By Dave Berger
The demand for in-room voice-activated digital assistants continues to grow exponentially, not only for their ability to put safety-critical distance between hotel guests and staff, but because they eliminate physical touchpoints in guestrooms and efficiently deliver personal service at scale, a requirement at properties operating with limited staff. These devices are improving service by shortening wait times, increasing accessibility, improving request accuracy, expediting routing to the appropriate staff person, and boosting satisfaction.
In “The Road to 2025: Hospitality in the Digital Era,” Cognizant reports that experience-based guest services will become the hallmark of hotel offerings in 2025. The more memorable the hotel experience, the better. Experiential success comes by way of feature rich conversation management software powering these consumer-grade devices and turning them into a hotel business tool that drives more efficient guest service, influences guests’ behavior, improves net promoter scores, and helps hoteliers understand guests better.
LEGOLAND® Hotels, Village Hotels, Viceroy Hotels & Resorts, The Gale Miami, and GANSEVOORT Hotel Group and are just a few of the hotel companies pioneering voice-activated digital assistants. These innovative hotel companies are leveraging Volara’s contactless guest engagement and touchless room controls solution to facilitate private, automated, and live conversational interactions between hotel guests and staff.
During post-deployment interviews, hoteliers shared that they sought out the solution to complement a recent renovation, add to their guest self-service program, or as part of an enterprise-wide modernization program. All said they made the investment to further differentiation their offering in the market and attract more guests. What each found was that their return on investment was measurable, with the devices increasing net promoter scores, boosting operational efficiency, reducing costs, and improving service quality.
LEGOLAND Hotels Increases Guest Engagement
Merlin Entertainments began using Volara’s private and secure conversation management software atop the Google Nest Hub in August 2021. Utilization of the Nest Hub devices with Volara has reimagined the in-room guest experience, even eliminating the need for high-touch items like bedside alarm clocks and telephones. A review of the utilization data from LEGOLAND® Hotels shows that 76.8% of Nest Hub devices with Volara at LEGOLAND® Hotels are used each day; 67.47% of those devices at LEGOLAND® Hotels that are engaged once are used three or more times per day; 25.38% of those devices at LEGOLAND® Hotels are used 13+ times each day; and an average of 10 hours of staff time are saved every day due to the automation of greetings, recommendations, and information sharing, as well as item and service requests by the Nest Hubs with Volara.
“LEGOLAND Hotel at LEGOLAND® New York Resort opened without any telephones in the guestrooms. The Nest Hubs with Volara are an intuitive means of engaging with hotel staff and services. Instead of picking up the phone when guests need something, they just ask Google. The device is not only providing entertainment and satisfaction, but it is driving service optimization. Volara’s integration is helping us fulfill service requests more rapidly and providing us with actionable business intelligence to help us make data-driven decisions. If we see a spike in guests asking Google for more blankets, for example, we can start putting extra blankets in all rooms when the weather starts changing to cut back on service calls. Voice AI in rooms through Volara and Google is opening a whole world of opportunity to operators like us and it’s creating experiences that today’s travelers are craving.”
— James Barton, Group Head of Business Transformation, Hotels, Merlin Entertainments
By serving guests through voice automation, as well as eliminating print collateral in rooms and placing each hotel’s e-directory on the digital voice assistant, LEGOLAND® Hotels are shaving costs. Guests will be able to scan a QR code on the Google device to view a digital menu, book a table, or place an order, adding a digital sales channel in the guestroom and driving more revenues.
Village Hotels Reducing Demands on Reception Hosts
In May 2021, Village Hotels became the first hotel brand to commit to voice enabling its entire portfolio of properties. The technology rollout is the largest implementation of voice assistants in hotels in the United Kingdom, with all 32 properties going LIVE on the Volara-powered Google hotel solution.
“Deploying Nest Hubs has freed up time for our front desk hosts who now have more time to interact with guests. Savings on the support contract and server room machinery by replacing our analog telephone system easily covered the outlay of purchasing the Nest Hubs.”
— Neil Cryer, Head of IT Operations & Projects, Village Hotels
Prior to deployment, Village Hotels’ aim was that the Nest Hubs would increase customer satisfaction, reduce operating costs, and increase spend per customer. Today, each of those goals have been achieved, and then some. With information displayed on the Nest Hub about the hotel’s services, it has significantly freed up reception hosts, giving them more time to spend engaging guests at check in and taking care of guest needs that require a personal touch. With Nest Hubs replacing all landline phones in rooms, it has eliminated the cost of purchasing new phones and maintaining existing hardware. And, with Nest Hubs serving as a guest request device, it has reduced the number of calls to housekeeping, thereby streamlining service and boosting customer satisfaction.
