Caesars engages guests with virtual texting concierge

LAS VEGAS—In a city like this one, hotels can be so big they could have their own zip codes. Guests need golf carts to get to the front desk or concierge from their guestrooms. And, often, guests using the in-room telephone spend more time on hold than they plan to spend in the casino.

A company like Caesars Entertainment Corp.—which owns and operates nearly 50 properties worldwide, including nine in Las Vegas alone—leans on its front desk and concierge staff to answer hundreds, if not thousands, of questions a day and help guests plan their experiences.

In this day and age of instant gratification, guests need and expect help from the front desk and concierge immediately, and that’s why Caesars Entertainment has turned to Ivy, a 24-hour virtual, text-messaging concierge service created by Santa Monica, CA-based Go Moment.

By the end of this year, Caesars Entertainment expects to have Ivy up and running at all of its properties here. The platform initially launched at Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace and The Cromwell in December, with Caesars Palace and The Linq Hotel & Casino adding it in January, followed by Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino last month.

“The company is always exploring ways to enhance the guest experience through the use of technology. We initially began researching a chatbot in order to survey guests mid-stay so we could execute real-time guest recovery,” said Michael Marino, SVP and chief experience officer for Caesars Entertainment. “The program has since evolved to Ivy being a virtual personal concierge that is available via text 24/7 for anything guests need during their stay. This technology has allowed us to achieve our goal of elevating the guest experience while improving speed and efficiency within our operations teams.”

Marino noted that Ivy, through a text message, can help guests with anything they would have called the front desk or stopped by the concierge desk for.  

“Instead of having to be in their room using the guestroom phone, guests can be anywhere enjoying themselves and get their needs met,” he said. “A few examples of common requests we receive in Ivy include dinner reservations; show tickets; spa appointments; housekeeping and maintenance requests; suggestions on things to do; directions; and answers to common questions such as ‘What’s the WiFi password?’ and ‘What time does the pool open?’ Guests are also able to check out through Ivy.”

A growing problem in the hotel industry—overworked staff’s inability to meet rising guest expectations—is what sparked the creation of Ivy in 2013, noted Go Moment founder and CEO Raj Singh, a tech entrepreneur from a hotelier family. “At the same time, companies like Uber and Airbnb were resetting traveler expectations digitally, while consumer preferences shifted quickly from voice communication to messaging channels,” he said. “Working with changing demographics, Go Moment designed Ivy, the world’s first smart messaging platform for hotels. Today, Ivy is the world’s largest travel chatbot, communicating with guests over SMS text and Alexa devices to provide superior service. Working around the clock, Ivy eliminates 30% of guest-service calls and boosts hotel revenues on autopilot.”

Singh revealed that Ivy is powered by proprietary, patent-pending technology that combines the power of multiple automation and AI systems like IBM Watson.

Describing how it works, Singh said, “Ivy judiciously deploys automation to handle common guest queries. As you might expect, Ivy instantly responds to frequent questions like ‘What time is breakfast served?’”

He continued, “However, Ivy’s superpower is that she knows what she doesn’t know. For nuanced or complex topics, Ivy defers to staff. Staff seamlessly take over escalated conversations via the Ivy Portal web app, and resolve most issues within two minutes. Guests see one simple message thread on their phones, unaware whether Ivy or human staff answered their query.”

At Caesars Entertainment properties, the human component to Ivy includes front desk agents, as well as “a specially trained universal agent team available to provide around-the-clock coverage,” said Marino. “The average resolution time for manual guest text messages is less than one minute. Human intervention is required for service-based requests such as housekeeping and maintenance; booking dinner, show and spa reservations; and guests checking out through Ivy.”

Ivy does the job so well, Singh noted, that guests have mistaken the SMS service for a real person. “Many guests have come to the front desk with a $10 bill in their hands looking for Ivy, saying, ‘She was so on top of it,’ which has led to a number of funny conversations with hotel staff,” he said, adding, “Ivy gets propositioned for dates almost nightly, and has politely declined multiple marriage proposals.”

Singh also noted that Go Moment “provides dedicated support to its enterprise clients, including a bespoke Ivy instance for each property; on-site training; IT engineering support; and even custom integrations thanks to Ivy’s flexible, API-driven platform.”

He continued, “In addition, Ivy Analytics provides a robust, real-time window into key aspects of the guest experience, such as engagement, satisfaction and staff performance. This helps support and improve client operations on an ongoing basis.”

Caesars Entertainment is already reaping the rewards of implementing Ivy in its properties. “Guests rave about Ivy and believe that we are revolutionizing the hotel industry,” said Marino. “Ivy regularly shows up by name in TripAdvisor reviews as well as our post-stay survey. Guests who engaged with Ivy rated their overall experience an average of five points higher in our post-stay survey than guests who knew about it but did not engage. Since Ivy launched a year ago, Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace and The Cromwell have achieved increases on TripAdvisor of 42 spots (to number 16) and 15 spots (to number 13), respectively. Similarly, The Linq Hotel & Casino has increased eight spots and Caesars Palace has increased four spots since Ivy launched. The universal agents enjoy delivering great service through a text message instead of a phone call.”

Las Vegas is not the only Caesars Entertainment destination using the platform. Ivy has been live at Harrah’s Resort Southern California since January 2017. “We are expanding the offering to Horseshoe Bossier City in Louisiana later this month, and we plan to introduce Ivy to key regional markets throughout the year,” said Marino.

For Go Moment, Ivy is far from a finished product. “As a cloud-based platform, Ivy receives major improvements 10-plus times a year, and some clients are already leveraging Ivy and Amazon Alexa together,” said Singh. “Among Ivy’s 2018 advancements is omnichannel support for messaging platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger. It also continues to learn and get smarter based on intelligence gathered from successfully helping millions of guests.” HB