Automation and AI are hot topics in many industries right now and hospitality is no exception. And yes, a robot delivering towels is a fun novelty. But should you really intend to automate every part of your guest’s stay?

By definition, hospitality businesses strive to welcome their guests and create a personalized experience. That can’t be fully handed over to a robot.

So then, what tasks can you automate in your hotel and how do you do it? And where should you keep the human touch to ensure you treat all guests as unique individuals?

Understand your property’s operational needs

There’s one important aspect to understand before you get started with automation at your hotel: every property is different and will need varying levels of automation. Just because something works for your competitor doesn’t mean it’ll work for you as well. Also, the level and type of service your property offers determines which tasks you can automate in your various departments. 

Find the areas where you could benefit most from automation by answering the following questions:

  • •  Where can automation improve the guest experience at your property? Look at where you often get complaints from guests about delays and slow responses. These areas are perfect candidates for automation. Examine your guest journey as well. Where might an automated service add value and give guests the chance to personalize their stay?
  • •  How can automation make life easier for your staff? Ask your team which tedious tasks take up lots of their time. Maybe it’s responding to the same FAQs repeatedly. Or it could be collecting and managing guest data and requests. Both are areas where automation tools can help. 

Adapting automation to your guest’s needs

Let’s look at an example to illustrate how two different properties may use this approach. 

A downtown business hotel can use online check-in to save business guests time on arrival. They appreciate that because they get to their room faster where they can rest or get to work. This saves the front desk team time as well, which is especially useful on high-turnover days. 

In the evening, the hotel’s direct guest communication tool allows for easy, hassle-free room service breakfast pre-orders. This is great for both guests and staff because nobody has to make extra phone calls or deal with doorknob forms.

At a five-star island resort automation will look different. No automated check-in is needed here since the in-person welcome is part of the overall experience. However, the hotel could send an automated pre-arrival message providing information about the surrounding area or offering extra services (e.g., a romantic set-up in the room). This boosts anticipation among travelers and gets them more excited for their trip.

While guests are in-house, a direct communication tool allows the hotel to ensure they get highly personalized and attentive service. It also gives the team a chance to immediately address issues and make up for mistakes.

Does automation come at the expense of the guest experience?

automation in hospitality

Many hoteliers object to automation because they fear their service will lose its personal touch. And yes, if you blindly overdo it, that could happen. But with the right tools and approach automation can enhance your staff’s ability to offer excellent service. The most important thing is to always keep your guest’s interest at heart when you implement automation to streamline operations.

Time-intensive tasks to automate

Automating time-consuming tasks will often have a positive impact on the service your team provides. Below are a few ideas to get you started.

  • •  Guest data collection: set up an integration between your PMS and guest messaging tool. This allows an exchange of information about guest preferences between the systems. Use these insights down the road to offer personalized services. 
  • •  Responding to common questions: answering the same FAQs repeatedly is not the best use of your reservation agents’ time. Instead, let a chat tool automatically respond to common straightforward queries, so your staff has more time for other tasks.
  • •  Pre-arrival outreach: your confirmation email is hopefully automated already. But there are many other reasons to get in touch with guests pre-arrival. First, help them prepare for the trip by sending them information about the destination, for example. Then use guest data to send personalized messages, upselling and cross-selling offers so guests can tailor their experience. 
  • •  Personalized in-stay offers: upselling and cross-selling don’t have to be limited to the pre-arrival phase. Again, use your guest data to personalize your offers.
  • •  Checking on your guests: make sure everything is going well during their stay and address issues immediately. 
  • •  Requesting post-stay feedback: message all your guests to thank them for their stay and ask for reviews. Follow up with praise or complaints. 
  • •  Internal back of house communication: ensure every department gets action items as soon as they come in, so requests are handled quickly. 

Crucial tasks that still need the human touch

In hospitality, there will always be some things that require your staff’s personal attention. Use the time you save through automation to pay more attention to the activities below.

  • •  Responses to elaborate requests: some guests plan a special surprise for a loved one or they simply have more detailed questions than others. Take the time to learn about their needs and offer a personalized response.
  • •  In-person services at the front desk and in the F&B department: make yourself available to guests who prefer in-person interaction to your messaging app. This could mean receptionists giving your guests a personal hotel tour, the concierge recommending the best bars in town or a server taking time for a chat. These interactions offer valuable chances to get to know your guests and ensure they have everything they need for their stay. 
  • •  Responses to complaints and reviews: a quick, personalized response shows guests you care and gives you the chance to make up for mistakes. Going through all your reviews personally also allows you to spot where you can improve your service in the future. 

The moral of the story is to automate tedious, manual jobs to save time. Reinvest this time into offering more personalized service and customizing every guest’s experience as much as you can

As you see, automation in hospitality is not an either-or scenario. Instead, you need to find the right balance for your hotel and guests.