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    Voice-Controlled Guest Services: A Q&A with Properly’s Alex Nigg

    This week Properly, a leading operations management platform for vacation rentals, announced support for remote management of Amazon’s line of Echo devices. Touting as the first of its kind in the vacation rental industry, it certainly provides an intriguing option for vacation rental mangers who are looking to enhance guest services and relations.

    To find out more what this means and the opportunities it can create, we caught up with Alex Nigg, Properly’s CEO and founder.


    Arrival: With this announcement, you are enabling vacation rental managers to efficiently and safely incorporate the voice-activated services into their offerings. Can you please provide a few examples of how this would come in handy?

    Nigg: Amazon’s Echo devices, and Amazon’s Alexa voice AI service, both deliver certain services (“skills”) and a platform to develop custom new skills. There are thousands of pre-existing skills that cover many basic functions, from weather forecasts to translations to traffic updates to converting units to setting timers or alarm clocks to requesting music or movies, radio stations, or on-demand news. Where Amazon’s same day delivery services are available (such as Prime Now), property managers could offer voice-based two hour grocery ordering for guests, or voice-based restaurant delivery.

    There are many skills available for smart home control, including thermostat control or managing lights or locks by voice (e.g. checking from the bedroom whether the front door is locked). Lastly, a property manager can create their custom branded skill, so the sky is the limit of what’s possible.

    Arrival: How should vacation rental managers be looking at technology like Amazon Echo as a tool to improve the overall level of guest services?

    Nigg: Services like Alexa provide an open platform for discovery, personalization and real-time service delivery. Discovery allows a guest to find out more about where they are, through a simple voice interface. This could be discovering local events, or getting questions answered about the area that they are in. Personalization allows guests with existing Amazon accounts to immediately feel at home, with their playlists, movie watchlists, grocery lists, or news preferences. Real-time service delivery, where available, allows property managers to further close the gap with hotels, or even surpass the services offered by hotels, including room service or grocery delivery.

    Arrival: How can vacation rental managers best communicate this new level of services to guests?

    Nigg: In trials with guests, we have found that one or two easy examples can lead to a process of discovery. For example, a simple “Ask Alexa for a recipe idea” next to an Alexa device in the kitchen can lead to a process of discovery of what else Alexa can do. And discovery and travel naturally go hand-in-hand.

    Arrival: How does this announcement continue to emphasize the role that smart home devices and smart services play in rental properties? ​

    Nigg: There is a strategic subtext; a major challenge for many property managers is to (re)establish a direct guest relationship. This is particularly important when listing sites increasingly guard contact and payment details for guests. An on-property presence with voice services can be the hook that reestablishes the PM-guest relationship. Additional services can be made accessible only if the guest provides contact and payment information. For instance, “You’d like to order room service? We need your contact info and payment info first.” There is further work that needs to be done to open that opportunity fully, but this is clearly a key area of opportunity.

    Arrival: Talk about why the timing is right for vacation rental managers to be continually exploring ways to incorporating emerging technology into their business. ​

    Nigg: Technology needs to serve a strategic purpose. Voice services like Alexa provide a powerful platform for PMs to shape the guest experience, participate in related new revenue streams, and most importantly, help to (re)build a direct guest relationship.

    With tens of millions of such devices sold this holiday season, and
    low price points, the timing should certainly be right for smart experimentation. A big remaining barrier has been how to deploy these consumer devices in an enterprise/business context. In other words, how do you automate management of hundreds of these devices at hundreds of different locations? With Properly’s support of Amazon’s newly released enterprise platform, this is now possible.


    Want to hear more from Alex? He will be moderating the closing plenary session at the VRMA European Conference. He will be joined by Eric Breon, Vacasa; Javier Cedillio Espin, OneFineStay/Accor; Steve Milo,VTrips; and Tobias Wann, @Leisure. The discussion will focus on the industry’s most disruptive trends, how leading European and North American property managers approach the market differently, the rise of unbundling property management services, and how to market a property management company in the face of a shifting environment.

    For more information, and to register, click here


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