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Siegel Sez

June 14, 2019

Siegel Sez

by: Rich Siegel

This is my favorite Friday of the year! When you live in the world of hotels and technology, you are (or should be) ready for HITEC Minneapolis next week. Those of us who have been around this space for longer than we want to admit look at HITEC as a great opportunity to do business, but it is also a time to connect with the great friends you have made over the years. The anticipation has been building over the last few weeks and months. At Hospitality Upgrade we have gotten a ton of great comments and thanks for our Watercooler e-newsletter that came out earlier this week where we organized and listed many of the HITEC parties that attendees might want to stop by. And, there are many. It was something different and a bit unique, but it always is a popular question for us when we are at HITEC -- where are the evening activities?  Let’s face it, lots of business is also done at night. If you want to see the list please go to www.hospitalityupgrade.com/HITECparties. If you arrive on Monday and would like to attend my session, we will have a diverse panel of hoteliers from larger brands, small hotel company and a management company and discuss how technologies – current and future – will impact the front office of a hotel. The session is at 11 a.m. on level 2, room 2001. It should be interesting and hopefully fun. From the session I run to the first-ever Women in Hospitality Technology luncheon where our own Geneva Rinehart will be one of the women recognized. That is quite cool! It will be an amazing week and please if you are there come by our booth, 3320, to say hello. 

There is so much new technology that seems to be hitting the marketplace at an amazingly fast rate. We must thank Doug Rice for his look at current and emerging technologies every two weeks. Some will make it some will struggle, but if you don’t try you will never know. We are very lucky that Doug has offered his wisdom exclusively to us every two weeks in this Siegel Sez.

I will keep this short since there is so much news that follows. If you are at HITEC and we meet, the No. 1 question I get outside of technology issues is about my wacky horse world. I am heading to Minnesota on Saturday from Atlanta and I must thank Delta for figuring out a way for me to fly through JFK and be able to go missing for a few hours. Our dream horse Hoboe is running at Belmont Park in New York and if any of you are in the area and want to experience the excitement, drop a note to me today (rich@hospitalityupgrade.com).  Many industry friends have come to watch him race. You never know in horse racing, but all I will say regarding our race Saturday is we have a chance. It is race 7 and goes off at 4:45 p.m. Eastern time. If you want to watch Hoboe run, you can go to www.nyra.com and click “Watch Live” or on television at Fox Sports 2 has a horse racing show that starts at 4 p.m. Eastern that will show our race. Keep your fingers crossed!

Here now is the real reason we are here, Doug’s thoughts on new technology and the latest industry news regarding technology happenings. I will see you at the end with this week’s attempt at you-know-what. Hope to see you next week if you are in Minneapolis! Go Hoboe!


