By Fran Worrall
Last week, in part 1 of this two-part series, Hotel Online talked with Samuel Lee, Ph.D., professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), about technostress and the guest experience. Lee, a faculty member at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, led a research team that co-authored a groundbreaking study entitled Technostress and Hotel Guests: A Mere Hurdle or a Major Friction Point?, which examines the anxiety hospitality consumers experience as a consequence of technology use. The study is among the first to explore the concept of technostress in consumer behavior, namely hotel guests, as opposed to research related to employees who are forced to adopt new technologies as part of their jobs.
This week, Hotel Online talks with another of the study’s co-authors, Mehmet Erdem, Ph.D., a professor of hotel operations and technology at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, about the implications of the report and ways in which hoteliers can use its findings to reduce or eliminate technology-induced stress.
HO: If guests are enjoying the hotel overall, does anxiety about technology really matter that much? In other words, in the grand scheme of things, is technostress really a problem?
ERDEM: Remember that anything the hotel introduces that causes guests to have a negative feeling is bad. So, the short answer is yes. Even if guests have a number of positive experiences at the property, they tend to remember the negative. That’s just human nature. Then, they share those negative experiences online, which can really damage the brand.
HO: So, does this mean that hotels should put the brakes on new technology?
ERDEM: No, but they should ask themselves why they’re implementing every new solution. Technology is neither good nor bad in and of itself. We know it can be a useful tool for differentiating accommodations and streamlining operations. But simply implementing technology for technology’s sake is a mistake. Remember that technology must always have value. If the solution will help improve efficiency or add to the guest experience, great. If the outcome is going to be more of a burden or the technology isn’t going to add appreciable value to guest satisfaction, don’t get it.
HO: Since hotels must implement certain technology solutions, what can they do in a practical sense to help with technostress?
ERDEM: It sounds so basic, but you have to make sure the technology works. All too often solutions just don’t function properly, which causes anxiety for guests. Also, when a system fails, have a back-up plan to remove the friction points. If you’re offering a service, part of that includes recovery. If guests can’t access Wi-Fi or operate the TV, I guarantee they will be unhappy.
HO: That should be easy. After all, hotels know when systems go down.
ERDEM: If an entire system goes down, of course, the hotel will know about it. But maybe guests are having trouble connecting to Wi-Fi or logging into streaming services. They may not bring those problems to the attention of management. It’s important to constantly monitor all of the technology to make sure it’s operating properly. If you’re reading about a problem on Trip Advisor, you’re already behind. Guests have experienced frustration and stress, and the damage has been done.
HO: How important is guest feedback in relation to technostress?
ERDEM: It’s essential. If you’re upgrading your chatbot, for example, include some guest feedback about the transaction. Let guests rate their experiences on a scale of 1 to 5. They will tell you what they like and what they don’t like. Always include guests in the beta testing so that you can identify friction points and address unexpected inefficiencies. This costs money, of course, but it’s important. You don’t want to read about the problems on social media.
HO: If the hotel does launch new technology, what’s your best advice for keeping guest stress to a minimum?
ERDEM: Education is key. Just because solutions are marketed as ‘intuitive’—as most of them are these days—doesn’t mean you throw the technology at guests and expect them to understand it. Give them some sort of instruction. When an app updates, for example, provide guests with a navigation tool. Also, it’s good to give them the choice of opting in or out. With a voice assistant, some guests will prefer to opt out because of privacy concerns, for example. Other guests might not want to use a mobile key. Whenever possible, give guests a choice.
HO: Any final words of wisdom?
ERDEM: Be discerning when it comes to new purchases. As technology becomes less expensive, hoteliers may be tempted to make purchases based on the glowing reports they read in case studies or white papers about a solution’s positive effects, whether it’s on revenue, employee efficiency or guest satisfaction. Get back to your core business principles. What’s your market? The technology that’s the right fit for an airport hotel that caters to business travelers, for example, might not be appropriate for a resort property. Never launch a new piece of technology without doing your homework. Also, pay close attention to the user experience. Understanding your guests and their priorities is paramount to eliminating technostress.
Read Part 1.