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Artificial Concierge and the Evolution of Hotel Service

On the final day of PhiloMonaco Week 2024, at the Hôtel Hermitage, attendees gathered to discuss the theme "The Hotel Room" with Thierry Consigny, cultural and artistic advisor to the Société des Bains de Mer, novelist Chantal Thomas of the Académie Française, and Louis Starck, general manager of the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo.


This event was part of the cycle of philosophical meetings in Monaco. Over the past ten years, Monaco has become a hub of philosophy, drawing thousands to hear prominent philosophers and writers from France and Europe on contemporary issues. In 2024, after debates on education, ecology, and women, the focus shifted to the Art of Living.


Robert Maggiori, philosopher, founding member and president of the jury of the Prix des Rencontres Philosophiques de Monaco, introduced the discussions:

 

"Whether it is shabby, somewhat dirty, uncomfortable, narrow, dusty, or luxurious, spacious, with a wide view, exquisitely arranged, the hotel room is always 'double': it is a home, but only for intermittent stays; it is a 'home' but one never feels 'at home,' as it is haunted by the ghosts of past and future guests. It is a place of mystery, a place of nowhere—or everywhere, identical in Berlin or New Delhi, Venice or Paris—both a mental space and extraterritorial, like myths, works of imagination, chimeras, and daydreams. This is why cinema often uses it as a setting: Grand Hotel (1932), Hôtel du Nord (1938), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Lost in Translation (2003), The Shining (1980), Psycho (1960), The Godfather (1972), Pretty Woman (1990)... Literature follows suit, with heroes and heroines wandering through inns, hotels, motels, and resorts. There are literary hotels inviting us to 'walk in the footsteps' of Arthur Rimbaud, Victor Hugo, George Sand, or Stendhal, and others worldwide that honor the memory of writers who, in the silence of a room, lived out their final days, wrote, dreamed, experienced passions, boredom, festivities, orgies, drugs, binges, solitary pleasures, tender nights, or creative frenzies: Oscar Wilde (Hôtel d’Alsace, Paris), Cesare Pavese (Albergo Roma, Turin), Ernest Hemingway (Ambos Mundos Hotel, Havana), Agatha Christie (Pera Palace Hotel, room 411, Istanbul), J.K. Rowling (The Balmoral, Edinburgh), John Dos Passos (Locanda Cipriani, Torcello Venice), Vladimir Nabokov (Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Switzerland), Marcel Proust (Grand Hotel de Cabourg), Virginia Woolf (Royal Victoria Hotel, room 105, Pisa)... Thus, it would be unwise to consider the hotel room, a place of all secrets, as merely an indifferent spot to lay down one's bags and rest." (Source)

 

Starting with the emancipation of women and the solo female traveler, participants philosophized on how a hotel room can inspire writing and creativity, and whether the room belongs to someone or no one. At one point, Philippe Starck highlighted that most of the magic happens around the room. For example, in a five-star hotel with nearly 300 rooms and multiple teams of specialized staff, especially numerous during the summer season, it is estimated, simply put, that in your room, two people are invisibly present at all times to ensure your comfort.


During the discussion, an idea kept running through my mind: staying in a hotel is not just about happiness or solitude, but it requires constant assistance from strangers. However, is this contact with unknown staff members always a source of satisfaction and pleasure for guests?


If you do not have technical training, will you know how to reduce the air conditioning ventilation yourself? And finally, deciding to call someone, how long will it take you to understand how the phone works, and once understood, which number to dial? Suppose you have succeeded in the first two steps, in what language will you be answered and to what extent will you be understood? This is far from being obvious or guaranteed.



When the Prince de Galles in Paris first introduced the option to order room service, particularly breakfast, via an app, avoiding the need to call room service, I wrote an article about it. Later, I had a long private discussion with the director of food and beverage at a Palace on the Riviera. He argued that this was probably not a positive change as it eliminated real contact with service staff. I replied that, in theory, his point of view was valid, but in practice, clients do not always desire this contact, and it is not always pleasant. In fact, it is often unpleasant. This was just the first step towards integrating AI into hotel services.


Recently, I experienced an AI-powered concierge during a business trip to Dubai, and it blew me away. It completely changes the philosophy of the hotel and customer service by elevating service to a level that humans simply cannot reach. It offers unmatched and flawless service, simply astonishing. Human interaction becomes unnecessary as AI is much more efficient.



Let me show you how this concierge works through our conversation.


After completing my check-in and providing my phone number with WhatsApp, I received a welcome message. I completely forgot about it until I needed to book a restaurant for dinner the next day. For ten minutes, I tried to figure out how to get a dial tone on the landline phone. Failing that, I started pressing 0 and 9 and the side buttons, looking for the one that would connect me to one of the two employees designated to make my stay wonderful. Then I remembered the WhatsApp welcome message I received the night before.

