Let me start by saying that I would probably be described as quite "technology proficient" and although I do not necessarily run out to be the first to buy the latest IPHONE, I do like the technology toys and everything that I can do with them.
And, I do think very highly of the technology that we can use on behalf of our guests, such as automated features in guest rooms that adapt to that persons' language, and items whereby guests can access the latest technology in their rooms for their own entertainment and/or for their work use.
Okay, I've hopefully laid the foundation that I don't want to revert back to having every hotel guest fill in a lengthy registration card every time they show up, and all of us producing as much paperwork as possible, all of this turning into a 20 minute check-in process.
Okay, so that said, how much technology is too much, when it comes to dealing with the guest one-on-one? Should hotels be moving even more toward automated check in kiosks and the like, or, should we be using technology to free up our guest agents and other front line staff, as an example, to give them MORE time to interact with our guests?
I confess, in this respect, I consider myself a purist. When I arrive at a destination, tired and worn out from having endured the airlines, the luggage fiasco, the car rental process, and now I have finally found the hotel, nothing makes me happier than to have some bright smiling face look up at me, welcome me (genuinely and sincerely) to the hotel and offer to assist me. That's what I want, that's what I'm paying for . . . service.
At the end of the day, the hotels themselves are having more and more difficulty differentiating themselves on product. Everyone has a great bed these days, although I give full credit to Westin for getting it right, first, and winning the hearts, minds, and tired bodies of travellers well before everyone else figured it out.
Regardless, the "war" will be won on service. And if we're going to have a war, (on service), I want it fought by soldiers, not computers and kiosks...
Think about it, technology has almost always been “sold” to us as making our lives easier, somehow happier and more fulfilled. Try this, (and yes, I am guilty myself), next time you have 5 or 10 minutes, or you are walking to an appointment a couple of blocks away, put your own IPHONE or Blackberry away and look at how many people you see that have ear phones stuck in their ears, or, their faces are downward because they are reading something on their PDA, or, BOTH.
The point is, all of this technology is giving us an excuse NOT to interact with people, and, it has become completely socially acceptable. No one even looks twice at an elevator filled with people with virtually everyone with their ear buds in, not that anyone speaks in an elevator anyway.
So, we’re back to the question…. How much is too much, especially in an industry that is all about people?