HTNG Insight Summit Panel: Voice Stories From Those Driving a Quality Guest Experience

Our CEO, Ted Helvey, was pleased to participate on panel with other voice technology thought leaders at the recent HTNG Insight Summit event in Sunnyvale, CA. He was joined by David Berger, Co-founder & CEO of Volara, Andrew Arthurs, CIO of Two Roads Hospitality, Brett Hillhouse, of IBM Watson Assistant, and Cam Urban, CEO of Roxy.

Together they discussed the most pressing questions when it comes to voice technology: How do you address privacy concerns?, How do you quantify ROI?, and What does the future look like for voice?

It should be no surprise that voice is making a name for itself in the world of hospitality, because voice is the most ancient mode of communication. Only in the last 20 years have others modes like email, text, etc. come into existence both for hospitality and in general. Voice technology leaders have the opportunity to scale voice in this industry and make communication between hotels and guests simple again, because interacting with voice assistants is intuitive. As Helvey so clearly said, “[Angie guests] don’t need training on it, they’ve been speaking almost their entire lives.”

Arthurs, who manages a house of brands in the lifestyle space with over 100 properties throughout North America, brought up that the two biggest headwinds that he has to overcome when introducing voice technologies to hotel owners, operators, and ownership groups are privacy and ROI.

How do you address voice technology privacy concerns?

Each thought leader took to the stage to discuss privacy concerns. Across the board, it was clear that guest and hotel privacy is of utmost importance. Urban pointed out that perception is reality, and that if guests feel uncomfortable with the technology, they won’t use it. Therefore, it’s key to address these issues early-on in a meaningful and impactful way.

In order to do this, Helvey explained that the Angie team wanted to ensure that guests would quickly become comfortable with our device. “We wanted to build a voice engine specifically made for hospitality with guest comfort in mind, but for those who prefer no voice interaction we added a high resolution touch screen that has all the same capabilities as voice, along with a button that allows you to silence the device and power off the microphones without losing functionality. Guests can decide what level of interaction works best for them.”

Privacy is a genuine concern, and voice technology is successful only when this concern is addressed.

How do you quantify the ROI of hospitality voice technology?

Everyone agreed that hoteliers have to think more broadly than just the guest experience; voice technology offers so much more. Helvey mentioned that justifying the purchase was key before the Angie team even started building the device. When making purchasing decisions, hoteliers need to see added value to their property and a clear return on investment.

Helvey suggested that because hoteliers are already spending money on Wi-Fi, alarm clocks, and telephones, consolidating devices that are already in the room was a key factor to offering compelling ROI. He knew that improving the guest experience meant improving guest engagement, which leads to enhanced loyalty. As keyless entry and mobile check-in become the norm, hotel staff often lose valuable opportunities to interact with guests during their stay. Angie helps to bridge this gap as she engages with guests in natural vocal and visual way, supplementing staff efforts at a fraction of the cost.

Berger reminded us that, first and foremost, it is key to make sure the guest is aware, that they know how to use the solution, and understand the value and utility of how the solution can help them. “Mapping the guest journey, we try and grab them right away with an experience that is memorable. If we get them in the first five minutes, we see greater utilisation, so we try to add value at every step of the guest journey.”

Hillhouse chimed in with an important point about owning and leveraging the data these technologies can gather. If the hotel can use the data to engage with customers in a fashion that makes for happier responses, that means their guests are having better experiences. Helvey added that, for Angie, on top of adding that extra layer of engagement, anonymized data is kept in the cloud to inform the hotel how guests are engaging, so that hoteliers can better manage their properties while their guests enjoy the ease of voice.

When properly deployed, voice technology undoubtedly leads to improved operational efficiency and guest satisfaction. To quantify ROI, Urban suggests identifying and tracking two or three of the most important value propositions like reducing call volume to front desk, dispatching guest request records more efficiently, or dealing with guest frustration instances in the room instead of after they leave the hotel.

When privacy concerns are understood and addressed and ROI is quantified in a trackable way, it’s hard to deny the positive impacts that voice technology could have in the industry.

What does the future look like for voice in the hospitality industry?

As the initial headwinds of privacy and ROI are addressed, Arthurs assured that there is a tremendous tailwind of interest in voice technology for the hospitality industry thanks to the explosive growth of voice in the home. Due to the rising comfort level with this technology, there is less of a learning curve and less need to train guests on how to interact with voice assistants.

Arthurs described a recent stay at a luxury hotel, where it took literally nine clicks on the tv remote to find the game he wanted to watch on ESPN. Would a guest rather click their remote nine times or simply say, “Turn on the game?” Voice has tremendous potential because it offers ease and simplicity.

Is voice technology being adopted quickly in hospitality? Compared to past technologies, yes. Compared to other industries, maybe not. Helvey believes that 10 years from now, voice will be the primary way that people engage at hotels—both staff and guests.

Are you interested in implementing voice technology in your hotel?

Angie is the first cloud-powered, interactive guest room voice assistant, created just for hotels. We’d love to work with you. You can request a demo here or reach out directly at 1-866-HEY-ANGIE or at info@angie.ai.