By Raj Singh

It's commonly known that assembly line workers often experience burnout from the repetitive, mind-numbing nature of their jobs. In their instance, though, there's not much they can do on the job to battle their burnout and job dissatisfaction that still allows them to retain their jobs. It's a take-it-or-leave-it situation. The parallel in hospitality guest services – the frontline employee who fields repetitive, oftentimes mundane guest requests all day. Fortunately, there's an emerging alternative: a new breed of collaborative solution where humans and artificial intelligence (AI) work together. This hybrid approach to managing guest service fosters a win-win-win scenario, one that benefits employees, guests and hotel operators alike. Let's explore how this impacts hotels today.

The Guest Services Grind

Don't get me wrong. People in hospitality like serving people – it's what they do, and generally why they were drawn to the industry in the first place. But day-in, day-out, guests pose a lot of the same exact questions, have the same needs, request the same information: "What's the WiFi password?" "How do I get to the hotel gym?" "I'd like to have some more towels sent to my room." "When's checkout?" Fielding these same questions over and over again can start to feel like Groundhog's Day, and that's when burnout can set in.

According to the Deloitte Workplace Burnout Survey, even passionate employees can suffer frequent burnout which affects how they feel about their company and their job:

  • Nearly 70% of employees felt their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization;
  • 21% said their company does not offer any programs or initiatives to prevent or alleviate burnout;
  • Nearly half of all millennial employees said they have left a job specifically because they felt burned out.

AI To the Rescue

Enter AI solutions – initiatives that relieve front line staff of some of the rinse-repeat cycles that lead to burnout and disengagement. AI can process volumes of data at scale. One single AI solution can take in multiple and concurrent inquiries and simultaneously send back appropriate responses. In hospitality, this means AI can be used to automate answers to common FAQs and manage multiple guest queries at the same time. Questions get asked and answered through an AI agent that guests access through their smartphone. This kind of AI agent – the "smartconcierge" – provides relevant, satisfying, instant answers to guests while at the same time relieving the employee of having to repeatedly do so (or do so as often).

Smartconcierges have the intelligence to also know when they cannot help a guest – when a human guest services agent needs to enter the equation. The smartconcierge then notifies the human agent and hands-off the entire conversation, context included, to the human agent so she can seamlessly pick up exactly where the AI agent left off. This limits guest frustration at having to start over, which in turn means a better guest experience. (Guests don't like boring repetitive actions any more than employees do!)

With the smartconcierge in place as a guest's first go-to, the human guest services agent can instead focus on unique or higher-level, more stimulating problem-solving. This kind of AI solution actually ends up better engaging employees by as much as eight percent per year, as research conducted by Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration has shown. Research has also shown that better-engaged hotel employees directly correlates to employee retention and increased guest satisfaction, proven by higher Net Promoter Scores and TripAdvisor ratings. The employees win, the guests win, the hotelier wins – that's the win-win-win trifecta needed to succeed in this competitive market.

Other Benefits to Hospitality AI-Human Collaboration

This winning combination of human and AI collaboration also has more hidden benefits but ones that are just as impactful:

  • Smartconcierges are an agreeable way to get humans used to – an even interested in – what AI can do. Guests are already comfortable with text messaging, and smartconcierges leverage this common practice, enhancing it with human sensibilities. Hotel employees also interact with the AI on the back-end through simple, intuitive interfaces and see first-hand what the smartconcierge has already asked and answered for the guest. It's as simple as just reading someone else's messaging conversation… something we intuitively do with friends and family. In other words, smartconcierges humanize technology.
  • AI makes the whole hotel smarter. Because smartconcierges collect interactive data that hotels can analyze to help improve operations, guest services, and the guest experience, nearly all employees can benefit and grow. In fact, when humans don't have to be bogged-down by dull, repetitive tasks, they can think more creatively, something AI can help them do. Recent research of 1,500 companies by Accenture found that firms achieve the most significant performance improvements when humans and machines work together.
  • Humans + AI sell more together. While smartconcierges can promote suggestive selling – premium upgrades, room service order teasers, special promotional offers and the like – it's the humans who still need to think of what to sell and what the offers will be. AI is merely the technology to deliver human-devised sales content at the right time and in the proper context.

The application of human and AI collaboration in hospitality creates far stronger guest and employee hotel experiences. If your hotel is looking to excel at experience, you need to explore this kind of collaboration today.