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Solving the Self-service Dilemma

For decades, hospitality and notions of superior guest service were centered on treating hotel visitors like royalty, defined in direct proportion to how much or how little the guests had to actually do for themselves. For today’s increasingly independent-minded travelers however, hospitality means doing things on their own terms; including checking into the hotel in a technology-friendly manner that is quick and seamless.

A recent Harvard Business Review study proves the point. The study states that, “customers want control over how and when they interact with companies.” In fact, the study concludes that self-service is the top customer service desire and the most important key to building loyalty in today’s marketplace.

Perhaps understandably, given the industry’s tradition of personal service, hoteliers have been much slower than their counterparts in other industries to adopt a self-service strategy. There are some who point out, correctly, that many travelers still prefer the traditional style of service that hotels provide, including an interactive human dialog upon check-in. But what some hoteliers don’t yet understand is that it doesn’t have to be an either/or issue; the point is that guests want options. Hotels can still make traditional front desk check-in available, while also offering mobile or kiosk check-in options for the increasing number of guests who prefer the convenience of that process. This is the approach Nordic Choice Hotels ( is taking with its new Comfort Xpress lifestyle hotel.

The price-conscious modern travelers targeted by Comfort Xpress are independent-minded and forward thinking from a technology standpoint, so it is important for Nordic Choice to offer customizable self-service technologies that are cutting-edge without becoming a financial burden on the hotel.

When the 180-guestroom Comfort Xpress Oslo opened in January, Nordic Choice opted to implement the Allegro Online/Mobile/Kiosk check-in solution from Ariane Systems ( Starting in March of this year, guests are now able to choose their preferred check-in method from several automated formats, including: a link embedded within a welcome e-mail prior to arrival, an SMS on a Web-enabled mobile device upon arrival, or on-premise at a lobby check in/out kiosk. What’s more, guests can manage guestroom preferences, add products and services such as breakfasts, update their account information, and even pre-pay for their stay from multiple payment options. Guests may even choose to have their mobile phone act as the guestroom key via the OpenWays Mobile Key ( crypto-acoustic locking system. Yet, if guests would prefer to employ a more familiar guestroom access option, they can instead obtain RFID keycards from a hotel kiosk or from the hotel staff.

Self-service technologies like Ariane’s Allegro platform create the added benefit of enhancing operational efficiency within the hotel. In recent years, new hotel concepts have emerged, demonstrating that some hotels can operate without the front desk reception by re-inventing the way guests should be welcomed. The fact is that the typical face-to-face guest/front desk staff interaction needs to be rethought. By having staff members within the lobby and without the physical barrier of a front desk, hotels are adopting new ways to greet, and add value to their guest experience.

Travelers, particularly the up-and-coming Millennial generation, increasingly value self-sufficiency, unique experiences and speed above all else. All businesses are identifying ways to let consumers ‘do it themselves’ if they so choose, and no area of hotel operations is such an obvious candidate for self-service as the check-in and check-out process.
Thomas Westergaard is the senior vice president of Nordic Choice Hotels. Choice Hotels Scandinavia AS is the Nordic’s largest hotel chain, with more than 6.2 billion NOK in annual turnover and almost 9,200 employees. 

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