A new generation of travelers use technology throughout their daily lives. As a result, self-service technologies are becoming a welcome and expected addition within hospitality, providing convenience, consistency, and control to users while offloading manual tasks from hotel staff.
Read on to discover how self-service tech can help your hospitality business better serve customers, improve efficiency, and save costs.
In this article you will learn:
- What is self-service technology?
- The widespread demand for self-service
- 7 self-service trends in hospitality customer service
- Balancing self-service with the human touch
What is Self-Service Technology?
The term relates to any type of digital product that removes the need for human interaction in business transactions. The self-service market is expected to grow by 13% from 2019 to 2023 and reach $32 billion.
Every public-facing sector of the economy has found multiple uses for the technology. Online banking services, for example, puts the customer in charge of their finances. Customers can conveniently access their balance, make payments or pay bills, and many financial providers are looking for ways to add more services like transportation into their offering.
The Widespread Demand for Self-Service
At first glance, the self-service approach contradicts the hospitality experience. Many travelers appreciate hotel staff or concierges taking care of their every request. However, the time and effort required to stand in lines at the front desk outweighs the desire for human interaction. Guests often need to have more convenience during their stay.
Hotels are now leveraging self-service technologies, allowing guests to control many aspects of their stay. Devices like kiosks allow guests to check-in and out instantly, or to book door-to-door transportation. Another example is a digital concierge service that enables travelers to plan their daily activities.
Business travelers may also benefit from digital self-service technology. For example, trips can be booked faster, getting a unified view of hotels and related services via a mobile app. In fact, 59% of business travelers always book their hotel themselves and 79% of travel businesses reported growth in revenue when they provided chatbots or self-service kiosks.
From a service provider perspective, such technology can automate time-consuming operational tasks and improve the workflow across the organization. As a result, staff can allocate attention and efforts to more meaningful duties that can enhance the guest experience.
7 Self-Service Trends in Hospitality Customer Service
The hospitality industry includes everything from hotels to travel agents, restaurants, bars, and other types of accommodation. Although each segment is unique, when it comes to self-service, several important trends are seen across the entire hospitality industry.
1. Personalization technologies
Personalized experiences can significantly enhance guest satisfaction. The following self-service technologies can be used to create a tailor-made experience:
- Digital concierge services or entertainment platforms available via guests' mobile devices
- Personal greetings to visitors by using booking data and GPS technology
- Additional activities or value-added services to customers based on their history or preferences
2. Smart hotels
Smart hotels use internet-enabled devices to communicate with one another. Smart hotels are based on Internet of Things (IoT) systems which allow guests to control devices from a single control point. For example, hotel visitors can control the A/C with a smartphone or turn on the TV with a smart speaker command. In addition, smart devices can assist guests using hotel-specific information or find useful information on the internet.
3. AI-powered chatbots
Hospitality customer service representatives spend most of their time helping visitors with the same problems over and over again. Hotels can use chatbots to provide 24/7 automated customer service.
A chatbot is an automated system that can answer queries by using a database of answers. Bots enable customer service employees to focus on more complex tasks instead of dealing with routine requests.
4. Hotel robots
The automated and self-service nature of robots plays an increasingly vital role in the hospitality customer experience. The use of robots can improve cost-effectiveness, speed, and even the accuracy of service.
Many leading hotel brands are using robots to improve customer service. For example, Hilton hotels use a robot concierge named Connie. The robot tells guests about nearby restaurants, attractions, and other hotel information. Another example is Savioke, the hotel delivery robot. The robot can navigate crowds and elevators to handle room deliveries.
5. Virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) headsets allow the hospitality and tourism industry to provide travelers with more insight before booking. Hotel providers can show realistic digital versions of rooms, and travel agents can use 360 videos and virtual tours of tourist attractions.
6. Voice-activated virtual assistants
Virtual assistants allow guests to make routine requests such as room service or fresh towels. This personalized guest experience can easily be provided through standard devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo.
7. Smart Transportation
Smart mobility solutions can be integrated into a hotel’s website, allowing a customer to pre-book their travel at the same time they reserve their room. In addition, hotels can provide their customers with the options of booking any ride on a self-service kiosk in the lobby or even though their in-room tablets. This improves the customer experience, saves the hotel concierge valuable time, and provides the hotel with a digital edge.
Finding the Right Balance Between Self-Service and the Human Touch
Hospitality technology is increasingly popular, and the convenience of self-service tech provides another level. Guests still require personal touch throughout their stay, and therefore finding the right balance between automation and personal interaction is important.
Before implementing self-service technology, evaluate your hotel’s business goals, and the needs of your guests. Consider whether the change will really improve customer service, operational efficiency or revenue. Hotel managers should use technology to enhance the human element within the guest experience while ensuring guests continue receiving excellent service from hotel staff.