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AI: making it work for us

Should we fear Artificial Intelligence being used to carry out the more monotonous tasks in our lives?

Let’s get one thing out of the way first – whether you imagine a housekeeper of the future will look like our sci-fi film style powerful and shiny alien – or the ‘cuddlier’ little cleaner with a broom – both those images are AI-generated. The important thing here is that a human had to tell an AI programme what they hoped to achieve. The human touch, our people power and ingenuity, is not going away. In some hotels AI is already being used for the likes of booking systems, tuned to intuitively get it right for guests.

Ask AI to produce a photo of a robotic cleaner and this is what you might get!

At Clermont Hotel Group, for instance, they connect personally with guests during their stay, and yet also use the latest technology to make operations as efficient and smooth as possible. They operate 17 hotels with over 5,000 bedrooms across three brands and now have a digital ‘worker’ nicknamed Bertie, produced by Centelli to assist in their contact centre operations. Clermont were facing challenges in recruiting and retaining staff and engaged Centelli just before the pandemic, and then bedded in their digital worker during the quiet lockdown period. It was a chance to create mock bookings based on historic transactions and to build confidence in the reservations team that Bertie was achieving 100 per cent accuracy.

Now staff time is better spent on more bespoke guest requests while Bertie does the equivalent of a 45-hours day, whizzing through background work. Chris Ball, business development director at Clermont Hotel Group says: “We already had some automation within our booking processes, but with so many partners and integrations, there was still a lot of manual data transfer to be done. Centelli worked with us to understand that a digital worker could perfectly complement existing processes, by behaving just like a human does – but way more efficiently.”

Melanie Cole, head of the hotels’ reservation sales centre, adds: “Having a digital worker as a part of the team is fantastic! It takes on the more monotonous tasks, more accurately and more efficiently, leaving the rest of the staff to deal with more bespoke requests. And as a business focused 100 per cent on customer satisfaction, that’s a wonderful position to be in.” In a recent opinion piece for hospitality. net, Corey McCarthy, chief marketing officer for Unifocus, specialists in workforce management technology for hotels, says: “AI isn’t about replacing the human touch that lies at the heart of hospitality; rather, it’s about amplifying it. By taking over tasks that are more systematically and accurately performed by machines, AI frees staff to devote their time and talents to what truly makes a difference: creating memorable, personalised guest experiences that no algorithm can replicate.” Employees make the most of the Unifocus mobile app for seamless communication, with features like effortless shift swaps using the award-winning Shift Genius, and real-time prioritisation of guest requests, housekeeping and maintenance tasks. McCarthy also advises that it’s important to understand that true AI is not the same as the advanced automation and sophisticated analytics already being put to good use in many hotels. Actual AI harnesses these insights to predict, adapt, and evolve — marking a transition from traditional analytics to intelligent foresight.

Corey McCarthy of Unifocus, says AI isn’t about replacing the human touch that lies at the heart of hospitality

“It’s crucial to note, as we delve into these advanced capabilities, that while Unifocus’s labour budgeting and forecasting features are on the cutting edge of technology, they represent the pinnacle of sophisticated analytics rather than AI,” she explains. “These tools exemplify the strides we’re making towards integrating AI-like capabilities into hospitality management, offering a glimpse into the future where such predictive and adaptive technologies become indistinguishable from true AI.

“AI will help existing automations not only streamline routine tasks but also opens doors to innovative approaches for enhancing guest interactions, ultimately contributing to a richer, more engaging hospitality experience. While many hotel technology platforms may not fully utilise AI today, they are close.”

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