Sunday, October 31, 2010

Will hotels dump front reception desks?

We were interested to read an article on the trend for hotels to dump front reception desks. 

Apparently some hotels are removing those large imposing check-in counters in the lobby and are replacing these with iPad carrying one-on-one welcomes from remote staff. Sounds like a great use of technology to us, however we see that other hotels are installing self-service kiosks or virtual check-ins that allow guests to proceed through the lobby and make their on way directly to their allotted room.

While we can see some value in reception staff getting out behind the counter to meet and greet guests, we are wary of technology being used to effectively bypass human contact during the important check-in process. Maybe we are being a little old fashioned. After all, many of us take for granted that we can now book airline flights online, allocate our own seats and download the boarding pass onto our PDA. With all things going well, any verbal interaction or even eye contact with airline staff can be avoided throughout the entire process.

We like to think that accommodation is more of an experience that can be difficult to commoditise when compared with an airline seat purchase. Should hotels go down this path? Are guests demanding less human contact or is this just a cynical fad that is using technology to save staffing costs?

Interestingly, the article asked the question: What hotel check-in option do you prefer? 

With a response of over 13,000 readers only 10% preferred self service. 69% preferred full service and 21% didn't care, as long as the room as clean.

As an accommodation operator in the motel industry, I say to my hotel industry cuzzies "go for it!" Please take out those pesky front desks and replace them with self-service kiosks.

Personalised service is one of the many attributes that defines the motel industry and if hotels are really planning to disconnect from their guests, then motels have an opportunity to amplify an existing important point of difference.

Larger corporations running accommodation businesses often forget that they are embedded into the "hospitality" industry. As a consequence, staff are unfortunately required to get out of the operations side of the business and spend time connecting with guests.

While we love technology, we believe that in most cases the meet and greet, setting the scene and personally answering those inevitable guest queries at the time of arrival will probably continue to be a critical part of running a successful accommodation business for some time.

Read the article that includes some interesting feedback: HERE...

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