By Abigail A. Lorden, Editor-in-Chief - 05/06/2011
For the past six years Hospitality Technology has conducted an industry-wide survey that tracks deployment plans and opinions toward self-service technology. Data collection on the seventh annual installment of this study recently concluded and production on the full study is now in full swing. The study will be mailed to our readers next month with the June issue, but I’m sharing a few preliminary results that are particularly insightful.
For several decades, the term self-service largely referred to kiosks. In some hospitality environments, kiosks have worked well and will continue to be part of their service strategy. For kiosk critics, however, the term self-service carried with it a low-touch limitation. ‘Kiosks will never be a fit in four-star,’ they said. The counter to such kiosk criticism was this: ‘the devices aren’t meant to replace high-touch customer service. Their presence in hotel lobbies simply gives guests a choice in how they want to engage.’ It wasn’t an argument that converted many critics.
The 2011 study, however, shows acceptance towards self-service by hotels and restaurants at all ends of the “star” spectrum when it’s presented on the right platform: guests’ own devices. A full 75% of hotels surveyed believe that mobile check-in via a cell phone app is useful; 68% of restaurants see similar appeal in a mobile app for food ordering. Many in both camps have plans to roll out such tools in the coming 12 months.
This paradigm shift reminds me of a lesson from my college days, “The medium is the message,” a phrase coined by communication theorist and scholar Marshall McLuhan (b. 1911- d. 1980). In the 1960s McLuhan taught that the platform through which a message is conveyed embeds itself in the message. It creates a symbiotic relationship whereby the medium influences how the message is perceived. Through this phenomenon, self-service is finally reborn and accepted as customer engagement.
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