October 02 2013
Posted in: Self service

Questioning the Hotel Queue AKA Questioning the Hotel’s “Island of Technology”

I travel a ton and I’m sure a bunch of you do too. As any seasoned business traveler knows…a trip means LINES. Lots and lots of lines. Lines for your airport coffee, lines for checking in, lines to get a cab, lines to check into the hotel…and so on. While I am a patient man (I think), I would like to eliminate lines. There, I said it.

Why are lines necessary? They are necessary because the people who are there to help us get what we want (are standing in line for) are generally using some sort of technology to order/procure/deliver what we want. In addition, we are standing in line because there are more of us (people who want stuff) than the current staff can service.

First, regarding staffing levels are staffing levels. If there are long lines of customers trying to procure your goods/services…get more service folks on the floor vendors!

Second, regarding the technology…in yesterday’s world (meaning today), the technology is usually tethered to a desk or counter. I call this the vendor’s “Island of Technology”. The counter at the coffee shop, the airline’s ticket desk/kiosk, the hotel front desk. This is where we stand in line. But wait…I said usually. There is hope! Who has been to a Nordstrom Rack or an Apple store? I have! These are two examples of vendors who have augmented their “Island’s of Technology” (check out counter) with mobile technology. There I was shopping for a fleece at Nordstrom Rack. I asked the nice floor staff guy where they were. I went about my business and found a fleece I liked (it’s red). I started making my way toward the reeeeally long line to check out when the nice floor staff guy said “I can check you out here if you’d like”. I was confused. I was in the middle of the store. Staff guy pulls out a handheld unit, scans my item, swipes my credit card and emails my receipt to me…in about 1 minute. Wow…you mean I don’t have to stand in line for 15 minutes to get to the “Island of Technology”? Nope. This was a powerful experience for me that made me think “I’m going to shop at Nordstrom Rack more”. I win and Nordstrom Rack wins.

What about hotels? Why do I have to stand in a line to check in? Back to “the Island of Technology” bottleneck. The good news is that there is hope here as well. Technologies are coming that enable staff, using mobile devices like tablets, to come out from behind the front desk and service the guest where they are, anytime, anywhere. Beyond that, guest facing smartphone apps are coming that allow guests to check themselves in and go right to their room, skipping the front desk altogether. That said, technologies like this are just coming to the hotel market and mostly in a disjointed fashion limiting effectiveness. The key to fixing this problem is technology that is integrated into the systems that run the hotels. Without an in depth integration or a unified platform, the dream of eliminating lines will remain just that…a dream.