Industry Update
Opinion Article31 January 2017

Technology and Customer Service

By Todd M. Noftall, Hotelier

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Noftall

No one can dispute the influence that technology is having on the Hospitality Industry and specifically on how we deliver Customer Service and how we enhance our guests' experience;

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· AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality)

· electronic check-in and room selection

· virtual concierges with SMS communication throughout your stay

· voice activated rooms

In 2014 Starwood Hotels & Resorts introduced us to the world of keyless entry and since then no one has looked back. In 2014 Hilton Worldwide introduced digital check-in, allowing its loyalty program's members the freedom to select their room; a first for the industry. They followed that up in late 2015 with digital key. Marriott International, not to be out done, announced in January 2017 that it too would be introducing its own version of a digital key to 500 of its hotels. These features, while supremely beneficial to their guests, ostensibly removes one of the most integral touch points that your team has with your guests.

The irony is that the technological component is becoming easier to implement and manage while the human component is still just as difficult to master.

Your job now is to find new ways to interact with your guests, and I am not referring to SMS messages after they check in or using other forms of Social Media during their stay. While these tools allow you to efficiently and effortlessly keep in contact with your guests, they will not necessary allow you to actually connect with them.

Great customer service is all about making a human connection. Actually interacting with your guests and having a face-to-face conversation. Although, too many times those face-to-face conversations happen when something goes wrong; your tablet or smart phone cannot replace a light bulb, help you when you have an issue with your bill or simply empathize with you when you experience a problem. A relationship is not built when we are only there to resolve issues or solve problems. Real relationships are built when we interact with our guests and have a real conversation with them.

I am just like most of you; without my phone I am somewhat lost. Like most of you I actually enjoy being online and being part of a global community. I have used digital check-in and enjoy the option of selecting my own room.

But now as the Hospitality Industry, and the way we provide service, is undergoing this transformation it is an interesting juxtaposition. The "new" way in which faster is better and more efficient; versus the "old" way which may have been slightly slower but was, and is, far more personal.

This is the modern way of life and the new reality for our industry. We need to learn to reapply the basics of providing great guest service, with every interaction we have, and make the transition seamless.

You and your teams need to put back the positive value in those interactions. More importantly you must capitalize on those opportunities when they are presented to you. We need to connect with our guests on a personal level and create a memorable experience for them.

I have been asked many times why did I get into Hotels. The main reason why I wanted to work in this industry is because I like meeting new people. No matter what new technology may be on the horizon, for our industry, I will accept it and embrace it.

But I will always remember why I got it into the hotel industry.

To actually meet people.

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Todd M. Noftall

I have almost 25 years of experience in the Hospitality Industry. Great Customer Service and creating memorable experiences for all my guests is something that is important to me. Another passion of mine is sharing my knowledge and experience with the future leaders of this great industry. In addition to being a General Manager I also mentor College students enrolled in Hospitality Programs.

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