The concierge team at SIXTY LES tell us about five features of ALICE's concierge technology - ALICE Concierge - that have transformed how they do their job.
This is a guest post by Noah Lemaich, Head Concierge, SIXTY Hotels.
Changes to websites bring out the best and the worst in people. A small change in how Facebook looks incites both rage and high praise from the internet masses. SIXTY LES has worked with ALICE since October 2014; the launch was initially met with apathetic resistance “Another Hotel Vendor?! We have too many systems already!”. Now, my team searches me out to ask “When will ALICE start doing ____?” or “Can we drop ____ and start using ALICE instead”?
We decided to look back at the changes and additions made in last year with ALICE. ALICE identified these needs through *many* meetings with our very opinionated staff, as well as with other hotels. One year ago these features only existed as “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could use ALICE for ____?”, now we have firmly moved to “I don’t know how we lived without this”. Here’s our top 5 ALICE features we’ve become rabid fans of in the past year.
1. Local Vendor & Contact Database
ALICE first approached us and asked “What’s the biggest feature that’s missing to enable your concierge team to use ALICE?” We told ALICE they were lacking a way to maintain a local concierge database (restaurants, salons, lounges, etc). ALICE could have just built a basic address book and pat themselves on the back. Instead, one of their first questions was “Interesting; how do you find that information now?”. “Most of the time; we use this thing called the interwebs.” ALICE identified the ability to save a database of local information only solves part of the issue. The concierge team was spending most of their time scouring the internet and manually adding local vendor information we had found online, into our old online concierge database.
When the ALICE team came back with the first version of Local; we were floored. They asked us to add our hotel restaurant into our new ALICE Local. In our old system, we would get ready to type “Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya” search for all the info online and manually copy and paste this info into our database. We only got as far as typing “Blu” and ALICE had already returned our hotel restaurant as a suggestion. With one click, the name, phone, website, full address, hours of operation, categories and a map were automatically populated. One more click, and ALICE automatically pulled in links from Opentable, Menupages, Facebook, Twitter, and more. Thanks, ALICE, for giving me those 10 minutes of my life back.
Knowing the address and cross streets does not make a good concierge. What really makes a good concierge is knowing *who* to speak with at the restaurant, a concierge review, our favorite dish, and remembering to guide the guest past a tricky hidden entrance. This concierge specific information is what we are most passionate about. ALICE Local takes care of all the public information that everyone can find; and lets my concierge team focus on adding all those important details that require a concierge hand.
Local is your digital black book. Powered by a Google database, Local lets concierges and front desk staff save information for any business or contact they or their guests call upon.
2. SMS Text Messaging
While Texting is not our most used feature, being able to send and receive text messages from guests within ALICE has been a lifesaver. If a guest prefers to text us, rather than downloading an app or calling; my team loves that this comes directly into ALICE. I think that this feature points towards ALICE’s passion for becoming an integrated solution which works with our existing software, while also filling the void of software we may not have (like messaging). There are plenty of text message solutions out there; which only handle texting. We like that using ALICE for texting means one less system to constantly monitor. Aside from texting our guests; we also love that we can use ALICE to text our vendors (nightlife promoters, massage therapists, etc) and not worry about constantly checking our mobile phones to see if they have texted back.
Guests can communicate with your hotel’s concierges in real-time, with ALICE’s in-app messaging functionality and SMS texting.
Reminders are another great example of ALICE taking the time to find out what a concierge really needs, rather than just copying something that may already exist. Concierges are used to working from a calendar; any decent calendar program has a reminder option. These are usually limited to something like “remind me about this meeting 15 minutes before”. Its very rare that a concierge wants to be reminded about a restaurant reservation 15 minutes before (that may be useful to the guest, but not to the hotel). Additionally, most calendar programs only let you have 1 reminder (and maybe the ability to snooze that reminder). ALICE worked closely with several concierge teams to find out what concierges mean when they ask for “reminders”. Now, it’s super easy to log a restaurant reservation request and then quickly create a reminder to call to make the reservation 30 days before, another reminder when we find out we need to convince the maitre d’ to change from a party of 2 to a party of 6, and a third reminder to call to confirm the reservation the day prior. We love that ALICE realized that a “restaurant reservation” is not just 1 thing, it is a series of actions that need to happen at specific times.
Reminders lets you set when and how often you want to be reminded about a task that needs to be taken care of.
4. Inventory Logs
There are a lot of things a hotel needs to track that are not time definite. A restaurant reservation happens at a specific time, a guest wants more shampoo asap; but there are plenty of things we need to log that do not work well in a calendar. Lost and found, Guest Packages, Valet Parking - many of these things just need to “sit there” until a guest calls to inquire. If a guest receives a package two weeks before they are due to check in… hotels are not really worried about that package until the guest arrives. Additionally, we don’t really need to see that package on a calendar at 10:30 AM, mixed in with that day’s wake up calls and newspaper requests.
Additionally, ALICE realized that in many cases, hotels consider these types of logs as completely self-contained. When a hotel is looking at their “Package” log, we do not want wake-up calls mixed in. ALICE makes it easy for us to still quickly see everything related to a specific guest (across Package Logs and Guest Requests); and also allows us to keep the separate logs we like. Our favorite is using the new Logbook feature to log all of our incoming and outgoing packages. With our old, calendar based, solution - we could only view our packages in one way at specific calendar hours/times. Now, we love that we can sort, filter, and view packages by guest name, storage location, sender’s name, and more. We also love the “batch add” feature. Instead of logging 1 package at a time; we can quickly log many packages. Very useful when UPS drops of 20 packages at once! We’ve also started using the new Logbook feature for Lost and Found, Valet Parking, and we are looking forward to moving some of our other logs into the new Inventory Feature. It will be so much easier to click over to the Logbook section and quickly log something, rather than trying to remember what folder on the network drive we have saved a certain Excel Spreadsheet.
The Inventory Log is a distinct interface within ALICE Concierge to record all incoming and outgoing packages and lost & found items.
5. ALICE’s Client Support
ALICE Support is, by far, the feature we’ve found we cannot live without. Many vendors out there are not passionate about changing their product or maintaining usage of their product once the contract has been signed. ALICE is in a very small handful of hotel vendors who strive to excel in these two areas. They never rest and have endless curiosity - constantly asking for feedback as to how they can make existing features better and what new features would be embraced. More importantly, I feel like they actually listen when they ask these questions. They are also great at assessing and improving our existing usage, sometimes before we even realize the issue. Its great to have two way communication with our hotel vendors. I can count on one hand the Hotel Vendors who would call me to say “Last month you logged 100 of this type of request, this month you’ve only logged 10. Is there something we need to change or update? Why do you think there was such a big drop?”
Noah Lemaich, Head Concierge with SIXTY Hotels, has worked various luxury boutique hotels for over over 15 years. Noah has also worked in a variety of "line-staff" positions such as Bellman, Concierge, Front Desk Agent, and Houseman; as well as management level positions at the Front Desk, in Housekeeping, and in the hotel executive offices. Noah has worked in properties ranging from secluded seasonal resorts to busy metropolitan hotels; and has assisted with the opening/launch of over 10 hotels. Previously with Thompson Hotels from 2002-2013, Noah is currently based out of New York City and has been working with SIXTY Hotels since its creation in 2013.