Interactive Guest Room Assistants
Alexa for Hospitality
By Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Many hotel guests use a voice-activated assistant in their homes — to check the weather, turn off the smart lights, add an item to their to-do list or put an appointment on their calendar. According to Pew Research, 46 percent of Americans use voiced-based assistants through their smartphone, tablet or stand-alone device. To provide the same or greater level of technology that guests have in their homes, many properties are now providing voice-activated assistants in their guest rooms. The technology can improve the guest experience with faster service and gives employees more time to help guests in other ways.
Guests can use these devices to perform a variety of tasks hands-free depending on the specific device and property. By asking the assistant a question, such as information about local attractions or hotel amenities, guests can get answers more quickly than they can by reading the guest directory or calling a hotel concierge. Voice assistants can also make special requests, such as late checkout, order additional towels or secure dinner reservations. Guests can also use voice commands to control objects and systems in the guest room, such as the temperature, lights or shades.
Guests often ask about security and privacy issues related to voice-based assistants in guest rooms. To increase security, properties should put the devices on a private and secure wireless network. Because each device handles data differently, properties must research each device to determine its approach to security and privacy. Properties should allow guests to turn off the device during their stay if they are not comfortable with a voice-activated assistant. One approach is to have an FAQ about the device in the guest room to answer security questions and instruct guests on how to disable the assistant.
Hospitality-Specific Voice Assistants
Because voice-activated assistants in guest rooms are used differently than those in a home, several hospitality-specific voice-activated assistants are now on the market. The following three voice-based assistants allow guests to ask questions, perform tasks and control room features.
Alexa for Hospitality
Using Amazon Echo, Echo Plus and Echo Dots, Alexa for Hospitality performs standard voice-based assistant tasks and allows staff to manage all devices on the property through a single account. Properties can use the Alexa Skills Kit to customize Alexa for their specific property, including custom messages and information. In the future, Alexa for Hospitality will let guests access their personal Amazon account, such as their contact list, and interact with their personal content, such as music and audio books. The Verge reported that Alexa for Hospitality recordings are deleted daily and hotels are not able to hear the voice interactions between guests and Alexa.
Angie was designed specifically for hotel guest rooms, instead of being a device re-purposed for hospitality, and it has a digital display similar to a tablet. Integrations with PMS and guest request systems let properties connect Angie into their already existing workflow to generate requests, such as housekeeping or maintenance, and route the requests to the appropriate staff member. Angie also offers room sensors that guests can control with voice commands, and it utilizes management protocols use to reduce energy costs when the room is not occupied. Because Angie offers communication features, both visual and voice, properties can use the devices to replace their PBX systems. Hotels can also use those same features to offer promotions and send reminders for meeting and conference attendees. Angie uses encrypted data transmission for all interactions, as well as password protected authentication.
Volara uses branded voice-based assistants, such as Echo or Alex, with hospitality-specific features properties can customize to their needs. In addition to letting guests make requests, get information and change room settings, Volara lets properties create personalized voice messages and communications, such as offers that are likely to appeal to a specific guest. In addition, Volara has a software management component that allows property managers to view analytics, as well as see the questions and requests of each guest in real time.
Based on the popularity of voice-based assistants in homes, it is likely that the trend for using the devices in guest rooms will continue. By exploring uses of this technology, properties can be on the leading edge of improving the guest experience.