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The Future of Hotel’s Front Desk: Can a Machine Replace a Human?

More and more hotels try to experiment with their check-in procedures to upgrade their service. One of the ways for the arriving traveller is to use the kiosk instead of traditionally coming up to the front desk and getting the key from the receptionist. If this kind of hotel upgrade catches on, soon we might live (or travel) in the world where the only time we contact a hotel staff is when we have an emergency request or when a housekeeper knocks on our door. The question is – is this more of a utopian or a dystopian vision of the future of travelling?

Let’s Look at the Upside of the Automated Service in the Hotels.

The irritation that comes with standing in a line to the front desk while looking after your luggage is a fact that almost everyone can relate to. As much as we understand that the receptionist is doing his or her best, we tend to get a little tired after waiting 20 minutes for our key. The hotel kiosks are something that speeds up the whole process – the only thing you have to do to get your key is to enter a code and scan your passport. After that, the system proceeds with the payment, deliver the chosen number of keys, and you can head straight to the room. The process takes up to 3-4 minutes and considering that, more people can check-in at the same time and the waiting period significantly decreases with kiosks.

From the hotelier’s side, the kiosk can be programmed to make sure they deliver all of the critical information to the guests. When checking in, the machine can show some additional options for a traveller that are available in this specific hotel (like room upgrade, booking a tour or booking a restaurant table) as well as basic information and instructions for the guests’ use. The receptionist is just a human being and can simply forget to mention some of the options.

The machine can also make the early check-in easier. When housekeepers are done with cleaning the apartment, they can immediately check it in the system as ready for the customer, without making any calls or walking to the front desk. After receiving this kind of information, the system immediately shows the “early check-in” option on the screen as possible for the guests who have just arrived at this specific apartment. It’s for sure faster than the receptionist checking with the cleaning staff personally and eliminates the possibility of a misunderstanding between housekeeping and front desk.

What about the possible problems? If the experiment catches on, there would probably be a panel with a list of potential issues that might happen for the guest to choose from. Afterwards, it could be submitted and transferred to someone who is responsible for the customer service so that they can decide what to do or, if we imagine entirely digital service, it would be transferred directly to the person that can solve the problem – a handyman, a housekeeper, etc.

The question is, what would happen if there was any system failure and each guest that would try to check-in would receive information: “I’m afraid I can’t make that reservation for you, John”? They would have to wait for someone to repair the system or personally check them in, which would effect in a long line of unhappy customers. And we are back in a starting point.

What about a traditional check-in and service with the help from the receptionist?

Let’s look at the check-in process first. As much as it might be faster for the machines to issue the key cards and verify the guests, the first impression that a person can make is irreplaceable. The receptionist can see the guest an talk to them, give them some personal advice or recommendation or simply adjust to the guest. That way, the hotel is seen as a one with prepared, professional staff full of knowledge that can answer every question from every guest.

We have to also consider how the hotel deals with the problems the guests might have. When the issue appears and you can go to the person responsible for the service, you are sure that they listen and are there to help you in any way. The system, after submitting your inquiry or complaint, will show you a prompt that your problem is now being resolved and that you have to wait. A person will keep you informed and will talk to you or personally check what you need and how they can help you. From the hotelier’s side, the receptionist might be able to calm the angry guests and offer them a solution that will suit both parties – give a different apartment, contact a handyman or simply just talk to the guest. Sometimes the fact of showing that you want to help is enough for the guest to feel taken care of. We can assure you that professional staff at the front desk that can deal with guest’s problems is something that can boost up the reviews of your hotel in no time and, furthermore, be one of the reasons the new guests will come back to your property in the future.

As you can see, there are upsides and downsides to every option – self-check-in kiosks can make the process itself as well as the communication within the property easier, but sometimes the personal contact and ability to talk to the well-trained and professional receptionist is something that can decide on the guest’s opinion about the hotel. Which one is better? What is the more preferable vision of the future? I think that everyone needs to answer these questions by themselves, as each and every one of us looks for something different in the hospitality industry.

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  1. Pingback: A Brief History of Hotels - The official blog of Bidroom

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