Automated customer service has a bad reputation – and it’s even more prevalent when it comes to the hospitality industry. Most people assume that customer service automation is about replacing, or minimizing, person-to-person interaction. For hoteliers, the very idea of automation entering their hotel space means undermining the human touch and the delivery of exceptional customer service – the very foundations the hotel industry is built on.
However self-service is the currency of our time. Guests are increasingly tech-savvy leading them to demand higher and higher standards. Nowadays, many guests manage most aspects of their lives from their tablets and smartphones and are already accustomed to using self-service alternatives for routine tasks such as banking, supermarket check-out airline check-in, rental cars etc. As a result guests want the same convenience and expect self-service capabilities when it comes to their hotel stay, from checking in and out, gaining access to their room, billing etc.
And of course, there are stats to back it up! A 2015 survey from The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University found guests generally wanted greater automation of a wide variety of tasks and interactions, such as, receiving a notification on their device when their room is ready, requesting hotel amenities, checking in and out of the hotel, and ordering room service – Guest also are interested in looking at more information about their hotels, including upgrading a room before checking in, requesting reservations for on- and off-site restaurants, or having the valet retrieve the car.
So, where is the balance between the standard principles of hospitality and what the guest demands? Well, the truth is, newer automated and mobile hotel technologies are not meant as a replacement or substitute for hotel staff in any way but rather to compliment and enhance existing hotel services allowing staff to further serve the guest. When deployed well, automated services can help support and deliver greater guest satisfaction and hotel efficiencies by;
- Offering the choice of an expedited guest arrival and departure process.
- Providing a degree of responsiveness that isn’t humanly possible i.e. enables hoteliers to reach out to customers in real-time (via technology) when they encounter an issue, help address guest issues and concerns and dramatically shorten the time to resolution.
- Helping hoteliers to handle other challenges easily, such as up-selling, offering upgrades, amenities and other in-house service choices.
- Enabling employees to come out from behind the front desk either to interact more directly with guests or to help handle orders more efficiently, quickly and accurately.
Changes in consumer attitudes and in the technology itself have brought about a general acceptance of self-service both in terms of ease of use and overall comfort level. Customers are demanding choices and convenience in order to maintain control over their experiences. By automating certain task and providing self-service convenience to your guests, employees can focus on more specific guest requests and can proactively assist guests to create a more memorable experience – and happier, more loyal customers.
“Automate the predictable, so you can humanize the exceptional.” Matthew Upchurch, CEO Luxury Travel Company Virtuoso.