Are the Self-Service Tides Finally Changing?

Are the tides finally turning in self-service technology's favor? It would seem so. Each year, Hospitality Technology's Self-Service Technology Study surveys its subscribers and a sample of U.S. consumers to better understand and track hospitality self-service technology trends. Results from last year's study related that although customer interest in using self-service solutions was on the upswing, restaurant and lodging operators remained reluctant to provide these solutions, citing a lack of customer demand and the slowed economy. However, data from the 2010 study indicates that self-service's outlook is finally improving. The results from this year's study reveal that strengthening consumer expectations and a brightening economy are helping to kick hospitality self-service initiatives back into gear.

Given the growth in personal technology use in recent years, it's no surprise that consumers are increasingly comfortable with and willing to use self-service technology. Previous studies have consistently indicated consumers' strengthening embrace of self-service technology for its ability to quicken service, shorten lines, and improve accuracy, among others. What's more, the presence of self-service technology is increasingly affecting consumers' decisions about where to eat and where to stay. In 2009, four in 10 respondents indicated they would be more likely to dine at a QSR or stay at a hotel that offered a self-service option for ordering food or checking out. In 2010 these percentages rose sharply, with 54% of respondents saying they would be more likely to visit a QSR or hotel with a kiosk that allowed them to order food. An even higher percentage, 59%, would be more likely to stay at a hotel that offered self-service check-out technology.

On the operator side, growing optimism about the economy's prospects is helping to fuel a renewed interest in self-service initiatives. While the economy and consumer spending remained the top two business concerns among operators this year, the percentage of respondents citing these factors dropped, in the case of the economy by 16 percentage points, from 86% to 70%. Concerns about the cost of goods and services also fell, from 54% of respondents in 2009 to 38% in 2010.

This study also indicated a growing appreciation for the multiple benefits that self-service technology brings to lodging and foodservice operations. In the lodging segment, although executives still prize kiosks' ability to cut costs this year's survey shows that they are focused more on the technology's customer service capabilities. Customer service topped the list of key self-service business drivers, cited by 94% of respondents. Similarly, 75% of QSRs cited customer service as a top business driver.
To read about these findings and more, download the full study here.
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