The Reality of the Robot Hotel: Why Guest Service Can’t Be Fully Automated

Robot hotels made headlines last year as hotels experimented with robot butlers, robot luggage handlers, and more. A hotel in Tokyo, Japan, made waves last year for staffing its front desk with robots. It’s definitely a draw for Henn-na Hotel, a name that means Strange Hotel when roughly translated. Being greeted by automated intelligence in the form of a friendly-faced woman or even a smiling dinosaur is definitely a novelty for guests at this new robot hotel, as well as something that could be more commonly seen in the future.

But while technology in hotels is making life more convenient for hoteliers and guests, there are still limits to how it should be used. Digital systems are only one significant part of a successful guest engagement and service strategy. Hotel management still has to be savvy when it comes to keeping guest satisfaction high.

The primary benefit of hospitality technology has been bridging the communication gap between hotel staff and guests. It’s now easier for hotels to share information with guests, who in turn can directly provide feedback or express needs and preferences. Communication is the key to fostering positive reviews, overall satisfaction, and long-term loyalty. Happy guests are more likely to be repeat guests.

Hospitality technology platforms have also alleviated the burden on operational resources. Manual processes are able to be replaced with automatic digital ones, staff productivity is increased, and human errors are reduced.

Implementing strong hospitality technology can free up staff from doing manual tasks, which leaves them available to interact with guests and handle more complex matters. Increased guest engagement can pay off in multiple ways for hotels.

A large difference between a robot and a human hotel staff member is in the ability to respond intuitively and flexibly to guest needs and concerns. While hotel robot staff are said to be able to have “intelligent conversations,” guests who are looking for more than basic responses will want to speak to a person. In fact, one of the regular quotes from robot staff at Henn-na Hotel is, “Please ask me your request, but don’t ask me a difficult question because I am a robot.”

A recent study from the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University School of Hotel administration said guests place “high priority on authentic personal connections with front-line workers.”

In addition, guests appreciate when hotel staff improvises in order to provide service or resolve issues rather than sticking to a set standard operating procedure. “Improvised service can improve guests’ attitude toward a company,” the report states.

Touchscreen tablet kiosks placed in lobbies or other central locations throughout a hotel are another useful form of hotel technology that has become more common than robots when it comes to automating guest service. These can be extremely useful for alleviating demand on hotel staff and helping guests perform simple self-service procedures, such as check-in or looking up general hotel information. But human staff are still needed to serve as a back-up option for guests with more complex concerns or who simply want the option to speak with another person.

In the future, scientists may be able to man robot hotel front desks with sophisticated automated intelligence. For now, human staff is still required to stand alongside even these advanced robots to help provide the right balance between high tech and high touch for superior guest experience.

Learn more about the hospitality technology you can use to alleviate demand on your front desk staff.

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