by Zohreen Ismail
Millennials expect it and boomers see it as a luxury, the inclusion of voice search in guest rooms is becoming increasingly popular. Voice search in a hotel guestroom thinks beyond the current day novelty, as it is no longer necessary for guests to interact with front desk staff during their stay. Voice search is very technical as it incorporates the ability to understand commands and questions in various different ways, but is still easy to use for the guest.
The impact voice search has on guests is large, and plays a role when the guest is deciding whether to return to that hotel. The CEO of Hotel Internet Services Gary Patrick says, “Whether it’s Wi-Fi, TV services, or voice – they all play a significant part in the decision of whether the guest will stay at that hotel again.”
Voice search is known to attract a younger crowd, however according to the CEO of Angie Hospitality, Ted Helvey, guests of all ages were taken into consideration when creating and releasing the voice assistant specifically for hotel rooms. “My kids are in their 20s and my parents are in their 80s. When Angie was created I asked myself, ‘how will my kids like this and how will my parents like this?’” The conclusion found was that regardless of age, everyone has been using their voice their entire lives. Having the option to easily set the temperature of your room or find out what time the pool closes just by speaking out loud was a feature that individuals of all ages would appreciate. “When we do user testing, we use a broad age range. Seniors are pleased and comfortable with voice, especially when all guests have the ability to opt-in or opt-out. The microphone is in a waiting state, and they have the option to push a button when they want to activate the voice assistant,” Helvey continues.
The question many hoteliers come across is not whether voice search is beneficial to guests, but rather how to properly market this feature to potential and current guests. “The challenge with marketing voice is making sure you have the ability to suggest things that guests can ask for,” says Patrick. “They may not be thinking about restaurant specials or spa services; if you have a voice enabled device in a room you can promote and help people adapt to this technology.”
One primary step hoteliers can take when beginning a marketing plan for voice search is targeting large groups. According to Helvey, “Marketing will happen first with guest and group promotions. The voice assistant has the ability to send reminders to large groups in different rooms. For example, you can send a message to all attendees of a large conference reminding them happy hour is at 5:00 p.m. or the keynote speech will begin in 30 minutes. You can do a lot of coordinating, and guests will appreciate it.”
It is important to educate guests about features of voice search they may be unaware of. For example, some voice assistants have personalization features. They ask the guest if they would like to save their settings to their profile. “We have to let the guest know we want to be there to help them. It is personalized and available 24/7. It will remember that last time you liked the room at 72 degrees and the desk lamp on, so it will be able to set up the room exactly how the guest likes it,” says Helvey.
One marketing challenge is ensuring the guests that voice search and having access to a voice assistant in the room is not a breach on personal privacy. “The brands and hotel groups are oftentimes more concerned than the end user (guest). If you use it at home, you’re accustomed to it and understand the technology. However, if your guests are new to the technology it is important for hoteliers to do everything they can to make guests feel secure. Educating guests on the technology is a great step to take when marketing voice,” suggests Patrick.
“People are sensitive to personal data,” says Helvey, “with Angie we own the data and the language and we know our data is going nowhere.” It is still in the hands of the hotel staff and hotel owners to comfort their guests, and assure them that voice technology is present to make their stay more convenient and comfortable.
The opportunity for guests to have access to real-time guest services in their hotel room is a technology feature many hoteliers can take pride in providing, and be proud when marketing this amenity to potential guests. It is available for the comfort of guests, and it is designed to understand natural language specifically for hotels. “Voice is exciting – easy to use and is as simple to install as plugging in an alarm clock,” says Helvey. “It’s like Star Trek, you just speak and it happens.”
“Our system allows for the guest to watch an introduction video. A short video of things one can do within the hotel and shows guests how to communicate interactions they want,” says Patrick.
By connecting guests to technology, hotels can provide a noteworthy experience to their guests which can make their stay more memorable. A feature that is expected by some and appreciated by all, voice search and voice technology provides hoteliers with a unique way to market their property. ■
PHOTO CREDIT: ANDSUS/FOTOLIA