By Nicole Dehler, Vice President of Product Management
StayNTouch, A Shiji Group Brand
Recent advances in artificial intelligence promise to revolutionize the hospitality industry, dramatically enhancing personalization, connectivity and revenue generation. But some technology experts ask: Will people still be able to make a difference, or are we entering a brave new world where self-service and intelligent communication platforms completely take over?
In the past decade, technologies such as cloud computing, complex data analytics, and A.I. have swept across the hospitality landscape, modernizing formerly archaic systems that once defined the industry. Today’s hoteliers have a variety of technological advancements at their fingertips, offering a myriad of solutions to streamline operations, and enhance the guest experience. For example, many hotels have used Augmented Reality to enable guests to seek additional information inside the hotel and around local places of interests. This is an exciting development, as industry leaders continue to realize the many ways in which emerging technology can transform the future of hospitality.
But can there ever be too much of a good thing? Can too much digitization take us away from the core principles of high-touch hospitality on which the industry was founded? The solution is finding the right balance between high-tech and high-touch. While technology should never replace a commitment to service excellence, a simple knee-jerk resistance to technological progress is not the solution 一 the key is to discover how advanced technology can assist your staff and enhance the guest experience.
Finding the Perfect Balance
Technology plays a critical role in the modern hospitality landscape. As guests continue to push for more convenience and customization, next-generation systems allow hoteliers to deliver on their promise of a more connected and personalized experience. Modern hoteliers are increasingly relying on functions such as mobile check-in/out, cloud-based interfaces, centralized communications, native apps, push notifications, new and improved loyalty programs. These platforms let hotels continually aggregate guest data, creating actionable guest insights and additional opportunities for enhanced personalization.
But this doesn’t mean that every touch-point should be served through an AI-powered robot. Technology should empower staff to better serve their guests, rather than being a futuristic replacement for high-touch service. For example, we know that guests prefer the choice that mobility offers when it comes to check-in and check-out. Tablet-based smart kiosks let travelers skip the front line if they’re in a rush, while mobile check-in platforms give guests the convenience of ordering amenities and upgrades directly from their smartphone. Of course, a mobile PMS can also provide more high-touch experience, allowing hotel staff to escape the confines of the front desk and handle guest requests from anywhere in the hotel.
The point is that mobile technology ensures that everyone benefits — hotel staff are empowered to interact freely with guests and without the pressure of front desk lines, while guests have complete autonomy over their check-in. In this way, technology can actually enhance service, turning a previously administrative process into one focused on the guest’s needs.
Finding the Right Solutions
For hoteliers, it’s not about investing in every new piece of hospitality technology that comes to market; it’s about investing in the right solution for your business. As our industry shifts away from legacy systems in favor of more intuitive options, it becomes necessary to vet prospective platforms and partnerships with care. When balancing a budget, hoteliers must decide what technology their staff and guests need the most, versus what technology is just “nice to have.” Ultimately, when considering new technology, hoteliers should be able to answer the following questions:
- Does it solve a common pain point of the guest experience, or otherwise meet (or exceed) current guest expectations?
- Would its implementation empower your staff to offer more personalized, attentive service to each and every guest?
- Do the features just offer a ‘niche’ or ‘cool’ factor, or will the technology truly streamline operations and enhance the guest experience?
- Will it help to establish a balance between high-tech and high-touch service?
- Does it easily integrate with existing technological infrastructure for enhanced compatibility and cross-functionality?
In this way, hoteliers can be sure to invest in technology that genuinely enhances the guest experience (such as a mobile check-in feature), rather than just being the latest technological fad.
Communications channels are another critical component to consider when investing in a guest-centric tech platform. Studies show that while 73% of guests communicate through online channels, and over two-thirds prefer to communicate by text rather than by phone, 75% of guests also want to communicate one-to-one with representatives on location. This implies that guests want to take advantage of multiple lines of communication, including in-person interactions with a staff member.
Clearly, there is no single means of communication that best suits every guest who will stay at your property. As such, it’s important for hotels to invest in technology that allows for effective multi-channel communication. Utilizing a PMS with a suite of engagement capabilities ensures your property is equipped to satisfy a variety of guest preferences while keeping your staff in constant connection.
As technology continues to evolve, there will always be tension between high-tech and high-touch approaches to enhancing the guest experience. But these viewpoints do not always have to conflict: When hoteliers use technology to enhance more traditional models of service, they will ensure increased guest satisfaction and long-term loyalty.
Knowing where to draw that line often requires finding a team of hotel technology partners with the experience to handle both the automated and personal aspects of guest service, and the know-how to fuse them together to optimize your business.