How to Develop AI-Powered Concierge App: Best Practices and Examples
Modern consumers prioritize convenience and speed above all. This is the main force driving the increase in the adoption of Uber-like apps and the on-demand economy.
Personal assistant apps, on the other hand, open new opportunities for consumers who want instant access to information and services. Utilizing artificial intelligence and familiar chat interfaces, they provide another competitive edge by offering increased accessibility, intelligence, and convenience.
In this article we will focus on one of the major use cases for personal assistant apps — the travel and hospitality industry. Namely, let’s talk about concierge app development.
1. A personal assistant in your pocket: “Concierge app” definition and its use cases
Personal assistant apps used in the travel and hospitality industry are often referred to as “concierge apps”.
Similar to their counterparts in other business verticals, hotel concierge apps allow its users to access various services or information, using simple interactions. What’s more, this process is mostly automated. It relies heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning integrated into every personal concierge app.
While some of the apps might use AI only partially, utilizing actual people to process user queries, fully automated AI apps have a number of business advantages: They are more efficient, faster, and less error-prone.
That is why building a concierge app that relies solely on a regular call center/support personnel makes practically no sense from a business point of view. Out-of-the-box AI and machine learning solutions are now more accessible than ever and can be used to power AI apps.
Some of the most common use cases for concierge apps are:
- Hospitality — apps for hotel guests, self-service solutions
- Travel — personal travel agents
- Events and entertainment — personal interactive guides
- Healthcare — personal assistant apps built for hospital patients
Concierge apps applied to the eCommerce industry are often referred to as personal shopper apps. You can find more information on this topic in our article.
Hospitality seems to be the one of the most obvious use case for concierge service apps, and as such, we will focus on that specific area of application further in this article.
2. The state of concierge app development
Digitization is a burning trend in the travel and hospitality industry. Namely, AI-based customer service initiatives are gaining popularity among the leading hospitality providers and carriers.
According to the whitepaper published by the World Economic Forum in cooperation with Accenture, a hotel’s ability to understand their guests’ preferences and personal needs could allow them to provide highly personalized and enriched experiences. This has the potential to bring hotel owners up to $2 billion in additional profits annually by 2025. AI-powered concierge apps could play a major role in this respect.
Moreover, the document also points out that marketing more efficiently that can be achieved through advanced personalization, and data analytics could generate $6 billion in annual cost savings by 2025.
Furthermore, the market for travel concierge apps is ripe for disruption. Research conducted by Hotels.com finds that almost half of the respondents (46%) are willing to use mobile concierge services.
The most popular requests from travelers who would like to use such apps include the following:
- restaurant reservations (62%)
- directions (51%)
- tickets to tourist attractions (48%)
- barista services (25%)
- ironing (17%)
Despite this promising outlook, AI and concierge service apps are still in the early stages of adoption. We will look into some examples of brands that have been successfully utilizing these technologies later in this article. But first, let’s highlight some of the main reasons you should build a personal concierge app for your business.
3. Why invest in building concierge apps?
There are many reasons for a hotel owner to develop a travel concierge app. Concierge app development gives you a competitive edge over other hospitality providers.
Specifically, some of the benefits that can be obtained from such an investment are:
- Lower operations cost. With a one-time investment into concierge app development, you won’t need to hire, train, and pay the salaries of actual concierges, or those employees who are usually responsible for receiving and processing service requests from the guests.
- Increased efficiency and smarter resources allocation. In addition to reduced cost, AI apps have proven to be more efficient and provide faster customer service. You can trust an AI agent with collecting and processing service requests, while your actual employees focus on other important aspects of running your property, and get involved only if there is a need to.
- Higher customer support standards. With query processing being completely automated, there is practically no waiting. Guests can instantly get answers to their questions. You will execute the service requests immediately and deliver a better overall customer experience.
- Direct access to customer data. With a rich amount of data being collected by your app, you can make informed decisions and further improve your business: introduce additional services with more confidence, make your customer experience more personal, and more effectively predict their needs. Furthermore, you will be able to better target your customers with relevant services and offers.
- Better brand loyalty and engagement. An enhanced customer experience is a powerful tool for building trust and loyalty within your customer base. Moreover, a concierge app can help you impersonate your brand and thus make it more visible and recognizable.
- The ability to target larger audiences. Chatbot apps are known to appeal to a younger audience. Namely, research finds that millennials are a key demographic for making purchases via chatbots. Thus, your travel concierge app has all the chances of winning over tech-savvy guests.
- Better visibility of the staffs’ productivity. Smart automation will allow you to keep track of the incoming requests and the staffs’ productivity indicators, such as order processing speed. With direct access to customer feedback, you can easily identify the downsides of your staffs’ performance and optimize your internal processes.
- New revenue sources. In addition to attracting more guests and increasing the number of service orders by making it faster and more convenient, you can also monetize the concierge app itself. This can be a partner program where you can attract third-party vendors (transportation providers, on-demand delivery services) or paid premium service subscription options.
Other than the listed benefits, a concierge app can help you stand out among the competition, stay relevant, and create additional touch points with your audience.
