There's an App for That
One of the ways hotels can set themselves apart from the competition is by investing the visitor's experience in ways that are meaningful for them and accessible for the hotel staff. One of the most useful amenities to enhance guests' experience is 24-hour concierge service. However, this type of service can be costly, especially for smaller independently owned hotels. Luckily, technology is making it possible for hoteliers to provide top notch concierge service for pennies on the dollar.
A virtual concierge can exist on any of your hotel's virtual platforms. Typically it is a tool used by your guests before they arrive for their stay. The virtual concierge helps to streamline the hotel experience and turn what can be a jarring and disoriented experience into a seamless one. The digital concierge can be used for trip planning, listing all of the information on local sights, tours and attractions. Guests can read reviews of local restaurants, check the local weather and find directions to nightclubs. Brides can book dining rooms or arrange to move the wedding from the patio to the gazebo.
Virtual concierge services can also help to streamline in-house services. Guests can schedule or cancel spa treatments or massages. Booking blocks of time to host events at the hotel's facilities can be done via the virtual concierge. Even small tasks, such as requesting new linens or extra towels can be done using the virtual interface. Having access to all of this information on one digital platform that the guests can access from a smartphone or tablet is one of the amenities that helps to set quality hotels apart. The virtual concierge eliminates the time spent at the front desk or on the phone waiting to be served by live staff. Instead, the staff receives the guest's request instantly, cutting down on guest frustration.
Current State of Virtual Concierge Service for Hotel
Tom O'Rourke, CEO of O'Rourke Hospitality Marketing wrote an article for Hotel Executive Business Review saying "Hotels that use a virtual concierge often have increased loyalty, reduced turnover and an increased ROI for the medium their concierge resides on."
That should be enough of a reason to consider adding a digital concierge service to your list of amenities. But the benefits don't stop there. Hotels can access guests right where they are with powerful video messages and on-site advertorials. Digital concierge provides your guests with a do-it-yourself experience, which for many guests, is less bothersome than traditional front desk services. You also free your staff to handle other tasks by automating many guests interactions. Hotels with digital concierge services earn increased media exposure because guests have the option of sharing their location, itinerary or reviews on social media using the concierge app.
This isn't to say that virtual concierge services should replace traditional concierge personnel. There are still those guests who see visits to your hotel as an opportunity to unplug. The warmth of a human touch cannot be replaced. No matter how advanced your digital concierge service may be, it cannot replace the problem-solving skills of desk personnel. But it can enhance the effectiveness of the live concierge by offering up to date details on specific items of inquiry and offering guests flexibility. Most importantly, a virtual concierge helps the staff promote a "ready to serve" attitude by avoiding many unpleasant or repetitive interactions.
There are a number of companies offering numerous digital concierge packages at affordable prices for hotels of all sizes. Arguably, the most important component of any virtual concierge package in the mobile app. In 2014, Google reported that 8 out of 10 people have downloaded or used a travel related app. The mobile connection gives your guests more than just instant access, it allows them to customize their concierge experience.
A fully integrated concierge package would allow guests to access the concierge through the IPTV, travel or hotel app, and from the hotel website. On-site touch screen kiosks in the lobby and around the hotel may also help guests access this powerful tool. For hotel managers, regardless of how many points of access you provide your guests, you should be sure that they are all integrated.