Definitely Doug

by: Douglas Rice

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots:  Are They for Real?
We constantly hear the marketing hype for artificial intelligence (AI), often suggesting that a computer can answer most any guest question or request. we see the surveys suggesting that many travelers, especially younger ones, prefer to interact with us via text or voice. But does texting and AI have a place in today’s hotels?
Today I will focus on what I will call digital concierges. These are chatbots, infused with a certain amount of artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and in many cases language translation, that have been customized to answer the questions a guest might pose to a real hotel concierge or the person answering the guest service line. I’ve looked at several in the past few weeks, and they’ve come a long way from some of the earlier attempts. Some have started to become quite useful. To be sure, most of them still can’t handle open questions like “what should I do tonight” or a complex room-service order. But they can handle simpler requests and questions, and in doing so they can reduce labor costs for the hotel, improve responsiveness to guests, overcome language barriers, and improve guest satisfaction. Today’s better solutions are hybrid, with a bot that tries to answer the question or request first, but then escalates it efficiently to the best available human staff member when it can’t.
Today I will focus specifically on systems that provide native text capabilities from the guest’s personal device, using generic platforms like SMS, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and similar. While a messaging function within a hotel’s mobile app may also be useful (and some platforms support this as well), I take as a given that guests mostly want to use their own device, and we know that the average guest doesn’t have (or want) the hotel’s app. With today’s voice-to-text capabilities in many of the platforms, it is increasingly easy to use them with voice as well, and using the user’s preferred platform means greater accuracy with voice.
I’m going to ignore (for today) the many chatbots that are only focused solely on the website/mobile app/reservation process. Most of these are sales-focused and can’t be easily extended to cover the rest of the guest journey. In contrast, the ones I am describing can generally deliver a consistent chat experience from discovery and booking through post-stay.
The benefits of digital concierges will depend on the nature of your operation, as well as the capabilities of the solution. But speaking generally, the volume of calls to hotel staff should drop significantly (30% is typical), even as the number of inquiries goes up (because there is less friction to submitting a question or request). This may mean cost savings from fewer staff in a large hotel, or improved service in a smaller hotel where the person tasked to answer the calls is the front desk clerk. If done well, guest satisfaction should also increase. Michael Marino, Chief Experience Officer at Caesars Entertainment, has cited a 10-point increase in satisfaction ratings from the introduction of their digital concierge. The best digital concierges can also increase upsell spend, by using CRM data and even prior conversations to target specific offers in-stay, or by making it easier to order room service or book a spa appointment.
Language translation can also be a major benefit to hotels with a polylingual clientele and/or staff. Many platforms will translate from the guest’s language to the bot’s native language and/or to the language preferred by the staff member who handles an escalated request. But as much as Google Translate has improved in recent years, used in isolation it cannot correctly translate many of the requests that guests actually make – there is too much hotel-specific lingo or context-dependent meaning, expressed in different languages in ways that defy direct translation. While most of these platforms incorporate Google Translate, hotel-specific overlays have proven necessary in order to both understand requests properly in different languages, and to translate messages for staff.
What are some of the other things you should consider in evaluating digital concierge platforms? You should carefully consider what you are trying to achieve and what use cases are most important to you; depending on these, some considerations will become more or less important.  But some important questions follow.
First, does it support all of the chat clients likely to be used by your customers? Can it be embedded in your hotel app (if you have one), or on the TV or guestroom tablet? What about the hotel or brand website?
Second, if the bot can’t answer a question and needs to hand it off to a human, can it be directed to the right human based on the question or request? Can the bot detect the tone of frustration that indicates that its response didn’t meet the guest’s expectations, and escalate the query to a human? Can the human view all messages in a single user interface, regardless of the originating text platform? Can they see a transcript of the conversation prior to handoff, preferably in their own language? Is the guest told how promptly they can expect a reply? And if a human doesn’t respond in a reasonable period of time, how Is the request escalated to ensure a timely answer?  I saw one service that even provides a call center for the first line of response to remove even more calls from the hotel’s own queue and make the handoff from bot to human nearly instantaneous.
Third, can the digital concierge be integrated with fulfillment systems, such as work-order management or point-of-sale? If so, does it need to clarify requests, such as how many/what type of towels do you need, or how do you want your hamburger cooked? How does it handle these clarifications? And when a request is closed out (e.g. in the work-order management system), can the bot advise the guest, such as “Your towels should have arrived, please let us know if you need anything else” (just in case something went wrong)? Integration with the CRM or PMS system can also be useful, especially if you plan to use the digital concierge to push targeted marketing offers. The best digital concierges can blend customer history or preferences with actual conversations they have had with the guest, to suggest the most relevant options. They can also integrate with surveys to capture guest satisfaction in-the-moment.
Fourth, what kind of analytics are provided? You should be able to get statistics on the specific types of questions being asked and requests being made. You should see what percentage of queries are addressed without human intervention, and what percentage need to be escalated to a human. You should be able to correlate introduction of the digital concierge with guest satisfaction ratings and folio spend. You should be able to learn what questions aren’t being answered adequately, so you or your vendor can refine the response algorithms.
Fifth, can the digital concierge support the entire guest journey, from booking to pre-arrival to in-house to post departure? And if you are operating a brand, will it scale appropriately, allowing brand consistency while still enabling the hotels to manage their own specific information? Can it differentiate between brand-level questions vs. hotel-specific questions, such as might occur during a booking process on the brand web site?
Sixth, how much setup and maintenance does the hotel have to do? Do they have the right staff to do this, or do they need a digital marketing agency involved to get the correct branding? The best bots can be designed with specific personalities, and you might want yours to have one that’s aligned with your brand. Who customizes the specific responses? (Hint: AI doesn’t do this!) If it’s the hotel, is the process sufficiently easy that you can support it over time? If the vendor, will the costs be manageable?
Seventh, think carefully about voice activation. Some of the platforms support voice input, but they generally support voice response only for limited queries, if at all. If voice input is supported, it’s important to evaluate the handoff of questions that can’t be answered by voice. Most of today’s platforms rely on the voice-to-text capabilities of messaging platforms for input, but respond via text on the same device. This approach may not work, however, with an in-room Amazon Echo or similar device that lacks a display; most implementations where these can actually respond verbally are limited to canned input phrases rather than natural language.
Overall, I was impressed with the amount of learning and sophistication that some of the digital concierge platform vendors have incorporated into their products; they have come a long way in a short few years. They are still many years away from eliminating the need for humans (if they ever do), but they can reduce labor costs and/or a deliver a better guest experience for many hotels.
A few of the more interesting companies I have looked at (with the usual disclaimer that these are not recommendations, just interesting places to explore) include Go Moment, Hotelway, Reply.ai, and SABA Hospitality. If you haven’t looked at these technologies recently, you may find a tour to be eye-opening.
Next week is HITEC. If you’re there, and see a technology you think I should cover in a future article, please let me know! I’ll spend a lot of time on the floor, but there’s never time to see it all!
Douglas Rice
twitter: @dougrice


