Mobile hotel keys have certainly made life easier, but I wonder… will that convenience come at a cost? This thought crossed my mind recently as I checked in, got a room, and opted to use my mobile phone as a room key. It struck me as convenient. The downside of course is that the front desk staff don’t interact with guests. (Maybe this lack of interaction cuts costs and is considered a good thing?)
What does this type of automation foretell about the hospitality industry? Clearly, the hospitality industry is signaling its intent to serve two markets with the same infrastructure.
The ‘Guest’ Market
For this market, customers value a high-touch service model. Guests want to talk with a person upon check-in, learn each other’s names, and develop a relationship. This article from Siteminder has good examples of how hotels can connect with their customers.
The ‘Lodger’ Market
Lodgers, on the other hand, need little interaction. If you don’t eat at a hotel, there is no reason to speak with an employee. Forgotten toothbrushes and razors can be dispensed from a kiosk, check in/out and billing is already automated, and housekeeping occurs after guests have departed for the day. Lodgers will use hotel services in an anonymous (and commoditized) way.
Each market will consume hotel space in a way that provides them the most value. So the Guest experience will appeal to a certain type of customer. The cost to deliver differentiated Guest services will be higher than the automated service Lodgers receive. Those Lodgers will want to consume hotel services as a commodity where price is the driving factor.
It will be a sad day when “hospitality” industry Guests are no longer welcomed by a smiling face – someone whose attitude and presence say, “you matter to us.” The pivot point is that mixing ‘markets’ will prove to be a problem at some point. Adding automated functionality may be the trend now, but high-end customers want to be acknowledged, recognized and pampered. And they’ll want to stay in hotels where their compatriots want the same thing. In addition to diluting a strong brand, adding convenience will backfire and push higher value customers away.