 



Our reflex to use WhatsApp is, let's agree, anthropological. We type and immediately expect a response. But this is a hotel, I thought, sending a message at 1:10 PM and closing the conversation, ready to forget about it. Yet, at 1:11 PM, I heard the familiar sound of an incoming message: "Allow us a moment please," and at 1:14 PM, I received confirmation.


The next day, I sent a message at 4:06 PM. "Good evening, Madam" at 4:07 PM, "One moment, we are checking" at 4:07 PM, and "We are happy to confirm" at 4:16 PM.

 

I thought of diversifying my requests and the following day, I asked for the lunch and dinner schedules for the entire hotel complex. Two minutes later, at 4:34 PM, I was wished a good evening, and at 4:49 PM, the requested information was sent.


How many times have you forgotten to remove that little sign or press the right button, only to return to a room that badly needs cleaning? The next day, my smart concierge contacted me at 12:01 PM, informing me that they noticed a "do not disturb" sign on my door and that full housekeeping service was available until 4 PM. At 12:03 PM, I responded via WhatsApp, asking for the sign to be removed and the room cleaned. "Certainly, Madam," came the reply at 12:05 PM.

When I returned from my appointment, my room was perfectly made.

 

And here, a philosophical question arises. The concierge is an elite profession, often passed down through generations. The concierge is a notable personality, an irreplaceable individual, the soul of the hotel.

It is quite unpleasant to admit that it is much more customary and simple to communicate with a robot via WhatsApp, which automatically reserves and cancels, responds within a minute, instead of sliding an envelope under the door an hour later, at best, when you are back.

This AI assistant is far more efficient than real people, responding in a perfectly reasonable time and distributing client requests to the relevant services.


It is a system that gives you the feeling of being an omnipotent god: no physical obstacles, everything under control, immediate responses. This service is "Top-notch!" Just as Gutenberg's press ended the profession of copyists, will AI end the concierge profession?

 

The good news is, no. In this case, AI helps the concierge preserve the essence of the profession and significantly improves response speed, allowing the concierge team to focus on more complex external assistance.

By handling internal hotel requests, which are maximally automated in the modern world, AI frees up valuable time for the concierge to address requests concerning everything outside the hotel.


For example, at 5:32 PM, I asked my AI assistant to book a table at one of the city's most popular restaurants for the next day. "Allow us a moment to connect your conversation with Concierge team," was the response at 5:33 PM. By 5:38 PM, the available time slots for the reservation were sent to me. I made my choice. At 7:24 PM, the real concierge sent a confirmation. Without their expertise and connections, this would have been impossible.

We couldn't go to the restaurant that night and requested to reschedule the reservation for 8:00 PM the next day at 1:04 PM. By 1:05 PM, our request was forwarded to the concierge, and at 1:47 PM, the confirmation was sent on WhatsApp.


A month later, I needed the invoice. At 8:45 PM, I sent a message in the chat, and at 8:45 PM, I was greeted and informed that my request was being transferred to the reception. To be honest, I fell asleep feeling good and eager to return to this paradise. The next morning, the invoice was in my email inbox.

 


First Point



Without falling into cultural generalizations, I would say it is probably pleasant for anyone, regardless of culture, to receive such service. Today, it becomes impossible to tolerate anything less after experiencing the most efficient service. This is especially important for clients who have always demanded prompt service and rarely found it. You hoteliers know whom I mean.



Second Point



Hotels must invest in AI, as those not offering this service have already lost.



Third Point



It is imperative to invest heavily in quality employee training. Despite the apparent easing of their workload, a new requirement emerges: being more courteous and professional, making it more pleasant to talk to them than a robot. What will the client choose to order breakfast: calling room service or pressing a few buttons in the app to select the temperature and type of milk for their cappuccino and the type of juice?


The training of room service employees and night team technicians (without whom we couldn't adjust the air conditioning) must not be neglected. These people must follow all training, including "The Art of Client Interaction," which covers posture, presence, hospitality, discretion, and many other topics, taught in English and French.

Once trained, they should receive regular refreshers, at least three to four times a year, because the main difference between AI and humans is that AI maintains the programmed level constantly, while humans generally need reminders. We propose an annual package, very cost-effective and highly effective on the overall approach.

 

Contact us to learn more about the Annual package of the 5-star Welcome program.


We will be happy to answer your questions and provide all necessary details to improve your customer service and train your teams to excellence.

 

 

Feel free to send us a message or call us to discuss your needs and discover how our continuous training program can enhance the experience of your most demanding clients.



Interculturally yours,

Anastasia Shevchenko



P.S.: Special thank you for the wonderful exemplary service to the Hotel Mina A'Salam, Jumeirah.

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