If any industry lives or dies on its customer service, it has to be the hospitality industry. For almost all hotels, the process of interacting with guests has remained fundamentally unchanged for decades; hospitality involves making others feel comfortable and it is thought that these long-standing traditional values can only be successfully delivered and received as a face-to-face, or rather a human-to-human, interaction with guests. It is a very basic need for the industry.
However, as technology and communication methods continue to evolve the landscape of hotel guest relations has changed; direct, face-to-face communication has taken a backseat and the way the way hotels are expected to serve and interact with guests is changing. However, this has also lead to the debate of “technology vs. human” with many bemoaning the increasing trend towards integrating technological solutions into customer service processes, as signifying the loss of the human touch. But a new report, What the Tech? Astonishing Ways Technology Is Changing Travel Experiences, has found that technology far from dehumanizes the guest experience, but actually makes travel richer and more personal.
And it kind of makes sense! The preponderance of smartphone, laptops, and tablets means that we are all used to managing our world through an interactive screen. Not only do consumers now readily switch between platforms and devices, but they have the freedom to choose how they interact with companies, brands and each other, tailoring experiences to suit their needs. As a result, today’s tech-savvy, mobile-first travelers want the ability to help themselves and are looking for more personalized service that keeps up with their on-the-go, up-to-the-minute lifestyles – all via their smart device.
Many hospitality brands are turning to tech solutions to augment their guest service experience introducing a variety of guest-facing innovations, everything from robot concierges, to smartphone room keys, to mobile check-in tools. Some on the extreme end of the scale like The Henn-a hotel in Japan, staffed almost entirely by robots, including a humanoid female and a dinosaur that welcome guests on arrival and carry out check-in/check-out services. But for many hoteliers, they are beginning to make some smart effective investments in newer mobile and cloud-based technologies to drive operational efficiencies and anticipate the needs of discerning guests to boost the customer experience. Hoteliers do need to be mindful though of where to draw the line so that technology extends the value of what is being offered. Technology should be used to create a new service standard, humming quietly in the background, turning staff into “superhumans” in terms of recalling customer preferences or just generally adding an element of surprise and delight based on data that can be elegantly stitched together for the first time.
At the end of the day technology isn’t slowing down and its capabilities are infinite – it would be foolish to argue otherwise, but real human contact, also remains indispensable. Hospitality will always be centered around customer experiences and connecting with people. In the face of new technology, evolving customer preferences, and new competitive threats, hospitality will require a human touch. The future of hotel hospitality depends on a merger, between data technology and the human touch; it’s striking the right balance that will help hotels remain competitive.