The world is changing faster than ever before with technology transforming daily lives and experiences. Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and automation are being leveraged by brands across industries to revolutionize various aspects of a consumer’s daily life—healthcare, privacy, home security and communication.
Hence, it is safe to say that innovative technology has led to disruption in customer experience in every industry in the 21st century, and the service industry is surely not an exception. Especially in the hospitality vertical, innovations such as customer relationship management, point-of-sale tools and hotel inventory management software, to name a few, have come a long way in enabling a seamless and delightful consumer experience at various touchpoints. Gone are the days when sales teams would keep physical journals to track guest activity and personalize the experience through handwritten thank you notes. Cash deposit boxes or cash registers are being slowly replaced with barcodes, mobile payments, and now cloud-based technology, doing away with the need to have a physical payment system at the reception counter and increasing security, efficiency and transparency.
Ensuring a great customer experience calls for managing 360-degree touchpoints and tonnes of data. The solution lies in how the organizations leverage their systems to synthesize big data and generate intelligible insights from it. AI is the next innovation poised to make an impact on hospitality. The world over, many businesses are either developing in-house or trying to adapt AI solutions and, by 2022, Gartner predicts that one in five workers engaged in mostly non-routine functions will rely on AI to do most of the day-to-day, manual tasks associated with their roles.Voice and natural language processing technologies have also grown by leaps and bounds to actually interpret the questions posed to them and deliver smart, contextual answers. ML has allowed voice platforms such as Siri and Alexa to get smarter and the potential is immense.
Soon, guests everywhere will be able to control the room temperature, contact the housekeeping staff, or see the room service menu either from their smartphones or by speaking to a virtual assistant promising us an experience like never before.
Augmented reality (AR), which is not yet in focus, will be adopted in the coming years in the hospitality industry. AR-powered signage can be used to enhance customer experience by routing them to check-in counters, or the breakfast location or even during emergencies by helping them identify the safest evacuation route.
This, however, doesn’t mean that the hospitality industry will become completely automated. Technology cannot replicate the experience of staying at your favourite hotel where you have a lifetime worth of connections and memories. These new technologies are aimed to support humans in delighting the guests, while making the overall process more advanced and efficient by eliminating middle layers, and the unnecessary delays and losses involved in manual, routine tasks.
We will still require humans to focus on meaningful customer service interactions and tackling more complex issues with guests that cannot be easily automated. This will enable businesses to build a consumer-friendly model, providing immense value to both the customer and the business.
Anil Goel is group chief technology and product officer at OYO Hotels and Homes.