The Machines are Coming — but Hotel Service Demands Human Touch

by Mark Brandau, Director of Content | August 04, 2016

New technologies within the hotel industry and outside it seem to debut every day, and for brands and owners, it’s a mixed bag. For every profit-driving revenue management system, there might be some sharing economy site that threatens to steal bookings. But progress marches on, in large part because your guests are in favor of the latest gadgets and apps.

I have my own nuances when it comes to how much I like certain hotel technology. I’m a big fan of the movement toward more streaming entertainment in rooms — and I’m pretty annoyed when I’m charged for faster Wi-Fi, or any Internet access at all. I’m ambivalent about mobile check-in or a mobile room key. I’d just as soon order in with GrubHub than call down to the kitchen for room service.

But the place where I am a hotel technology Luddite is the front desk, where I expect to encounter human beings and where I hope to be treated like one. Apps for travelers and tourists come and go, but guests remember how they’re treated by a hotel’s staff, and attention to guest service goes a long way toward building real loyalty for your property.

[bctt tweet="Apps for travelers and tourists come and go, but guests remember how they’re treated"]

Where outsourcing to apps makes sense

As Duetto CEO Patrick Bosworth wrote recently in HOTELS, brands and owners don’t need to fear some of the tech startups out there managing to perform some hotel functions pretty well. Those companies might make pretty good partners or acquisitions, as Accor Hotels is showing with investments in onefinestay or, more recently, concierge app John Paul.

For instance, in the area of suggesting attractions and experiences, you could still take up the challenge with your staff, making sure your front desk and managers are up to date on everything to do in your city and that they know who to call for tickets and reservations.

You could also outsource that to an app, like HeadOut. One that we’ll all have to keep our eye on is Dihedral, a brand new startup which boasts two airlines and four major hoteliers — Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels, InterContinental Hotels Group and Marriott International — as investors.

Either way, the pressure’s on for your hotel to have some solution, because OTAs are already on the case. With its artificial-intelligence bot currently in pilot tests, is making a big bet on tours, attractions and activities as a growth area for serving its users.

(Personally, on this one, I side with Airbnb, which has no plans to develop any bots for suggesting attractions. I still put credence in friends’ recommendations for music or movies than I do in algorithms from Spotify or Netflix.)

When tech serves to improve guest service

The most important thing to me as a hotel guest is when the property keeps the hospitality focus in-house. I saw this Quartz article about Hyatt’s new check-in procedures, and it was instantly familiar because I immediately recalled my last stay at a Hyatt Place last spring.

The front-desk specialist checked my family in with only a few touches on a tablet. That freed her up to pay more attention to us.

I got lots of eye contact and polite answers to all of my questions, instead of fidgeting awkwardly while waiting for the person to check me in with several minutes of furious typing. The front-desk manager even had the time to pour my wife a drink from the lobby bar right next to her workstation.

One of the few steps involved in her hyper-efficient check-in process was getting my email address to make sure I was signed up for the loyalty program. In this new era of hotel loyalty built around personalized marketing and pricing, getting contact info is more important to hotel and casino properties than ever.

That hotel knows how to reach me the next time I’m planning my next trip. But more importantly, because the staff had been trained to provide a hospitable experience, I’m more likely to respond to that brand’s promotions and book directly with one of its properties.


Mark Brandau, Director of Content

Mark joined Duetto in January 2016 from market research firm Technomic, where he began his content marketing career after nearly a decade as a business-to-business journalist covering the restaurant industry. As assistant director of content, he helps steer the creation and promotion of all Duetto's content across its blog, video and social-media platforms, as well as sales collateral and internal communications.

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