Dal, Rice & AI

I wandered into the local kirana shop after ages. Amazon and Big Basket have been doing such a stellar job of selling me groceries that I forgot all about my local chap.  So when mom asked me quickly get some dal coz she just had to make that one for the day, I had to meet him.

'Hi' he said, bright and cheerful. ( I am translating the conversation into English, but it actually happened in Punjabi )

'Hello' I replied, 'need a kilo of arhar dal'

'Wow! Lucky you!' he said.

This was surprising. He read the expression on my face and decided I needed a bit more clarification.

'When my mom makes this dal, with rice mind you, I tell her - give me a dozen pappadums, aachar and let me go to heaven. I don't even use any cutlery! lick my fingers till there is no more skin left, and then lick some more till there is no more dal, chawal left!'

I could see the happiness on his face while he shared this with me. It was pure delight and relish in every way possible. 

He continued 'my mom puts a little extra butter with garlic on top and I think that makes all the difference, how do you make it at home?'

As I walked back from the store, I realised, I have never, ever had a conversation like that in any superstore, big box store or online. In fact the recommendation engines of most sites just keep suggesting more dals - every type conceivable, but none have conversations like this. None leave me happy.

We started using Machine learning recently for our internal use. @nilesai is a bot that sifts thru our internal data and comes back with answers. as a recruitment firm, we need to keep a track of a lot of things and niles just makes it easier.  So I started feeding niles with more personal shout outs so my team could have some fun too. for e.g. earlier when you entered the name of a candidate, niles would return details about the candidate, now it tells us how nice the candidate was since he told us about the new property opening.

Similarly, searching for a city, niles would give the team a list of open positions in that city, now it first tells a little bit about the city and then goes on to business.

I am from the generation that has had the pleasure of being young when the internet came on the scene. I have worked with paper systems, computer systems, connected systems and then of course the net and today artificial intelligence.

As a hotelier, I have picked up the phone in reservations and the person at the other end has said 'I am coming today' and slammed the phone down, and we all knew who was coming, for how long and what room was to be blocked.

As a hotelier, I have opened my email / CRS to find bookings fed into the system automatically and none of us knowing a thing about the guest who just got a confirmation from us.

Is it time to look at managing the two?

Can we take the best of AI / Machine Learning and use it to get back to the human interaction / sharing space?

I think we can.

As I am finding out, the machine is pretty good once you tell it what you care about.  If you as a company want to include humour, a little chat, a little flair into your communique you can, but if you are pretty much focused on the transaction, then that is all you get.

Apparently then the machines in your system can theoretically work on and adapt to the organisation culture.

The important question is, are you willing to adapt?

- Prabhjot Bedi

Prabhjot is a hospitality ideator who is currently obsessed with service design and the use of new age tools to recreate the magic of hospitality.  How to take something new and make it feel familiar, trusted, known.  How to remove the strangeness of it all.

If you have any suggestions please get in touch - p.bedi@eclathospitality.com or tweet at @eclathosp