Why AI Technology has Failed the Hospitality Industry – Thus Far

Imagine you’re planning a vacation for your family. You’ve spent a generous amount of time researching destinations, booking flights, securing a car rental, and finally, the hotel. After thoroughly researching all of your options, you settled on a property and pick up the phone. After a few rings, you hear a voice on the other end of the line, and you immediately tense up—a voice bot. What could have been a quick and painless phone call turns into a one-sided conversation that seems to take you in circles until finally, you’re able to talk to a human on the other end of the line.

In 2021, customers value a personal connection, but the convenience of a voice bot is hard to beat for some businesses that just don’t have the manpower to handle their current call volume. Is there a better solution for voice bots? To fully understand how Artificial Intelligence can fit into the hospitality industry, we must first understand how it has failed us thus far.

What are voice bots?

Voice bots are software used in call centers of large companies to help customers navigate to their desired representative more naturally than a voice recording with keyed responses. Voice bots are powered by artificial intelligence and are known as Interactive Voice Response Systems or IVR for short.

What’s wrong with current voice bots?

Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVR) Does is belong in the hospitality industry?

Despite vast improvements in technology from the previous iterations of IVR that had customers listen to menus and press corresponding numbers on their keypads, the majority of consumers still seek to avoid voice bots whenever possible. IVR systems seemingly appeared overnight and forced customers into a loop of long wait times and incoherent call and answer scenarios. However, IVR systems are widely used by industries across the globe to help companies cope with massive call volumes. It doesn’t take an industry expert to point out what’s wrong with current IVR systems.

Long menus and rigid redirecting

Because IVR systems can’t differentiate between types of calls, customers are forced into a cycle of repeating menus to help narrow down their reason for calling. This is an incredibly frustrating situation to be in for any customer, but older customers find it especially difficult to follow.

IVR systems can’t create or understand context

Unlike humans, IVR systems cannot provide a personalized call experience. Completely unaware of customers’ purchasing history, previous needs, or customer journey, callers are all forced to jump through the same hoops, again and again, each time they call.

IVR Systems Can’t Collect and Store Data

IVR systems can only collect and store a limited amount of data, so returning callers will not have their progress saved. Additionally, the failure of IVR systems to collect data cripples a company’s ability to make data-driven decisions based on their customers’ call experiences.

Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVR) do not provide human-like, personalized experiences that result in poor customer service

What are the consequences of voice bot dependence?

According to Vonage, an industry leader in cloud communication, 61% of customers feel that IVRs make for a poor experience. Additionally, the State of IVR in 2018 asserts that 83% of customers have abandoned a company altogether after reaching an IVR’s menu of options. Customer service experts have since identified the error of mass implementation of IVR.

The last year and a half put IVR systems to the ultimate stress test, especially in the travel industry. When flights are canceled in mass, call volumes for airlines surge, and it’s clear that IVR systems are hurting the customer experience rather than simplifying it.

Where do we go from here?

It’s 2021, automated customer service experiences don’t have to be so painstakingly miserable. Many corporations need some type of automated system to help process and sort callers. An investment in technology to create a customer-focused, alternative intelligence-powered voice bot is a feasible solution.

A voice bot with a focus on increasing response time, decreasing total call time, and quickly redirecting callers with an added component of a humanlike interaction is now a reality. Keep your eye out for our next story when we introduce Annette™, The Virtual Hotel Agent™.

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John Smallwood, President

About John Smallwood, President of Travel Outlook

A veteran in the hospitality industry, John has owned, developed, and managed hotels for many years. After earning a BBA from New Mexico State University, he started his career with AT&T, gaining invaluable insight and experience in the early years of the data revolution. His experience in technology and hospitality merged in his development of Travel Outlook, the world-class hospitality contact center. More recently, he has branched out with the creation of ExpressRez, the premier contact center for the Bed and Breakfast industry, and with the creation of Annette, the first AI-powered voice bot for the hotel industry.

About Travel Outlook

Given its progressive approach to the voice channel – in terms of performance, training, transparency, testing and the tools used to measure performance – Travel Outlook Premium Hotel Call Center has become the premier voice reservations team in hospitality. Travel Outlook’s valued client list includes Viceroy Hotel Group, Outrigger, KSL Resorts, Proper Hospitality Group, Pacific Hospitality Group, Highgate Hotels, The Irvine Company, Catalina Island and many others. Travel Outlook’s team and approach increases sales conversion and helps to create more effective voice communication between hotels and their guests, resulting in improved social scores in addition to increased voice channel revenue. For more information, visit

About Annette™, The Virtual Hotel Agent™:

Annette is an AI powered virtual call center agent that represents the next generation of voice bots designed specifically for the Hospitality industry. Annette has been programmed using a breakthrough approach to voice bots, a system built from human conversations. Using social media, chat forums, and movie dialogue, Annette learns from billions of casual human conversations to understand human inflections and multi-turn queries. This revolutionary approach means Annette understands callers no matter what they say, when they say it, or how they speak. Annette can answer FAQs specific to your property, understand multiple languages, route calls, send follow up texts, and more.

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