An interview with Ron Grau
It is time to introduce our CEO, North America, Ron Grau to the blog. Ron talks all about the year ahead and how he began his career in telecoms, and what the hottest trends in technology are right now.
What lies ahead for Fourteen in 2023?
We spent a lot of time in 2022 introducing our next generation of EVA (Evolution Virtual Agent), which is our AI solution that answers incoming, internal, and external calls on behalf of a hotel. One of the most exciting features of EVA in terms of the guest experience is the human aspects of the conversation. As a matter of fact, many guests that have interacted with EVA genuinely believe that they were speaking to a real person. And EVA has managed to reduce the number of calls answered by staff by more than 74%. Now that we have laid the groundwork for 2022, our customers across the brands as well as independent hotels are all asking for it and so we are all very busy deploying EVA across N. America as well as the UK and Europe.
What post covid technology trends are here to stay?
COVID-19 has altered the way we live and work in a very significant way, which has led to an expansion of new, innovative technologies requiring businesses to adapt. The bad news was of course the pandemic, but the silver lining was the world was challenged by figuring out how to remain “open” which quickly created new opportunities for technology to address. Contactless payments, QR codes for menus, Telehealth, to name a few have all been kicked into high gear not to mention the popularity of Zoom, and the reliance on group chat to support the new “work from home” world. Tools like Zoom, Teams, Webex obviously make “work from home” easier given that we can all see each other, share a screen, and chat behind the scenes, with just the click of a link. I often wonder how we would have managed if the pandemic happened ten years earlier, given that many of these tools were not as advanced as they were pre-pandemic.
Which innovative technologies do you see as being hot right now?
There is never a shortage of innovative technologies but the one that I’m spending the most amount of time on right now is Artificial intelligence (AI). AI is one of the hottest trends in tech today given that we have seen many advancements over the past few years that I believe will continue exponentially over the next several years. Our EVA platform is built on a proprietary conversational platform that has been fine-tuned specifically for the task of customer service interactions over the phone. Other competitor solutions are built on a general-purpose, text-centric platform from Google. There has been a lot of recent news about ChatGPT and Large Language Models. EVA utilizes the only Large Language Model designed specifically for customer service, allowing conversations to flow more naturally and avoid guest frustration. As an example, with our EVA AI solution, if a guest has a particular question about the hotel, EVA can interact directly with the guest and answer their questions. Our EVA agent sounds so human that the guest may not even know they are speaking with a bot. In addition to questions and answers, EVA is able to interact with other “back of house” systems so that in the event a guest asks EVA for towels, for example, EVA will notify those backend systems of the request and towels arrive at the door, without ever speaking to the hotel staff. This significantly improves the guest experience given that guests are not waiting on hold, and they are speaking with a very pleasant EVA who always gets it right the first time.
My first job was….
I started my career as a software developer for IBM Corp in S. Florida. I was with IBM for about six years and then decided to leave and start my own tech business. I took several consulting gigs to pay the bills while searching for the next product to build. My last consulting engagement was with a hospitality-based software company where I was first exposed to hospitality and loved it while at the same time being able to establish great relationships with many of the brands that we all know. A very long story short, I saw the need to build a fully integrated call accounting system that also provided PMS middleware features. The solution turned out to be a good idea and from there, we continued expanding our middleware platform over the years which eventually led to me joining Fourteen IP.
In the evolving world of telecommunications, there’s always something new to learn…
Smartphones are getting smarter, new channels of communication are being offered for a faster and better customer experience and the list goes on. However, one lesson learned many years ago still remains the same today which is to consistently provide the most excellent products and services to our customers. If you do, they will stay with you. If you don’t, they won’t.