As a Technopreneur running a successful Tech-based Employee Lifecycle Management company whereby I have applied the Industry 4.0 dimensions (9 dimensions as articulated in the pictorial below), I have been training and consulting for organizations across multiple industries to help them with their digitalization journey. In our “Digital Transformation Series”, this article covers the common challenges faced by the Hospitality industry and how digitalization can add value to this industry. The value creation I am talking about is in terms of costs reduction, increase in productivity and efficiency and of course revenue enhancements. The ultimate intent here is to improve guest experience as poor customer reviews can be disastrous to the brand.
Escalating labour costs and finding talents willing to work for long and tiresome hours amidst growing global tourism have posed challenges to the hospitality industry especially the hotels. Technology can play a vital role here to provide optimal guest experiences, from the moment a potential guest browses the Internet to look for a hotel to make a reservation until the guest checks out. I would say the digital engagement should be continuous to ensure long-term guest loyalty to the brand.
Artificial intelligence powered robots are now able to undertake the following roles:
- Front reception to automatically check in guests who can select choice rooms and access rooms via keyless entry. The guest can then download a mobile app that can help to direct them to the room, explore the property, make bookings in restaurants and even track if housekeeping is completed.
- Customer Relations Officer cum Concierge Services can help to address customer queries that typically include asking for directions within hotel and to external amenities and tourist attractions, recommendations on what to do and how to make the most of the hotel stay and so on. A mobile robot CRO can handle conversations in multiple languages as well.
- Automated chefs like the Moley Kitchen can cook up a feast inspired by world renowned chefs. I recently encountered a robotic egg-maker which churned out customized egg dishes in less than a minute using the condiments of my choice – No more snaking queues for my omelette.
- Devices to assist (may even replace) chambermaids clean the rooms
- Room services can now be undertaken by mobile robots who can bring over the requested items and even food to the room
IOT devices (Internet of Things) like Amazon Alexa or Google Home (or equivalent) are now increasingly found in hotels which can render useful advice to hotel guests based on their likes and desires and this facilitates high level of personalization. Best of all – They can handle multiple languages which means in-room Concierge services can reach a whole new level now. Additionally, IOT devices can react to voice commands and operate the air-con, coffee machine, television and curtains.
Big Data Analytics can facilitate predictive modelling that can help hotels anticipate demands and plan accordingly with minimum wastes and better services. Data analytics also can be used to analyze country level occupancy and average room rates, to determine whether the hotel’s room price is competitive enough. Such data can provide the necessary insights to modify room rates on the fly based on external factors such as weather patterns or upcoming events, or to provide special room rates to particular loyalty program members.
The analytics should go beyond the regular seasonal demand based plannings. There is this hotel I regularly stay in in Manila. During my earlier visit, I had reported some issues about the air-conditioning and the positioning of the toiletries. They not only had acted on it but during my subsequent visit, they mentioned to me about it and gave me the same room to have a positive first-hand feel of the improvement made. They even informed me about a specific conference happening the following month (relevant to my business) as they had done some profiling of me based on the details of my business I had submitted before (with my consent of course). They offered me an upgrade if I were to come for that conference. This is definitely a lovely touch for any guest whereby data analytics is able to enhance customer engagement and loyalty and maintain brand reputation.
Data analytics can be paired with social media and other online sites (like Expedia, TripAdvisor etc) to gauge customer sentiment and determine where the hotel can improve based on guest reviews and social media comments. With the information gleaned from review analytics, hotels can plan improvements to their operations to better improve the guest experience—and increase their revenue.
Mixed Reality has an immense potential to create a magical experience for hotel guests. Kids can use Augmented Reality (like the Pokemon Go Game) to gamify the experience like viewing realistic depictions of celebrities or even mythical creates enjoying the hotel property. Guests can learn about the places they visit using this technology.
Potential for Blockchain in hospitality is enormous other than using tokens to make payments. One commonly discussed application is to use blockchain to increase loyalty among customers. Loyalty reward schemes can make it easier for customers to access their points and redeem them. With the blockchain, rewards can be distributed through digital tokens that could, potentially, be used anywhere, at any time, while the inherent security benefits could reduce loyalty scheme fraud.
A company called LockChain offers a subscription-based (and zero commission) marketplace powered by blockchain which allows hotels to rent out property and permit payments in one place. The decentralised booking engine eradicates middlemen.
In conclusion, among all industries, I strongly believe hospitality industry has the largest scope for Industry 4.0 technologies (including Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity that typically benefit all industries.)