on the way out of the door when the forecast suggests rain go a long way and help secure lifelong returning customers.

It’s important, too, to remember that the hospitality industry is a global industry. Hotel staff are likely to encounter dozens of languages monthly. While many hotels strive to have bilingual and multilingual workers on staff, it can be difficult to communicate across language barriers for most hotel employees. When your staff doesn’t speak the same language as your guests, it is hard to anticipate their needs.

The Industry’s First AI-Powered Virtual Agent

A next-generation solution, Annette™, The Virtual Hotel Agent™ (Annette), is designed to help hotel staff stay firmly ahead of their guests’ wants and needs as the first-ever artificial intelligence-powered voice bot designed specifically for the hospitality industry.

Annette helps hotels bridge the language gap. When a guest calls, and Annette answers, she understands no matter what language they speak. Annette has been programmed with a new model of Natural Language Understanding software based on human conversations, resulting in a powerful new way for her to understand what guests are requesting, and for her to provide the correct answer.

Annette features API interfaces with many common hotel software platforms, and her ability to work in different languages is an added advantage that will help hotels curb labor costs and address language barriers at the front desk and in the reservation department.

Moreover, the solution is specifically programmed to answer the hospitality industry’s top FAQs to help your hotel better meet guests’ needs.

In a recent study, a hotel chain with more than 800 hotels found that 91% of emails/messages have one of the same 18 questions. Another chain with 30 hotels found that 63% of emails/messages have one of the same 8 questions. An additional study found that more than 50% of pre-stay and in-stay requests from online travel agencies such as Expedia go unanswered.

“Hotels can program Annette to answer 100 property-specific FAQs,” said Kimberly Samuelson, Director of Digital Business Development at Travel Outlook. “Annette will help anticipate guests’ needs before they even arrive by answering their most pressing questions when they call.”

Beyond Annette’s ability to answer customers’ FAQs, she has an unparalleled ability to communicate naturally and effectively. The team behind Annette used social media, pop culture, and movies to develop Annette’s flawless natural tone. When callers hear Annette’s voice and conversational manner, they’re don’t hear a robotic voice bot, they hear a familiar voice with a conversational tone.

When the phone lines are manned by the hospitality industry’s first AI-powered virtual agent, hotel staff can shift their attention off the phone lines and to current guests.

Annette answers up to 60% of front desk department calls. Annette taking over the bulk of the work of the front desk allows properties to refocus their staff around current guests to better anticipate their needs.

Annette can also anonymize caller information and collect questions for hotel management, providing a 100% accurate report on why guests are calling. Precise Guest Insight™ allows hotels to gather valuable data on callers without revealing call identity and use that data to further predict and meet each guests’ needs.

Virtual agents represent the next generation of hospitality-specific tech. Given the high cost of labor, Annette is quickly becoming the most effective solution to consider for your property’s voice channel.

A veteran in the hospitality industry, John has owned, developed, and managed hotels for many years.  After earning a BBA from New Mexico State University, he started his career with AT&T, gaining invaluable insight and experience in the early years of the data revolution.  His experience in technology and hospitality merged in his development of Travel Outlook, the world-class hospitality contact center.  More recently, he has branched out with the creation of ExpressRez, the premier contact center for the Bed and Breakfast industry, and with the creation of Annette™, The Virtual Hotel Agent™, the first AI-powered voice bot for the hotel industry.

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