Reducing the workload of employees and optimizing customer service through digitization

Posted by:
June 16, 2022
Dennis Fähndrich

Sonnenalp is a 5-star resort in the Allgäu region and is one of the most successful family health and spa hotels in Germany. Numerous awards underline the high quality standards of the hotel. Among others, the hotel received the European HEALTH & SPA AWARD, an independent award for health and spa innovations, for the best overall concept. Sonnenalp Resort sees innovation and digitalization as key elements to stay competitive in the future.We talk to Dennis about the challenges of digitalization as a key driver of innovation in the hotel industry and about the use of DialogShift's AI chatbot at Sonnenalp Resort. Dennis has been working at Sonnenalp Resort for 8 years, currently in the role of Sales and Reservation Manager. In this role, he is also responsible for the topic of digitalization of sales.

The Sonnenalp Resort

What is the significance of digitization in the hotel industry and how can it benefit it?

Digitization is a key driver of innovation in the hotel industry today. On the one hand, digitization simplifies our work processes and reduces the workload of our employees. On the other hand, AI chatbots like the one from DialogShift help us to look after our guests around the clock and provide up-to-date information in real time. Of course, this does not replace our employees, which is not the goal in a five-star hotel like ours. But digitized processes leave our employees more time for our guests.

What challenges do you see for digitization in the hotel industry?

Many hotels naturally have limited IT skills. This often leads to certain reservations when introducing IT products, especially when their complexity increases. The range of products offered by vendors is large, and selecting suitable products and embedding them in existing systems is a major challenge for hotels. Not all vendors have mature products that sufficiently understand the needs and workflows of the hotel industry. A positive cost-benefit ratio is therefore not obvious for all products.

Staff shortages and high staff turnover represent a general problem in the industry. How does Sonnenalp Resort deal with these challenges?

In times of increasing staff shortages, it is becoming more and more important to offer our employees an attractive environment. This is clearly one of our priorities. For example, we offer many employees discounted employee apartments and we will continue to expand this offer. In addition, our employees have the opportunity to use our infrastructure and benefit from favorable car and bicycle leasing through external partners. Digitization helps us to train employees more quickly, for example with our correspondence manager, with which inquiries can be answered with just a few clicks according to the modular principle. New employees are thus productive much more quickly. This is a major advantage in an industry that has to deal with high employee turnover.

Spa Area at Sonnenalp Resort

What were the first digitization steps at Sonnenalp Resort? 

The first step for Sonnenalp Resort was the implementation of an online booking system to organize the processes in sales and reservations more efficiently. This represented a great relief for our employees and, of course, also benefits our guests, who have transparency about current prices at all times and can book online around the clock.          

In 2020, you decided to use a chatbot from DialogShift. What were the reasons?

Like many other hotels, we are also confronted with frequently recurring questions from our customers. Answering these questions ties up resources of our hotel staff. With the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic, the effort increased exponentially as many additional questions were asked about travel restrictions. Setting up a chatbot was the right decision to lighten the load on our team and a way to address our customers' increased need for information. That's why we chose DialogShift's AI software.

What are the concrete benefits of using the AI chatbot for your hotel?

DialogShift's chatbot has a high degree of flexibility and can be very individually adapted to the hotel's needs. This allows us to communicate our offer to the customer in a very targeted way and answer questions much faster. This makes the daily work of our employees much easier and the customer receives a quick response to his request. For us, responding quickly to customer concerns is an essential aspect of ensuring high service quality and customer satisfaction.

What lessons can you pass on to other hotels from your previous digitization projects?

My basic advice is: Be brave! There is no way around digitization today. The fear of contact with the topic of digitization is often not justified. Of course, the implementation of new tools must be carefully planned. From the technical side, enough time should be planned for product selection. During implementation, special attention should be paid to interface integration. However, it is just as important to achieve employee acceptance of the new working environment. Here, it is also important to take existing fears among employees seriously and address them. The central message is that digitization helps to relieve the burden on employees and to place the guest more at the center. In this way, we strengthen our competitiveness and also secure the jobs of our employees.

Sonnenalp Resort at Winter
Many thanks to Dennis Fähndrich and the Sonnenalp Resort for the great and informative interview!