The UK has been all over the news for quite a while. But the UK has been making rounds even on hospitality news because of one problem: A staff shortage so bad, hotels have to resort to shutting down a few hours or few days a week.
Hoteliers are no strangers to the difficulties of finding, training and retaining staff. With the pressure to make hospitality experiences enjoyable and memorable, the labour shortage can cause serious issues. Especially since traveller volumes have been rising consistently, it’s now high time to find solutions to this pervasive problem.
The problem is affecting many areas of the hospitality industry, ranging from the front of house staff to the back of house staff. Front of house staff are particularly affected, as they are the face of the hospitality business and their roles are essential in providing a warm and welcoming service to guests. This shortage is already having an impact on guest satisfaction, as hotels are struggling to provide the same level of service that they did previously. Not to mention the lack of personalization whether it be in terms of entertaining guests in their native language or giving every guest a memorable experience through customisation based on guest preferences.
The exact origin of this problem is hard to pinpoint. But some studies show that the UK hotel industry has been under-staffed since 2006. Adding to one, the high turnover rate (as high as 30% in 2019) has further contributed to worsening the problem. As of recent time, the pandemic and Brexit have made the situation especially dire.
How is this affecting the situation on ground?
- High burnout rates: In May 2022, there were an estimated 2.7 million visits to the UK, compared with 86,000 visits by air in May 2021 when some travel restrictions were in force. With the number of guests increasing each year, there is more demand for staff across the hospitality industry. This, in turn, is resulting in more pressure on the existing workforce, leading to high burnout rates among the staff. In fact, hospitality workers seem to be the one of the most stressed according to a study. Thus leading to high levels of burnout and thus, increased turnover rates.
- Decreased productivity: The aforementioned burnout combined with the high rates of repetitive tasks that are a daily part of hotel life leads to lowered productivity. Repetitive tasks like answering FAQs, checking documents during check-in and so on not only add pressure to the already burdened staff, it is also frustrating for guests who have to deal with delayed response times.
- Decreased guest satisfaction: Lower number of staff with high stress levels are leading to decreased guest engagement, longer wait times and poor quality guest-hotel interactions. A large portion of the problem lies in the long wait times, whether it be for check-ins or for getting answers, reservations or issue resolution. (Read more about how detrimental long wait times are on this article)
- Decreased revenue: The lack of staff has resulted in some hotels even shutting down for a few days in the week because there is no other choice. Some have even had to rethink their opening hours. The effects to the hotel’s revenue and the hotel industry as a whole can only be imagined.
What’s the solution?
There is a need for a multi-pronged approach here from different sources. But an immediate solution that not only alleviates many of these problems but also upgrades the quality of guest experience lies in technology.
Technology can play an important role in helping to fill the gaps in staffing in the hospitality industry. By utilizing existing technologies, hotels can ensure that guests have a seamless, enjoyable experience.
- Lower the load on staff: Automating mundane tasks, such as check-in, can help to reduce the time it takes for guests to check-in and speed up the process of getting them to their room. This allows employees to let AI take care of some of their work thus reducing the burden. This becomes a great way to combat the rising stress levels. Over 70% of respondents to a survey said technology has made their team happier overall.
- Improve efficiency: Boosting productivity and efficiency are a key benefit of using technology. The automation of many repetitive tasks improve overall productivity of the front office since more time is freed up for the staff. Smart management tools also allow for efficient assigning of tasks to specific employees which ensures minimal misunderstandings. As much as 93% of staff on-property reported gains in efficiency.
- Better guest satisfaction: Chatbot and virtual concierges are able to consistently engage with guests through their preferred chat platforms. Seamless, immediate responses in real time builds a better rapport with the guests. No matter the volume of queries or check-ins, digitization allows for easy resolutions to happen in the snap of your fingers. With technology, hotels can provide personalized service to their guests, such as customizing rooms and amenities to their preferences, allowing them to order room service or book a massage through instant messaging.
- Improve revenue: A consequence of improved guest satisfaction is improved revenue but another often overlooked task staff in a hotel perform is upselling hotel services. But the integration of a chatbot and the right upselling solution allows hotels to also automate this task. If the guest is unaware of the service due to less interactions with staff, they of course wouldn’t be able to avail these services. An AI-based upselling solution dispels all these problems through automatic messages that use client data to ensure better conversions.
Automation is becoming increasingly commonplace in the hospitality industry, with many hotels and restaurants now relying on software and robots to carry out tasks that would previously have been done by staff. This automation is providing an efficient and cost-effective way to run a hospitality business during peak seasons, while still maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction.
By implementing the latest technology, hospitality businesses can ensure that their guests are provided with a high-quality service, even when there is a lack of staff on the ground. This is because the automation processes that are in place are able to manage guest needs quickly and efficiently, so that guests can get the best experience possible from their stay.
The hotel industry is increasingly employing conversational AI and robotic automation technologies, but there’s still a huge ground to cover. It has huge potential but is underpenetrated.
Engage-AI is RateGain’s Virtual Assistant Conversational AI platform which helps optimize your hotel’s operations, create upsell opportunities and generate more revenue per guest, ultimately enhancing guest experience and increasing satisfaction scores for the hotel.
For an in-depth guide on Engage-AI or to schedule a free demo, get in touch with our experts “here”