I was just tasked with compiling some industry thoughts about technology vs service. They’re important enough to copy and paste here… I believe. =)
Technology commodifies hospitality like the airlines… reducing guest options to location and price, and nothing else.
I know this is mainly regarding David Kong, from Best Western, and his thoughts, but it’s bright stuff that I agree with.
Think of that… absolutely no eye contact ever again with a guest because everyone is on their phone. Why would they come back to the hotel? What sets it apart, truly, if almost everything is the same at this point?
USA Today with CEO Round Table:
Best Western’s Kong: “Technology, to a large extent, desensitizes people, and it has the potential of rendering our industry into a commodity. If the hotel is nothing but self-check-in and kiosks and you don’t have interaction with anyone, then that type of experience can be easily copied. We all read comment cards and letters that come to us. They almost never write about the product experience. It’s always about people, whether it’s a compliment or a complaint. It’s always the front desk people, how they were received, or the housekeeper. This industry is called the hospitality industry for a reason. If we, for the sake of technology and efficiency, give that up, then we’ll be like the airlines. We’ll be a commodity.”
I categorically think Depatie is wrong about Millenials and their phones while on vacation, but I could be wrong. At the very least, there will be a schism of people into “all into tech” and “escaping / reacting against tech”, and I believe these two groups will become huge, and we will see significant tensions and social issues surrounding this. The science of how destructive technology is, is just beginning, and we’ll see social movements born from these ideologies.
This is an interesting comment from Kimpton’s Depatie though:
Kimpton’s Depatie: “There’s a growing group of travelers who want something that feels more personalized, more localized and more authentic: This one-size-fits-all chain approach is getting more and more rejected.”
Kong about Guest Interaction as “trump card”
‘Humanity seems to be disappearing,’….
…He worries hoteliers are in danger of losing touch with guests if they venture too far down the path of allowing customers to check in and go about their daily business without coming in contact with hotel staff.
“We are in the hospitality business,” Kong said. “Is there such a thing as virtual hospitality? Of course not.”
A key aspect of this personalization of service is the condition that hotel staffs interact with guests as much as possible, Kong said. As such, the company intends to stay away from technology that would allow the guest to check in directly to their room.”
Such an action could “marginalize the business,” Kong said.
My previous blog regarding technologists and the disconnect with hospitality
“Almost all hotels are the same. From some luxury down to normal biz box hotels – same threadcount on sheets, same ihome clock radio, same amenity concept (local, artisan, etc), same “hip” concepts and angles for marketing. It’s amazing, but it’s unbelievably similar across the board. So, what is the one thing we can do to stand out against our competitive set? Service.”
“There is a *tremendous* disconnect and lack of understanding from the tech world: our business is hospitality. Technology is great, but not if it makes our guest inaccessible. If tech enhances the guest experience, that’s great. But if removes them from interaction, that’s a problem.”
“We can *not* get guests to download apps. Not with tent cards (we hate those, anyway), not with staff training. Even Runtriz had admitted that the adoption rate on property averaged ** 10% ** of hotel guests *with* smartphones. That’s not 10% of all guests. That’s just the guests that the hotel knew had a smartphone. I still think this is probably a training issue, but it’s also that people are much more attuned to privacy, permissions, etc, than they were a year ago. People are just realizing how much of their personal info we’ve given away, via apps, social, or stuff like the Snowden NSA revelations. There’s a tremendous skepticism out there now, and the hallmark of hospitality is a profound respect for guest privacy. We are there to protect our guests. This is where marketing is losing their grip on reality – partnerships of sharing guest’s data with huge marketing data firms, etc.”
Upshot: If you think you have an app for [awesome] hotels that interrupts the ability of the hotel to be face to face with our guest, your app is neither about [being awesome] nor hospitality.
— End Note: How does a guest even know to download your app if they aren’t a loyal guest, yet? I mean, what % of guests are loyal enough to trust and download and use an app? Why not just a freaking mobile website? Major brands and flags aside, anyone building an app for a boutique or small independent hotel or group of hotels is being sold snake oil by technology marketers. I think, 10 years from now, we’re going to look at free standing hotel apps as the biggest swindle in our marketing budgets. It’s just stupid… use a mobile website so everyone can use it without knowing it needs to be downloaded.