- Broadband Hospitality Acquires Allin Interactive to Expand its Total Unified Technology Solution
Broadband Hospitality (BBH) and Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Allin Interactive announced that they have completed a transaction to merge the companies into a single-source for innovative communications technology solutions.

- Shiji Group Acquires Leading Hospitality Payment and Integration Technology Provider MyCheck
The deal boosts the company’s growing number of strategic acquisitions in hospitality technology solutions.


- International Motivational Speaker, Chris Koch, Named GuestTek Brand Ambassador
- Industry Veteran Greg Myers Joins IDeaS as Chief Client Officer to Advance Best-in-Class Client Experience
- Cloud5 Communications Announces Key Sales Hire in Western U.S. with Tara Dean as Director of Business        Development
- HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame 2019 Inductee Announced
- Jim Rowe Announced as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Jonas Chorum
- Knowland Appoints Robert Post as CEO


For more information on People On The Move for 6/14/2019


- At HITEC: Come Experience the Digital Guest Journey with Maestro PMS’ Mobile Innovations for Sophisticated Operations, Personalized Services
- SkyTouch’s New Hotel Technology Integration Platform Takes Off
- SkyTouch and Revinate Join to Lift Revenue and Personalize Guest Communications
- California’s Handlery Hotels Leverages Maestro’s Multi-Property Centralized PMS to Track Guest Preferences and Manage Loyalty Program


For more information on Guest Management Systems for 6/14/2019


- 3C Payment Announces New Hospitality Partnership with Digital Channel Management Provider Noetic
- CustomerCount® Teams with Noble System
- Technology Innovator Travel Tripper & Pegasus Deploys ADA-Compliance Monitoring Across Dozens of Hotels, Brands
- Hotelogix Partners With eRevMax to Help Hotels with Distribution Effort


For more information on Reservations for 6/14/2019


- Rainmaker VP to Participate in Panel Discussion at HSMAI ROC
- IDeaS Celebrates 30 Years of Innovation, Revenue Transformation and Global Momentum at HITEC 2019
- HSMAI Releases Evolving Dynamics: From Revenue Management to Revenue Strategy
- Hotel Revenue Management Expert Launches Consulting Firm
- IDeaS and Springer-Miller Systems Announce New Two-Way Integration Capabilities