Viceroy Hotels & Resorts Leveraging Digital Screens to Drive Onsite Revenues
Viceroy Hotels & Resorts began leveraging the Volara-powered solution on the Google Nest Hub in October 2020 at the Viceroy Washington D.C. and Hotel Zena. The solution, integrated with the hotels’ existing ALICE hotel operations platform, enables guests to call internal hotel phone numbers, provides Sonifi’s interactive television system’s controls on voice command, and eliminates the printed guest services directory.
“Today’s hotel experience is voice centric and it involves connecting digital voice assistants to the TV, thermostat, live-streaming radio services and other hotel systems to make the guest experience more natural and like home — actually, better than home. Wanting the Viceroy Hotels & Resorts experience to feel like a natural extension of our guests’ daily lives, we made the commitment to go ‘all in’ with voice technology powered by Volara. This is a fun, interactive, and touchless way for guests to communicate with the hotel; it’s also a seamless way for staff to manage and fulfill guests’ voice requests. These devices are empowering guests along their personal journeys to enjoy the hotel safely and privately on voice command.”
— Darren Clark, Vice President of Technology for Viceroy Hotels & Resorts
Integration to existing technologies is key to the success of the voice program at Viceroy Hotels & Resorts. The brand’s voice assistant solutions are integrated with lighting and thermostat controls, in-room entertainment systems so guests’ an play music from their playlists, and more. To support its on-site marketing efforts, the brand is using the digital screen to prompt in-house promotions and drive up-sell opportunities.
The Gale South Beach Boosting Satisfaction Rankings, Repeat Business
The Gale South Beach, a Curio Collection by Hilton hotel, is seeing a big rise in guest satisfaction rankings since going LIVE with Google Nest Hubs in all rooms when the property re-opened in October 2020. The hotel has moved up +40 spots on TripAdvisor, and there has been a steady rise in repeat booking from return customers.
“Adding the Volara-powered Google hotel solution was the first step in our contactless initiative, and guests are blown away by the convenience. People are familiar and comfortable with smart speakers and offering an identical voice-on-command experience at The Gale like they have at home is really comforting to travelers. Since we reopened, guests are engaging with our staff and benefitting from our services while remaining safe and socially distant thanks to Volara and Google.”
— Kevin Waldstein, Gale South Beach General Manager
The hotel is achieving an ROI through reduced expenses and improved efficiency, as Volara is integrated with the hotel’s operations platform ALICE. All service requests are seamlessly routed to the appropriate department for fulfillment, thereby increasing staff productivity. The company is also reporting cost savings from less credits being given to guests for service shortcomings. Whether guests request an item (“Hey Google, bring a bottle of champagne”), schedule a service (“Hey Google, bring my car around front”), seek recommendations (“Hey Google, where I can get a good steak?”) or just need to know how to access a hotel amenity (“Hey Google, how do I connect to the WiFi?”), the voice technology is streamlining all guest communication resulting in improved staff response times and higher satisfaction scores.
Gansevoort Meatpacking Leveraging Voice to Aid in Reopening
Like The Gale, New York’s most iconic hotel, Gansevoort Meatpacking, also deployed the voice-activated digital voice assistants in October of 2020, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2021, when guests began to return in mass to the property, that the solution was put to the test. In addition to leveraging the solution to access hotel and neighborhood information, guests are now ordering special “indulgences” via the digital screen, and they are placing service requests from the hotel’s Knowcross staff ticketing system. The hotel is increasing customer satisfaction, streamlining housekeeping request routing, and boosting on-site revenue spend per customer through Volara and its integration partners.
“At the Gansevoort Meatpacking we are constantly striving to bring our guests the latest in technology and the most seamless experience possible. We are thrilled to be working with Volara and Google to offer guests this experience. With this new technology guests can play music, order anything from a bottle of champagne to a set of fresh towels, and even learn more about the neighborhood just by chatting with their Google Nest Hub.”
— Anton Moore, Gansevoort Meatpacking General Manager
While travelers are understandably concerned about their safety, the Gansevoort Hotel is confident that by enabling guests to control their experiences on voice command — from turning on/off lights and TV to contacting the front desk or room service without having to touch the physical in-room phone — it will go a long way toward building traveler confidence and getting the hotel industry back on the road to recovery.
We’ve been proud to see (and hear) that our technology is supporting hoteliers’ efforts to reinvent their guests’ experiences while reducing costs and increasing service. At many hotels, our contactless guest engagement and touchless room controls solution is replacing the telephone, bedside clock, printed guest directory, and Bluetooth speaker. By simply adding a Volara-powered voice assistant to hotel guestrooms, guests will enjoy a safer and more convenient stay while operators reap measurable returns on the technology investment through increased satisfaction, new revenue streams, operational efficiency gains, and repeat business.