When I left the corporate hotelier job and started on my advisory services 6 years ago, one of the industry buzzwords was “personalisation” — it was everywhere.
Somehow, over the years, it felt like our industry replaced personalisation with messaging, chatbots, voice, and then AI. But, in my humble opinion, none of these great new technologies replaced the purpose, they all exist to serve it… finding ways that technology can be used to create a personalised, data-driven, and high touch experience. The problem has often been that at times it feels we have chased the technology at the cost of the human experience.
Have you tried to connect with an independent hotel in the evening with a question, by connecting with their chatbot? How did this experience make you feel?
From my experience 9 times out of 10, the good old fashion phone call is better, because the automated answer that comes back from the message chatbot is a list of options that does not necessarily correspond to my question. The standard answer if the chatbot does not understand you, replies that a human will get back to you the next working day. With this approach my interest to stay at the hotel has diminished to zero, and I start looking for something else.
I also get frustrated to stand in line waiting for my turn at the front desk to check-in. Once reaching the desk the questions start.
Did you have a nice flight? Yes I did. Is this your first time with us? No, this is my third time. May I scan your passport? May I take an imprint of your credit card, as a credit reference? May I recommend a spa treatment experience? I am sure I am not alone on this. No surprises there…we all hate waiting for anything today. More importantly, why the same questions when I return to a hotel I stayed before.
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So is the self check in the better solution? The airlines were first, then fast food chains, and now supermarkets. But that does not necessarily mean that the solution is then waiting for a machine too. One imagines that we (someone else much brighter than me) will build technologies that negate the entire check-in transaction in the first place, not just replace a human with a machine for you to do it yourself. The airlines have an easier job with this technology, as everyone gets on and off a plane at the same time.
When they introduced self check in kiosks it wasn’t so bad, but now, as the airline mobile apps have grown so useful, I would hate even about the idea, to use one of those self check in kiosks at the airport. I cannot speak for you, but when I’m shopping at my local Food Market in Helsinki and there is both a kiosk option and a human option and neither has a wait in front of them, I choose the person.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I read the latest research on the subject conducted by Alice Concierge, a hotel operation platform, that the #1 reason a guest has a bad experience is unfriendliness! It means that if hotels focus on getting that one thing right, the industry wins by continuing to deliver hospitality the way it was meant to be delivered… with a warm smile.