Maciej 2023
March 21, 2024

A step-by-step guide to getting hotel teams on board with AI tools

Get started on the path to the successful implementation of AI in your hotel

Are your teams hesitant to incorporate one more technology into their workday? Have you noticed their scepticism towards the application of AI in hospitality? Or perhaps seek decision-makers at your hotel to acknowledge how AI can support overloaded reservation and reception teams?

This article offers a useful list of steps on the roadmap to a successful implementation of AI at your hotel. The first part explores key areas that require thoughtful consideration to prepare a solid foundation for introducing new technology at your hotel. 

The second part takes on the form of a checklist of recommended actions and conversations that can carry you and your team throughout this challenging yet very exciting process of embracing innovation at your hotel.

  • Note: This text is based on the assumption that you have already decided on the new tool you want to implement, verified the viability of the technological setup, and clearly understood how the tools fit into your hotel’s operations. The guide focuses only on how to guide your teams through technological change successfully.

Considerations before implementing AI tools at your hotel

Published in the Advances in Hospitality and Tourism Research journal in 2023, a review of 18 different studies of the impact of artificial intelligence on hospitality employees’ work outcomes identified three key factors that facilitate or prevent AI adoption in hospitality:

  • Readiness to use AI
  • Knowledge about AI
  • Top management support

Keeping them in mind, let’s dive into different areas of preparation.

Proactively address the concerns about AI

The study above analyses research on AI’s impact on staff performance, behaviour and attitude. There is one factor that is considered a significant negative effect, and it is fear of AI taking over the jobs in hospitality. This concern should not be downplayed, and you should put effort into addressing it openly. 

At HiJiffy, we work towards developing technology that doesn’t aim to substitute humans in hospitality but instead elevates the role played by staff and supports them in delivering the perfect guest experience. Many AI technology providers share that attitude, but you should always ask about their position, as it can reassure your teams.

AI tools have become more of a necessity in the hospitality industry, which is facing 1.2 million staff shortages, according to the Travel & Tourism Council and European Travel Commission in 2022. It is important to continue to show how these smart technologies are there to support your teams.

Lead with transparency

These three factors above determine how easy or difficult it may be to incorporate new advanced technology at your hotel, so it’s essential to consider them and come to honest conclusions. Do not shy away from challenging questions; instead, engage in open conversations that can contribute to eventual buy-in from the team. Transparency throughout the entire process goes a long way in terms of building trust, not only regarding the new tool but also the leadership.

Set realistic expectations

Take time and ask the technology provider questions to carefully estimate the roadmap of the rollout of the AI solution, from the setup to training to seeing the first results. For example, platforms may require you to train the AI by feeding it information about your hotel. Some of them will need your teams to spend some time populating the data; others will do it automatically for you if you can provide a knowledge base document. The required time and effort levels will be different, and make sure to communicate them clearly to the teams so your staff – as well as you – have realistic expectations. 

Map out the stakeholders

Identifying the key people who can influence the success of rolling out a new AI tool at your hotel is a useful exercise. From a broader perspective, you need to understand who are the potential champions and challengers in the following groups:

  • Top management/decision-makers at your hotel brand
  • Leaders of the teams that will use the solution (e.g. Reservations, Reception)
  • Future everyday users of the solution (e.g. Concierges)
  • Customer Success representatives at the technology provider side

Use your insights and experience to identify which specific aspects of the AI tool (features, benefits, price, ease of use, etc.) you should lead with during individual discussions and where you need to prepare solid arguments to address foreseeable concerns and assumptions.

Blog guide to ai onboarding 2 a step-by-step guide to getting hotel teams on board with ai tools

Get your hotel teams involved as soon as you can

“Take risks and embrace change” – taking on such an attitude in strategic leadership positions is easier than in a practical guest-facing environment. When your reception and front-of-house teams are overloaded with work, they may not be as enthusiastic to learn another tool, work with a new system, and do things differently. You’ll have the best understanding of the best moment to get your team involved in the conversation about introducing an AI tool, but try to do it as soon as you are prepared, as time is a precious resource in this process.

Focus on the key benefits from your team’s perspective

Also, when presenting the solution, focus on a specific problem your team is facing, and the AI will now resolve that. For example, if you are implementing HiJiffy’s conversational AI and your team is struggling to stay on top of answering all incoming repetitive questions, highlight that this solution, on average, automatically answers 87% of such queries. There are plenty more benefits coming with this technology, but the more relatable the examples are for your team, the more persuasive they become.

Educate yourself

If you are championing this solution, there will be an expectation among your staff that you may have all the answers. Come prepared for the initial demo with the technology provider, and take time to ask the questions you need. If possible, record the demo to watch it again or show it to your colleagues who are included in the decision-making process. Request links to further resources, such as onboarding videos, a list of features, FAQs, success stories/case studies, or a help centre so that you can do further research or at least have a point of reference when asked questions. The more knowledgeable you are about the solution, the more persuasive you become.

