Look before you leap

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RACHEL HUMPHREY
AAHOA Interim President & CEO

Incorporating new technology is a great way to make hotel stays easier for guests. From mobile room keys to WiFi equipped workspaces, guests have more freedom to tailor their stay to their personal needs. The benefits of tech are numerous, but it’s important to remember that no matter how advanced it becomes, technology can never replace the need for traditional hospitality services or guest expectations.

One key example is remote check-in options. Several brands have recently started to implement room check-ins through guests’ mobile phones to expedite the front desk process. This is an impressive innovation that undoubtedly adds another convenience for guests, but it also can detract from the traditional travel experience that many hotel guests still value as an important part of their trip. A welcoming smile at the front desk is one of the first interactions that travelers have when they arrive at their destination and guests often rely on these staff members to learn more about the local area. Warm greetings from a local can make a guest’s stay start out on a high and consumers will remember that the next time they go to book again.

New technology doesn’t always result in staff no longer being responsible for a certain task, either. When any new feature, such as room service via robot, is integrated into a property, there is always staff behind the scenes who are in charge of making sure it is performing correctly. For this reason, it’s imperative that staff are appropriately trained in how the service functions. But when tech features are implemented too quickly, comprehensive training is at risk. The guest experience can be jeopardized if onsite technology isn’t operational and guest satisfaction with hotel staff could suffer. It’s important to give staff appropriate time to get used to one new feature before introducing another. A longer training period allows staff to get accustomed to the new technology, leading to a smoother transition that reflects positively on the property and the entire brand.

Aside from staff concerns, cost is another factor that should be taken into account. For brands, it makes sense to put a heavy focus on innovation. Unique tech features can set one brand apart from another, but too much innovation too fast can take a financial toll on hoteliers. Technology is changing so fast that, for many hotel owners, it’s impossible to keep up. As soon as the next innovation is out, two or three more are following right behind. This makes it increasingly difficult for hoteliers to afford these changes. While technology is a great tool for brands and hoteliers alike, it’s important for brands to not jump too quickly. Giving hoteliers time to acclimate to new costs will make sure that other aspects of the property, like maintenance needs or new hires, aren’t put on hold in order to finance new features.

In the hotel industry, reputation is everything. That’s why it’s important to see technology as the assistant it is without sacrificing traditional hotel services. Finding spots where tech can help streamline services and give guests more control over their stay can create a better guest experience, but this is only possible if each new change is implemented with time and care. Remember, technology trends are changing constantly, but good, old-fashioned customer service never goes out of style and should never be a casualty in the race for the newest features.

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