Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 14 2016

This Hotel Chain’s Guest Engagement Strategy Relies On Three Letters

David McMillin

hotel-this-week

SMS — as in, short message service — is something most of use everyday. From texting friends about meeting for lunch to writing work colleagues in advance of a presentation, texting has replaced the need to talk in many scenarios. Now, Edwardian Hotels London, which operates luxury hotels in the United Kingdom, is bringing SMS to the guest experience at 12 Radisson Blu properties with a new artificially intelligent service called Edward. It’s a chatbot, designed to immediately respond to guest inquiries and complaints via text. Want to order a pizza to your room? Need to request towels? Looking for the best bar nearby? Rather than ask a human being, Edward will give you the answers.

“It is imperative that we evolve our guest experiences to meet growing consumer demand for more digital interaction,” Michael Mrini, Director of Information Technology at Edwardian, said in a statement.

Edward is powered by a cloud-based technology from Aspect, and he uses a natural language understanding interface so that guests can use normal conversational language rather than awkward, robotic terms. Joe Gagnon, SVP and Chief Customer Strategy Officer at Aspect, believes that texting will transform the guest experience. “Texting and messaging will very soon become the simple and central entry point for the entire customer service ecosystem,” Gagnon said. “It is much more convenient for us to order room service or get recommendations from Edward on the local tourist hotspots — all with a simple text.”

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Hotels Hop On The Digital Bandwagon

Edwardian’s move underscores a larger trend across the hotel industry to experiment with digital interactions. At Starwood’s Aloft hotels, guests can order snacks, hangover kits and phone chargers with emojis. Commune Hotels & Resorts didn’t bother investing in a mobile app; instead, interactions revolve around texting. While most hotels still have some type of human backup plan behind these initiatives, some believe that robots will take over the travel experience.

MORE: Are Robots The Future Of The Hotel Industry?

Can Meetings Deliver More Digital Offerings?

As attendees grow comfortable with texting bots from the comfort of their hotel rooms, it seems likely that they will expect the same type of digital convenience during a day of educational programming. This may strike fear into the hearts of many meeting planners; imagine attempting to accommodate hundreds of last-minute special meal requests or responding to dozens of notifications that the general session room is too hot or too cold. However, an on-site text-based system seems like it could also have plenty of good applications and reduce the need for large staffing numbers at help desks. If a bot can manage directional assistance and help attendees understand how to claim their education credits, staff members can focus their efforts on the meeting. What do you think? If you could build a chatbot to handle some of your on-site communication needs, how would you design it? Share your comments on Catalyst.

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