For more information on Revenue Management for 6/14/2019


- Verdant Bringing NEW ZX Thermostat to HITEC Minneapolis
- InnSpire to Showcase TechOvation Winner GuestMagic.AI at HITEC 2019
- INTELITY Partners with MIWA to Further Expand Mobile Key Availability
- New York's Iconic The Pierre Hotel Installs MCOMS Hotstream
- Guests at Elliot Park Hotel in Minneapolis to Benefit from Wireless Casting and Voice Control Technology from BeyondTV during HITEC 2019
- Angie Hospitality Announces Robust Language Support for Spanish, French, German, and Chinese to Meet Global Demand for Guest Room Voice Technology
- Volara to Reveal Enhancements to Its Voice-Based Conversation-Management Software at HITEC
- Volara Now Powering the WooHoo® Enterprise AI Assistant for Hotels
- Isla Bella Beach Resort Partners with InnSpire to Provide a World-class Guest Experience
- Daydream Believer – Technology Deep Dive Helps Transform Daydream Island
- MCOMS Guest-Facing Solution at The Setai, Miami Beach
- 7 Cedars to Open with Full INTELITY Platform
- Bittel’s MODA Smart Guestroom Device Now Working Seamlessly with Volara
- INTELITY Partners with MyCheck to Further Simplify the Full Mobile Check-In Process


For more information on Guest Services for 6/14/2019


- Cendyn is Europe’s Leading Hotel CRM Technology Provider & Data Driven Marketing Agency for 2019
- HEBS Digital Announces Rebrand to NextGuest Digital
- Isla Bella Beach Resort Selects the Full Cendyn Hospitality Cloud Portfolio
- Cendyn and MS+ CT Hospitality Partner to Assist Hotels with the Guest Experience


For more information on Marketing/Management for 6/14/2019


- Shilo Inns Relies on STS Cloud Sales and Catering System to Increase Meeting and Event Business at Seven Properties
System provider SalesAndCatering.com delivers affordable full-service cloud system functionality to help Shilo Inns' team close more business.


- ProfitSword and WVC RubixCloud Partner to Provide Hotels with Comprehensive and Seamless Business Intelligence and Financial Accounting Platform
ProfitSword, a leading provider of Business Intelligence solutions for the hospitality industry and WVC RubixCloud (WVCRC) providing best-in-class technology and accounting services, have partnered to create a comprehensive data management and accounting solution.
- Concord Hospitality Standardizes Accounting on Aptech’s PVNG Cloud-Based Enterprise Financial System for 112 Hotels
Aptech Computer Systems will standardize Concord Hospitality’s accounting processes for 112 hotels on the PVNG Enterprise Hotel Accounting System to support expansion of Concord’s multi-brand portfolio.


- Allbridge Develops Robust Data Service Portal to Enhance Network Management
- Allbridge Named to List of 2019 Best Employers in North Carolina
- Coury Hospitality Selects HIS to Implement Advanced Content Casting, Voice Control and Internet Connectivity at Properties across the United States
- Guests, Meeting Planners Can Enjoy Blazing-Fast Internet Speeds at Hilton Wilmington/Christiana


For more information on Communications/Infrastructure for 6/14/2019


- The Westin Hilton Head Island Saves Time with Clear Sky Software’s Beverage Inventory Control System
Called Clear Sky BEVERAGE, this is a comprehensive, perpetual inventory system that tracks and controls all beverage products and is helping the Westin save time and gain efficiencies in the beverage department.
- WOLF Italian Street Food Beats Lunchtime Rush with Oracle
Fast, fresh and healthy Italian street food restaurant, WOLF, has implemented Oracle Food & Beverage Simphony Cloud at point-of-sale to make the most of the lucrative lunchtime rush and support its growth ambitions.
- New Mexico’s Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Selects Clear Sky Software to Better Manage F&B Inventory
Called Clear Sky BEVERAGE, this is a comprehensive, perpetual inventory system that tracks and controls all beer, liquor and wine products.


