December 09 2015

What is the future of the digitized hotel?

robot-maid-300x300

Hotel Buddy in Munich made the headlines back in November with the launch of their ‘staffless’ hotel – yep that’s right, no staff. Guests can manage everything, from booking a room, checking in, checking out, paying and can even manage their car parking space all from their mobile device. Not only that, on arrival, the key card collected by the guest at the lobby Kiosk is code-based meaning that the elevator automatically knows the correct floor to stop at.

Henn-na Hotel in Japan offers somewhat of a similar service to Hotel Buddy in that there are no humans – instead there are robots. The fembot staff isn’t known for their good looks but they are very efficient checking in guests and carrying luggage to rooms. As for their room key choice, facial recognition of course.

As the mobilization and “digitization” of society continues to accelerate, are these two hotels real examples of what we can expect in the near future: a complete self-service model, no humans, except for us, the guests?

While both Buddy Hotel and Henn-na Hotel could be seen as extreme digitized hotel cases, the self-service model has already been, and continues to be, adapted by many hotels in the form of digital room keys, mobile check-in and check-out, and kiosks in hotel lobbies. Companies are being driven to self-service by customer demand and many customers now expect a self-service solution. A recent Harvard Business Review Study states that “customers want control over how and when they interact with companies”, and according to Steven Van Belleghem, a Digital Customer Relationships Consultant, the focus on how customer service is delivered will continue to shift in favor of self-service.

Personal Service

Self Service

Crowd Service

2000-2010

75%

20%

5%

2011-2016

50%

30%

20%

2017-2020

20%

40%

40%

However, while there seems to be a hospitality industry renaissance taking place, hotel employees are a long way off from being obsolete. People still enjoy human contact, even in an increasingly digitized self-service society. Technology does provide hotels with many opportunities to improve the level of service throughout the guest journey and it simultaneously frees up hotel staff to focus on supplying the human interaction that brings the hotel brand to life. “Technology can elevate the guest experience while retaining the personal touch of the brand… in today’s tech-driven world, the highest quality service lies at the intersection of technology and personal need, where people and technology work in tandem to deliver memorable experiences.” Jennifer Martucci, Incentient.

Both traditional and digital service can exist side by side to improve service quality, “the rise of the digital traveler requires the hotel industry to balance the expectation of personalization while enhancing the need to remain independent”. Robert Rauch President R. A. Rauch & Associates, Inc.

The future of hotel customer service is digitization but with a human touch.