Skift Take

If voice technology can do more than help facilitate guest requests for forgotten toothbrushes, there's a good chance it will be more than the latest hotel tech fad.

Mention smart speakers or voice assistants in a hotel setting, and you assume those devices are being placed in rooms to handle guest requests for items or for information.

The consumer-facing skills and requests that guests can make using their voices are grabbing the spotlight now, but there’s plenty more voice technology can offer to hotel staff to make their jobs that much easier and efficient, too.

At least that’s what one hotel in Seattle is discovering, and what one company is exploring with its new smart speaker skill.

Motif Seattle Goes All in on Alexa

“The entire hotel team, from the housekeepers and the bellmen to the engineers to guest services managers, are also using Alexa to manage their daily life tasks,” said Steve Sasso, general manager of the Motif Seattle A Destination Hotel. “For example, they can use it to notify the system if the room is ready for room service or check-in, to set a pick-up request, or use it as a tool to request items as well.”

“We’re seeing team members be really creative in identifying solutions and uses of Alexa to make their jobs easier,” added Andrew Arthurs, chief information officer for Two Roads Hospitality. “Like using Alexa in room to send a message that there’s a maintenance request for the room,” he added.

The 319-room Motif Seattle, as well as its sister property, the 158-room Thompson Seattle, have partnered with Seattle-headquarted Amazon and Volara to integrate Alexa for Hospitality in each guest room, making it one of the largest single-property deployments of Amazon Echo devices. Volara works with Two Roads and Amazon to develop custom skills for the Alexa platform for use at Two Roads’ properties.

The devices were placed in the Motif Seattle in September. Eventually, by 2019, parent company Two Roads Hospitality expects to have Alexa for Hospitality in 15 hotels. Two Roads was not able to disclose the cost of placing the devices in its rooms or the cost to be a part of the Alexa for Hospitality platform.

“This isn’t a pilot for us,” Sasso noted. Sasso said he and his staff have seen plenty of guest engagement with the in-room devices; in fact, 30 percent of guest requests are now being delivered via voice.

And having those requests come through Alexa for Hospitality is also making it easier for Sasso’s staff to respond more efficiently.

“It reduces telephone call and unnecessary minutes spent on those types of things,” Sasso explained. “It certainly helps to improve efficiently and allows the team members to get things done in a quick and efficient manner and gives them more time to specialize in roles they want to specialize in.”

Two Roads isn’t the only hotel company to recognize the potential benefits of using voice technology in rooms to help hotel staff.

In 2017, while running an Alexa pilot of its own, Best Western CEO David Kong told Skift he saw great potential for these devices to help hotel staff feel safer, as well as streamline maintenance requests.

“We hear about housekeepers being concerned about their safety and therefore you need panic buttons for them and, well, the Dot is the perfect solution for that,” Kong said. “They can use that to report that the room has been cleaned, or they can report that maintenance needs to pay attention to this or that in the room.”

Revenue Management Gets an Assist From Voice

IDeaS Revenue Solutions has developed its own smart speaker skill that actually integrates with the company’s own revenue management system, making it easier for its hotel clients to tap into the data they need, but using simple, recognizable voice commands.

“They can ask questions about performance — such as occupancy, room rates, competitor rates, forecasts, or revenue details, and even use voice to control their software — all driven by analytics and delivered via smart speaker,” explained Klaus Kohlmayr, chief evangelist for IDeaS.

He added, “The best part is that hoteliers can have access to this data whether they’re running from the office into a sales meeting or checking their property’s performance from home. This is the beauty of voice technology; it’s available where users want to be and can bring multiple technologies together.”

For IDeaS, voice technology isn’t being viewed as a buzzword or a fad, but as a real tool that helps hoteliers better manage their revenue strategies in real time.

Voice Technology Continues to Evolve

Whether helping hotel staff better maintain guest rooms, or helping hoteliers better manage their revenues, voice technology is proving itself to be a helpful tool, but also one that’s still very much evolving.

“I like to think of Alexa as a toddler,” said Arthurs. “It’s only about three-and-a-half years old at this age, and she continues to learn. We have an appetite to take some risks in order to drive some innovation in our property and we think Alexa has been able to enable us to do that.”

He noted, for instance, that Alexa now has contextual awareness, the ability to know where she is being used, as in a hotel setting.

When asked if he was at all concerned about privacy concerns, or whether guests actually want to use this type of technology, Motif Seattle’s Sasso said the hotel is “very cognizant of that and adhering to all the privacy guidelines and requirements for it, and making it a top priority.”

As for what he wishes Alexa could eventually do one day, Two Roads’ Arthurs said he and many other hotel operators “would like to see Alexa call 911 and handle emergency guest room calls in the hotel, thereby eliminating a physical phone or handset in the room.”

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Tags: alexa, amazon, IDeaS, IDeaS Revenue Solutions, two roads hospitality, Volara

Photo credit: The Motif Seattle, a Destination Hotel, and its sister property, Thompson Seattle, have placed Amazon Echo devices in all of their guest rooms. Two Roads Hospitality

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