4. The best hotel brands utilizing concierge apps
The popular hotel chain, having 13 brands and 4,726 properties under their roof, was among the first to join the digitization trend in hospitality. Its Hilton Honors app offers a wide variety of services, accessible at a tap of a finger; from hotel booking and room selection, to self-check-in and digital locks.
A hotel guest can also explore dining options in the hotel, make reservations with affiliate restaurants, request valet services, or book a ride with an Uber taxi. A nice touch is the delivery of notifications regarding special offers and events that are taking place in the hotel or at nearby locations.
On the downside, the in-app chat is not powered by AI. It uses a regular call center to process customer requests. That is why when using the app, it can take up to 5 minutes to get an answer to your question.
Unlike the HHonors app, Connie, a robotic concierge built in partnership with IBM, relies heavily on artificial intelligence. Powered by IBM Watson, it can welcome guests upon arrival, and answer their questions about the hotel’s amenities, schedules, and services.
The robot is constantly learning. It is programed to save every question that is asked by a guest and use it for future reference. In addition, the company plans to integrate with WayBlazer, a travel recommendation engine, to provide information regarding tourist destinations, restaurants, and other attractions to further assist their guests in the planning of their trip.
Another global hotel chain operating over 4,400 properties across 87 countries is bringing their concierge service to its mobile app. Just like its Hilton counterpart, the Marriott International mobile app offers hotel booking capabilities and serves as a valuable addition to the company’s loyalty program.
Moreover, the app can serve as a digital key allowing guests to check themselves in-and-out by passing the typical wait time at the front desk. The app can notify a user when the room is ready and offers upgrade options for loyalty program members. Guests can also use the app to request additional toiletries and other common amenities. If there is anything else you need, you can chat directly with the front desk right within the app.
Having first introduced the chat-based concierge service within its mobile app in 2015, Marriott saw that 80% of the 10,000 mobile requests were made through this feature during the trial period. That fact further proves the convenience of concierge mobile apps.
“Mobile can deliver more of what the customer needs during each part of their trip, and we can use data, context and new insights to personalize their stay.”
– George Corbin, SVP of Digital at Marriott International (source)
One of the more popular OTAs, HotelTonight has recently entered the market of hotel concierge services with its HT Pros (earlier, Aces) app feature. The capability, added to the app in 2016, allows users to chat with a personal travel concierge and request different services or information. This can be restaurant reservations or extra toiletries delivered to your room.
Just like similar services offered from the Hilton app, the HT Pros feature is powered by real people available 24/7. Despite this fact, the average response time is about 23 seconds. The people, with whom you can talk to in the app use more of a lively, informal communication style, which makes you feel like you are talking to a close friend, rather than a butler at the hotel.
HotelTonight Pros cooperate closely with local insiders, e.g. food bloggers, so the suggestions you get are really hand-curated. As for the hotel’s services, there is a certain limitation. Unlike Hilton’s app which is directly connected to the property’s help desk, the HT Pros have to call the property to have your request fulfilled at the hotel.
Having rolled out the Pros feature for all its users in 2016, HotelTonight plans to better automate their process in the future.
5. Must-have features of AI-based hotel concierge apps
As we can see from the examples above, there is a specific set of features that make a concierge service app a valuable addition to a hotel’s digital offering:
- The ability to request a service. A list of available services with detailed information about them (including prices), and a one-touch order placement (the possibility to schedule a service for a certain time/date).
- Integration with third-party tools for additional service options (restaurant booking, local guides, ride hailing services, and on-demand delivery services).
- Chat. Instant messaging is probably the most convenient way to interact with AI apps. Thus, your app should be able to recognize and understand natural language. Chat can be used to request a certain service or receive the required information.
- Customer support is important to maintain in the event that a guest needs to speak with a real person, to make of a non-standard request or to solve other customer service related issues.
- In-app payment options so users can pay for the requested services instantly.
- Push notifications and tailored suggestions. Timely reminders for scheduled services (spa, entertainment, restaurant reservations, etc.) can prove to be very handy. Moreover, your concierge service app can send out additional offers or promotional content, based on the user’s preferences and behavior.
- Self-service capabilities. Digital keys — the ability to check oneself in-and-out of a hotel — is hugely popular among tech-savvy travelers. Obviously, they require certain hardware to work with (i.e. smart locks or lockboxes). However, they can firmly enhance your guests’ experiences and automate a number of processes, eliminating this aspect of the front desk service completely.
- Navigation. For large hotels, it might be a good idea to enable GPS and location services to help your guests navigate themselves within your property. In some cases, you can even implement indoor navigation (e.g. with the help of Beacons).
Aside from the concierge app for guests, you might need to develop a cloud-based dashboard for management and control. In addition to that, staff-facing mobile apps for service providers might be required to keep track of the service requests forwarded by the concierge AI.
To compete in today’s digital age, your business needs to prioritize its customer experience and invest in intelligent automation. That is why AI-powered concierge apps are gaining popularity among the leading hospitality brands. However, the niche is still in its early stages of development. That is why now might be the best time to invest in this strategy and gain a competitive edge.
With 7 years of hands-on experience building successful products for startups and businesses around the world, we at Eastern Peak have accumulated the knowledge and expertise that can set your business apart from others. Contact us now to secure your dedicated team of concierge app developers.
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