October 21, 2022

What is a Virtual Concierge, and Why it Matters to Your Industry?

What is a Virtual Concierge, and Why it Matters to Your Industry?

Hotel virtual concierge rendering

A new generation of customers is on the horizon, and they know exactly what they want. Customers are used to nearly instantaneous online transactions; they expect the same when they enter your business. They don't want to be put on hold, asked to wait, or — this is the worst — stand in line.

On the other hand, they also crave excellent customer service. They want the corner room with a view of the ocean, salad with the dressing on the side, and that sweater in the right size and color. And they expect you to know this before they even walk in the door.

In other words, they want you to be able to give them everything they can get during an online transaction.

That isn't to say that customers don't want the personal touch. But they don't necessarily need face-to-face interaction when it comes to checking into a hotel, ordering a meal, or paying for a purchase. In a recent survey, 52% of hospitality professionals said that their customers prefer a self-service option rather than be taken care of by staff members.

According to many people in the industry, the best option is to use a virtual concierge.

What is a Virtual Concierge?

The concept of a virtual concierge, also known as a digital concierge, has matured in capabilities and offerings. It's no longer just that kiosk in the hotel check-in area. Today's virtual concierge is most likely a network of touchscreen devices of every size and configuration spread throughout a hotel's public spaces. By now, most hospitality clients have engaged with a virtual concierge of one type or another. It's the small touchscreens in the elevators reminding guests about the range of dining options in the hotel; the medium-sized touchscreens in the hallways helping them find their way to the pool or spa, and the massive touchscreens in the lobby reminding them to bring an umbrella, wear a warmer jacket or stroll by the nearby park for a free jazz concert.

The virtual concierge isn't just found in hotels. The entire hospitality sector, including many restaurants, is taking advantage of the technology. Retail is also finding numerous ways to use virtual concierge services. There are few industries that can't benefit from virtual concierge technology.

What are the Advantages of a Virtual Concierge?

Customers want a seamless experience from the moment they walk through the door. That's just the start of what a virtual concierge can offer.

Frees up your staff. Studies show that digital concierges can handle up to 60% of guest requests that would otherwise be routed to your front desk, freeing them to address more urgent tasks. Your team is happy to eliminate the repetitious tasks that a virtual concierge doesn't mind doing.

Always on call. In the hospitality field, the reality is that customers come and go at all hours. You can't possibly have a full staff on hand around the clock to meet their needs. A virtual concierge can take care of most issues on the spot.

Personalizing service. A virtual concierge can help you deliver that unmatched customer service that customers crave. If a frequent guest usually dines in a nearby restaurant, a virtual concierge can note this and ask if they need a reservation.

Helps with hiring headaches. In today's economy, hiring can be a challenge. By letting your customers handle specific tasks on their own, your current staff will be able to function at a higher level.

Hotels and Virtual Concierges

A survey published in Hotel Technology News found that 78% of hotel brands plan to increase their investment in technology over the next three years. More than half fully automate their systems, while a third focus on streamlining the guest experience. For many, that means virtual concierges.

Brett Beveridge, Founder of the branding and consulting agency T-ROC Global, told Hospitality Technology that virtual concierges are becoming more and more popular because guests are used to the speed at which they can access information the internet.

"It becomes frustrating when guests have to wait in line to chat with a concierge, or even worse, can't locate one," he said. "Having a virtual concierge available at a kiosk or smartphone offers speedy help no matter the time of day. These virtual assistant kiosks can even aid in hotel check-in and check-out processes during high-volume seasons."

Many hotels have transformed their lobbies into information centers—often underused spaces. With a virtual concierge, guests can seek out the best local restaurants, including favorite spots recommended by your staff. They can book seats at concerts or sporting events with a few clicks. And they can reserve a time for a treatment at your spa or a tee time on your golf course.

Restaurants and Virtual Concierges

Self-service kiosks have been a game-changer for many restaurants, not just because they cut lines and increase the number of transactions during peak times. They also encourage customers back. A study from the National Restaurant Association discovered that 65% of customers would visit a restaurant more often if it offered self-service kiosks.

Coupling self-service systems with virtual-concierge services makes them even more powerful. Recognizing a customer and knowing their usual order — maybe they always order fries on the side — can drive higher average tickets.

Digital menu boards make removing menu items that are no longer available or adding the night's specials easier. Some eateries have used digital touchscreen signage to allow customers to read more about the dishes — for example, the calorie count or the ingredients — to make better choices.

Retail and Virtual Concierges

Study after study shows that people hate waiting in lines at retail establishments. A recent report showed that over 75% of people would leave a queue because it's too long — a big hit to any retailer's bottom line.

A virtual concierge system can help cut the lines by enabling customers to find their answers with self-service virtual concierges. They also create a better overall customer experience. About two-thirds of customers say they prefer the self-service option because they can wrap up their orders quicker.

As online customers become increasingly digitally savvy, they will demand the same speed, selection, and customer service as their in-person purchases. A virtual concierge system will help hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments — in fact, anyone who sells directly to the public — stay ahead of the curve.


By Rick Smith