- Shift4 Payments to Showcase SkyTab Pay-at-the-Table Solution at HITEC
Shift4 will be showcasing their recently announced pay-at-the-table solution, SkyTab, as a part of their all-in-one hospitality payment solution and partner program.
- Merchant Link Announces Integration with First Data for Dynamic Currency Conversion
Merchant Link, a leading payment gateway offering cloud-based cardholder data security solutions, announced today its integration with First Data for Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC).


- BC Lynd Hospitality Using Quore Across Its Portfolio, Including at the New Harlingen Convention Center
- Round Hill Hotel & Villas Selects Guestware to Help Deliver the Ultimate Luxury Guest Experience
- Quore to Feature Friendlier Housekeeping, Engineering, Work Order Automation and Preventive Maintenance Solutions at HITEC Minneapolis
- ALICE Unveils New Solution to Enhance Housekeeping Productivity and Save Costs
- Sutton Place Vancouver Partners with Knowcross to Enhance Service Quality


For more information on Operations for 6/14/2019


- SocialSurvey Expands into the Hospitality Industry
SocialSurvey is showcasing new technology that connects and measures at the employee level to drive behavior that creates a better guest experience, increases brand engagement and drives enhanced online reputation and SEO.

- Beekeeper to Talk ‘Talent’ and How Technology Can Attract, Retain Employees at HITEC
Hoteliers looking for proven ways to attract and retain top talent should plan to attend a breakout session at HITEC Minneapolis this month led by Beekeeper.

- Beekeeper to Unveil Documents – a Digital Library for Frontline Teams – at HITEC
This month, digital workplace app developer Beekeeper will unveil a new feature at HITEC Minneapolis that will serve as a digital library for a hotel’s non-desk workforce.


TraknProtect Provides Property-Wide Location Technology Through Partnerships with Leading Hospitality Integration Providers
- TraknProtect Selected to Present Location-Based Employee Security Platform During Entrepreneur 20X (E20X) Competition at HITEC 2019
- Video Report: dormakaba USA Inc Announces Advanced Saffire LX™ Electronic Lock at HITEC

- Fuel Mobile App Adds Keyless Entry through Integration with ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions
- VENZA Achieves Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) Certification


For more information on Security for 6/14/2019


- Datavision Sponsors HFTP Inaugural Women in Hospitality Luncheon and HITEC
Knowcross to Sponsor HITEC’s Inaugural Women in Hospitality Technology Luncheon and Showcase Latest Innovations at Booth 2546
- Inaugural Women in Hospitality Technology Luncheon Builds Anticipation for HITEC Minneapolis
- ProfitSword and Hotel Effectiveness Partner to Host HITEC 2019 Social Gathering and Entertainment Even
- HEDNA Drives Deeper Engagement from Industry Executives in Madrid


For more information on Hospitality Events for 6/14/2019


- Is Right-Time Data More Accurate than Real-Time Data?
- Barry Sternlicht Launches Newest Brand Venture, Treehouse Hotels
- Rethinking Hotel Distribution with Attribute-Based Selling
- The Transformative Power of BI in the Hotel Industry


For more information on Piqued Our Interest for 6/14/2019


And now for you-know-what …  


Manure.. An interesting ‘fact’.
Manure:  In the 16th and 17th centuries, everything for export had to be transported by ship. It was also before the invention of commercial fertilizers, so large shipments of manure were quite common.
It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet, but once water (at sea) hit it, not only did it become heavier, but the process of fermentation began again, of which a by-product is methane gas. As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles you can see what could (and did) happen.  Methane began to build up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern, BOOOOM!
Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined just what was happening
After that, the bundles of manure were always stamped with the instruction ' Stow high in transit ' on them, which meant for the sailors to stow it high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this "volatile" cargo and start the production of methane.
Thus evolved the term ' S.H.I.T ', (Stow High In Transit) ,…………. “So, it’s really not a swear word”
which has come down through the centuries and is in use to this very day.

You probably did not know the true history of this word.
Neither did I
 I had always thought it was a golfing term...

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