Define the success criteria

Finally, decide what should be considered a successful tool implementation for you. Remember the SMART framework and set your key performance indicators (KPIs). Combining multiple perspectives to have the most meaningful success goal may be a good idea. Using the example of HiJiffy’s conversational AI, you can track guest satisfaction with the CSAT score, operational improvement with the automation rate answering frequently asked questions (FAQs), and impact on revenue and ROI with the number of direct bookings facilitated by the chatbot. Incorporating feedback from your team should also be part of evaluating the success.

Blog guide to ai onboarding 3 a step-by-step guide to getting hotel teams on board with ai tools

Getting your hotel team on board with AI: Next steps

This section recommends a checklist of actions and conversations to increase the success of introducing AI tools at your hotel to your teams.

1. Secure support from top management

  • Resources beyond the budget: Ensure the alignment with the management that necessary resources also include time for training and ongoing support, especially during the initial phase of implementing the solution.
  • Commitment to innovation: Understand the level of risk-taking and experimentation that the top management feels comfortable with to ensure you have their support during the implementation of the tools and later during the monitoring and evaluation stages.
  • Visible support: Ask for active championing of the solution at the top level to make buying in from different stakeholders easier.

2. Outline the new digital infrastructure

  • Draw on familiarity: Are any other AI-powered tools used in your hotel? Highlighting similarities and differences can make explaining the new tool more straightforward. If you experienced any issues with the other tool, it’s worth addressing them in the content of the new tool as well.
  • Replacing existing tools: Is the new tool replacing any existing ones? Share clear reasons for the replacement and key differences between the tools. Achieving a shared understanding of why the change is taking place is essential.
  • Integrations: Verify how the new AI will integrate with existing systems (e.g. booking engines, PMS, CRM) and demonstrate it to the team. Showing how the new tool seamlessly fits into the technological ecosystem at your hotel can put some staff members at ease.

3. Educate your team

  • An introduction session: Don’t jump straight into the training mode. Start with a broader perspective and discuss the role of AI in hospitality, highlighting the purpose and benefits of the new tool – both for the staff and your hotel guests.
  • Give the opportunity to ask questions: Providing a space for raising concerts and clarifying doubts will make your team feel more involved and subsequently invested in implementing new technology.
  • Provide sufficient training: Make sure to address different roles and tech-saviness levels. Share learning resources – from videos to documentation – to allow your staff to learn in various ways.
  • Data privacy and security: Give your team the necessary training about how AI tools handle guest data so that they are well-informed and capable of confidently answering questions of that nature.
  • Share case studies: If such resources are available from the technology provider, present them to the team to illustrate the benefits of the new tool with relatable industry-specific examples.

4. Set clear expectations and objectives

  • Fair effort assessment: Don’t oversell the ease of implementing the new tools. Even if it’s actually straightforward, your team may feel like their effort is underappreciated.

5. Share the rollout strategy

  • Pilot programme: Is it better for you to start implementing AI on one property to collect feedback and make any adjustments before introducing it to more properties? Or would you prefer to launch the solution in all properties at once?

Case Study
Read in-depth testimonials from Lamington Group about their gradual rollout of HiJiffy’s conversational AI in their properties.

Besides seeing the results, the process of gaining trust and confidence is all about learning the wider benefits of AI to support the guest journey” – Alicia van Wyk, Marketing Project Manager at Lamington Group

  • Active participation: Encourage (and potentially incentivise) everyone to take an active role in shaping this new technological landscape for your hotel. Ensure the new tools are used actively by everyone from day one to really put it to the test and gather a good volume of feedback quickly.
  • Monitoring: Keep track of key metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that determine the tool’s successful implementation. For example, using a conversational AI solution for guest communications, you may want to focus on the automation rate, customer satisfaction score (CSAT), and incorporate your team’s feedback regarding the reduction of their workload as a result.

6. Learn continuously

  • Checkpoints with the technology provider: Establish the connection between your team and your customer success contact. Different technology providers offer various levels of support depending on subscription plans, but most of them include an optional regular check-in point, so take advantage of that. Learn how to use new features and optimise your tool usage.
  • Experiment: Try out different features and settings your AI hotel tech solution offers. Ask your team for suggestions and ideas.
  • Ask your team for insights: Everyday users of the AI tool can give you the most valuable insights into improving your current use or identifying potential issues. Create a regular opportunity for the team to share and discuss feedback to prioritise collectively.

7. Acknowledge the effort

  • Reward and recognition: Voice your appreciation of the team’s effort invested in learning the new tool.
  • Highlight individual contributions: Some hotel AI tools have various insights into the performance of each team member. It gives you an opportunity not only to recognise success but also to identify staff who need additional training and support.

This list should get you started on the path to the successful implementation of AI in your hotel in terms of your team getting on board with it and using it actively and efficiently.

Do you have suggestions on how to improve this checklist?
Share them with us by sending us a message on LinkedIn.

Maciej 2023
Senior Content & Brand Specialist

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