At The Westin Buffalo, There’s Another Voice in the Guestroom

BUFFALO, NY—As the internet of things (IoT) continues to evolve and hotel guests’ demands increase, hoteliers are seizing opportunities to bring innovation and technology into operations and guestrooms to remain competitive and enhance the stay.

One hotel in particular, The Westin Buffalo, has partnered with Volara to integrate with its established back-of-house systems, and iHeartMedia to bring iHeartRadio into guestrooms.

“The Westin Buffalo aimed to create remarkable voice-based guest experiences, while serving the guests more efficiently,” said David Berger, CEO, Volara. “Volara’s voice management tools—which are fully integrated with Amadeus HotSoS and other hotel technologies—enabled the hotel staff to leverage the voice medium to achieve their specific business objective.”

When The Westin Buffalo initially added the Amazon Echo devices on-property, the hotel team began looking for a solution that would allow them to improve on its capabilities and be able to fully customize the devices.

“Volara integrated with some of the systems we already use at The Westin Buffalo, like HotSos, which allows the staff to see all service requests and identify trends within those requests,” said Tom Long, GM, The Westin Buffalo. “The Volara dashboard also allows our staff to create synergies by updating responses to reflect timely offers and upcoming activities. It also reports insights from the aggregated interaction data that hotel staff can use to improve guest services.”

The Westin Buffalo first engaged Volara to deploy its software on Amazon Echo Dot devices in 30 rooms in early 2017. This summer, after a successful pilot period, the hotel decided to put the Echo device in every guestroom at the hotel, Berger explained.

“iHeartRadio on the Volara-powered Echo provides guests with frictionless access to custom-branded Westin radio,” said Berger. “There’s nothing to download and no foreign interface to learn. The guest just asks, and the hand-selected tunes play in the guestroom.”

There are many streaming providers on the market for music, TV and movies. However, Long noted that Volara was selected for its ability to address key factors: “ease of use and integration, the ability to customize music for our hotel and complement our brand, and offer a wide variety of music.”

Long added, “It was most important to partner with a company that is dedicated to enhancing its technology. We weren’t interested in buying a music package as much as having a partner that is committed to grow and change with us and our guests.”

For the hotel, there are numerous benefits to this partnership, including multiple hours of staff time saved each day through the voice automation for front-end guest requests. “The ROI is clear and measurable,” said Berger.

Delaware North operates The Westin Buffalo, and this effort was driven by the company and its owners, the Jacobs family.

“They support our efforts to test all of the new technologies. Being relatively new to Delaware North, it was immediately clear that the company thinks ahead,” said Long. “What will the future of its industries be like? Historically, the hospitality industry waits until a technology is completely proven before it gets serious consideration, which is why many times, the industry misses out on opportunities and finds itself behind in many technologies. The benefit is that we’re able to answer a lot of questions from Delaware North’s corporate teams on what we are experiencing, the challenges and where we see this technology heading. They are definitely interested.”

Voice automation has long existed, but, according to Berger, it’s the ability to harness the technology to manage guests that makes it new and exciting.

“Volara is deploying new use cases periodically, always at the request of our clients. Most recently, we launched a staff-facing solution that is enabling new efficiencies, including voice-enabled room status updates, maintenance requests and voice-prompted staff trainings,” Berger concluded.