When a customer calls your hotel’s reservations department, they want their questions answered and their reservations booked immediately.

By John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook – 8/2/2022

The hospitality industry has always been people-oriented. In fact, human interaction has always been a hallmark of travel. The smiling face behind the hotel reception cannot be replaced.

Technology, on the other hand, is constantly changing the way guest services representatives interact with travelers and hotel guests. Each generation brings a new disruptive technology that shakes up the way the world does business. With every change there is resistance, but progress always wins.

Recent history written by Michael Heflin, CRO at Stayntouch, notes that “although once a highly labor-intensive industry, hospitality is increasingly using mobile and SaaS-based technologies to simplify operations and improve the guest experience.”

At the end of the day, face-to-face connection is valued, but convenience is preferred. There is no getting around the need for customer service in the hospitality industry, but there are areas of the industry where efficiency must come before the importance of personal interaction. In today’s modern, information age, check-in, reservations, restaurant reservations and FAQs can be simplified with new technology.

The impact of technology on the hospitality industry

New technology always meets resistance before it is adopted. Before the Bell telephone was widely accepted in business, it was rejected by those who preferred more traditional methods of communication.

When email first appeared at the dawn of the Internet age, many believed it was just a passing fad that would be no more useful to businesses than a fax machine.

When online booking platforms emerged on the fringes of the hotel industry, traditional travel agencies swore that customers would prefer the personal touch of a travel agent to the ease of booking online.

In any case, those who resisted the inevitable tide of new advances were left behind when the same technology became a revolutionary wave of change across all industries.

A new era of technological advancement

The past two years have ushered in a new era of technological advancement and dependency that is here to stay. From Zoom conference calls and the ability to work from the couch, the beach or anywhere else on the planet to instant food delivery, streaming brand new movies and virtual classes, technology is already taking a new place in society. Consumers are now accustomed to the ease of on-demand service on their terms, and the hospitality industry must adapt accordingly.

While personal guest service is always appreciated, today’s modern traveler wants a contactless delivery experience with the touch of a screen. The hospitality industry must strive to capture the efficiencies of modern technology that today’s travelers expect.

What the future of technology holds

The way we communicate has changed, in no small part thanks to new technologies. Communication became streamlined. And, unfortunately, the formalities are no longer necessary.

When a customer calls your hotel’s reservations department, they want their questions answered and their reservations booked immediately. If today’s traveler picks up the phone to use the voice channel, chances are they’ve exhausted all other options. They have searched extensively online and have not been able to find the answer to their question. They don’t want to wait on hold or chat with an archaic voice bot that redirects them incorrectly and has a limited menu.

Designed to meet the demands of today’s modern traveler

Bella™, The Virtual Hotel Agent™ (Bella), represents the next generation of artificial intelligence that is designed specifically for the hospitality industry. Using data collected from various hotels and hotel chains, the team behind Bella discovered the faces of hotels with the most frequently asked questions and programmed Bella to answer them all.

Kimberly Berry, director of digital business development at Travel Outlook, notes that a hotel chain with more than 800 hotels found that 91% of emails/messages contained one of the same 18 questions. “Another chain with 30 hotels found that 63% of emails/messages had one of the same 8 questions,” she said. “Another study found that more than 50% of pre-stay and stay requests from online travel agencies like Expedia go unanswered.”

Make your voice channel more valuable, desirable and effective

The goal behind Bella’s concept was to find a pleasant, automated way for hotel guests to get instant answers to frequently asked questions, allowing them to get back to enjoying their trip instead of waiting on hold or waiting for a callback.

Bella will answer frequently asked questions like, “Hi, I’m checking in tomorrow. What’s your address?” or “What time does the pool open?” She can also answer more complex questions like, “Do you have charging stations for my Tesla?”

Beyond Bella’s ability to answer customer FAQs, she has an unparalleled ability to communicate naturally and effectively. The team behind Bella used social media, pop culture and film to develop Bella’s flawless natural tone. When callers hear Bella’s voice and conversational manner, they don’t hear a robotic voice bot, but a familiar, conversational voice.

Additionally, Bella can be programmed to understand any language. Her voice can be programmed to mimic any voice the hotel chooses, even hotel employees. So customers can always hear a familiar voice when they call your property.

A veteran of the hospitality industry, John has owned, developed and operated hotels for many years. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from New Mexico State University, he began his career at AT&T, gaining invaluable knowledge and experience in the early years of the data revolution. His experience in technology and hospitality came together in his development of Travel prospects, the world-class hospitality contact center. Most recently, he branched out with the creation of ExpressRez, the leading contact center for the bed and breakfast industry, and the creation of Visit Bella™, The Virtual Hotel Agent™the first AI-based voice bot for the hospitality industry.

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