AUSTIN, TX—The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hotel industry has caused millions of employees to lose their jobs. With less staff on hand, those who are left must wear many hats. Front-desk employees may end up with other responsibilities that take them away from their main tasks of checking guests in and out of the hotel, answering phone calls and attending to guests’ needs.
Virdee has launched its Virdee Concierge virtual reception experience, which automates all traditional functions of a reception desk to optimize a client’s need for on-site staffing while providing guests with a contactless and frictionless check-in experience. Throughout their arrival and in-building experience, end-users can engage directly through Virdee’s mobile app, in-lobby device, iOS/Android Wallet and virtual agents.
The company was founded by Branigan Mulcahy and Nadav Cornberg, who together have more than 25 years of experience in software engineering and commercial real estate development
“In these times of disruptive change and shifting models of guest service and operation, we saw a need in the industry for contactless, guest interaction technology and a virtual reception that could handle 100% of check-ins,” said Mulcahy. “In September 2020, we closed a $2 million seed round, which was funded by a group of hospitality executives led by Raj Trivedi, the former president of La Quinta.”
Having a respected industry veteran like Trivedi on board was an important step for the company. “Raj brings decades of experience and an insight into the real need hoteliers have in trying to automate all the traditional functions of a front desk,” said Mulcahy. “He is an invaluable resource and his strategic partnerships in the hotel industry will help advance our efforts as we move forward.”
The Virdee Concierge platform allows guests to check-in either via mobile app or in-lobby device, and stores their information for future stays.
“They will no longer be required to present ID and credit card for incidentals every single time they check in at a hotel,” said Mulcahy. “Once a guest has ID verified and provided a method of payment in the Virdee system, that info can be used for future check-ins. They can also easily upgrade or move their room based on personal preference through our software.”
The pandemic is not the only reason why a contactless solution like the Virdee Concierge is needed at this time, according to Mulcahy.
“The rapid shift toward tech-first, contactless guest interactions in the hotel industry is happening for two primary reasons: one, guests expect their technology experience at hotels to be on par or better than what they are used to in other environments,” he said. “They’re used to next-day delivery from Amazon, fast airport lines with Clear and the one-tap convenience of ApplePay. They expect check-in at hotels to be just as convenient. Two, reduced revenues have squeezed front-of-house operations to a breaking point. The cost of Virdee’s automated check-in systems is about a fifth of the cost of a traditional front-desk operation. Making the switch can be a way for hotels to ensure their financial strength moving forward.”
He pointed out that, in order to offer a virtual reception to clients, Virdee must integrate with major access control, property management and payment collection systems that their clients are already using.
“To provide the value of a complete product, Virdee must tie those systems together seamlessly along with other innovative features like identity verification, choose-your-room and remote assistance via video chat,” Mulcahy noted. “Not all end-users have the same preferences on technology, so in order to provide a complete solution, Virdee must also offer end-users the choice of interacting via mobile, web, in-lobby device and/or virtual agent. Virdee does all these things to a very high standard and, above all else, the company strives to build best-in-class experiences for the end-user.”
Once a hotel becomes a client, Virdee is there every step of the way to get the platform up and running. Mulcahy explained the process.
“Virdee’s team of on-boarding specialists complete the setup of Virdee Concierge at the customer’s hotel, which includes physically installing the in-lobby check-in stations and either providing the use of our mobile application with the client’s brand identity or a Virdee SDK that a client can use within their existing mobile app,” he said. “As the guest-facing aspects of the Virdee system are being set up, Virdee’s engineers establish connections with the client’s relevant hardware and software systems, including locks (e.g. SALTO, Assa Abloy, Dormakaba, etc.), payment platform (e.g. Shift4, FreedomPay, Stripe, etc.) and property management system (e.g. Opera, Infor HMS, WebRezPro, etc.).”
He continued, “Finally, the Virdee team trains the client’s staff on use of our dashboard and system, and all necessary connections for remote assistance are established for tier-one customer support and guest communication. Once the system is tested and operational, the Virdee team is available 24/7 to provide second-tier support if the client’s staff has any questions or issues.”