Cornell Study Urges Hoteliers to Be Realistic Regarding Guest Self Service Kiosks

As more hospitality companies implement some form of IT-based self-service, many are seeking to reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, and possibly reach new customer segments. A new hospitality study from Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) points out that when self-service functions correctly, it does enhance guest satisfaction and improves hotels' financial results. However, when a problem occurs with the self-service computer system, guests are far less willing to return, much less pay a premium rate.

The study, "Integrating Self-Service Kiosks in a Customer Service System," by Tsz-Wai Lui and Gabriele Piccoli, is available at no charge from the CHR.. Lui is an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Piccoli is a professor at the University of Grenoble Ecole de Management. Lui and Piccoli compiled statistics from two hotel chains totaling 163 hotels to determine the ratio of automated check-ins and the ratio of failed check-ins, using lobby self-service kiosks. They matched those data with aggregate financial performance from Smith Travel Research.

The hospitality study found that adding the self-service kiosks did improve the hotels' financial results, but the improvement showed a time lag. Thus, they caution hoteliers not to expect instant returns from adding self-service kiosks. However, when something went wrong with the self-service check-in, the hotels in question saw a reduction in guests' willingness to pay and willingness to return. For this reason, Lui and Piccoli urge careful rollout of self-service technology, along with substantial staff support for guests who are using computers to check-in.

Lui and Piccoli noted one peculiar finding. The addition of the self-service kiosks did not increase guests' perceptions of service speed at check-in. While their study did not provide conclusive reasons for this finding, the authors speculate that those guests who still use the front desk may use the check-in time to consult with service representatives who can dedicate more time to them, and can make upselling and cross-selling offers.

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