Hoteliers Comb the Ranks of Tech Workers to Gain an Edge

Description:The front desk manager or housekeeper may epitomize the hotel employee, but the hospitality industry is increasingly dependent on tech workers, vacuuming data scientists, web designers and other experts into its ranks.

Source: NYTIMES.com

Date: Feb 13, 2017

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While many college students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math are attracted to the household-name tech companies in Seattle and Silicon Valley, Mr. Leidinger says he tells them, “If you’re really into technology, there’s a revolution happening in hospitality,” and as part of a smaller team, “you can drive, innovate and take ownership.”

One project for Hilton tech employees is keyless entry, which allows guests to use their phones instead of plastic key cards to unlock room doors. Of Hilton’s 4,800 hotels, 750 now offer keyless entry, and the company hopes to install the service in 2,500 hotels by the end of this year.

There are also technical job openings at the hotel level, where employees at individual properties manage social media, on-site Wi-Fi and the integration of systems like retail, parking and food sales.

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 Questions for discussion:

1.While hotel chains say that automating processes like check-in frees their employees to interact in other ways with guests, the use of technology also allows the hotel to hire fewer people.  Do you feel this is a positive thing?  Why or Why not?

 

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62 thoughts on “Hoteliers Comb the Ranks of Tech Workers to Gain an Edge

  1. jordan kwiecinski

    I feel that it’s a positive and a negative at the same time. Will see that a lot of workers will have to start adding more value by improving their interactions between consumers and increasing their value to customers. Where the one’s who aren’t able to keep up will, unfortunately, be let go. On the other hand just as the article says I believe there will be a hand in hand move with employees and technology allowing them to become more efficient and help consumers get an overall better experience when they visit. Therefore I believe that these automation process will not only help reduce cost but also improve consumer’s experience and the efficiency of employees.

    Reply
  2. Luke B

    I think it could both a positive and a negative thing. It all depends on how the company uses their employees. It is obviously a benefit for the hotel to automate check-ins as they can reduce costs. However, I don’t think you can eliminate the human element of hospitality and still refer to it as hospitality. Things like check-ins might be a good thing to automate as hotels could get creative and use their employees to deliver other services to guests that provide a more enriched hotel experience than check in interaction. For example, instead of hiring a receptionist, automate the check-in procedures and hire an employee to offer a free hot yoga class for guests. Why not? I’d go to it.It’s a win-win for the employee and the customer.

    Reply
  3. Jessica L

    Hiring fewer people can have a negative affect on the business as a whole. The use of technology may not have this effect but the lack of human interaction will. Travellers are generally looking for a home away from home kind of experience, which is typically centred around human interaction. I agree with the article when it states that a good quality human interaction will instill more loyalty then a efficient interaction. The ultimate goal is to have both, but for me is a traveler, I would sooner have a smiling face greet me at the desk after a long flight then my phone be able to get me inside the door. Good quality service employees are what can differentiate one hotel from another. Maybe a few years down the road when all hotels have advanced technology, I’m certain that the ones with the biggest profits will also be the ones that have the best human-to-human customer service. These moments of customer service through human interaction hold great power in instilling loyalty amongst travelers. The only way that I can see advanced technology creating any kind of loyalty would be that consumers would download one hotels app, and then simply not worry about downloading others because the meat not have room on their device and so they continue going to the one who’s app they already have, assuming that the advanced technology has levelled out somewhat amongst competitors. Again, the technology itself is not a bad thing in the hospitality industry, but the loss of human interaction very well could be.

    Reply
  4. Michael Isfeld

    I do not feel that the movement towards automating processes is a positive trend for hotels. The hotels are in the hospitality business. Their first priority is the comfort of their consumers. I believe that while some people will enjoy the fact that it may be a faster process to check-in and check-out of the hotel, I believe that human contact is needed for most people to feel at home, which is what many hotels are trying to achieve. They want to give their customers a home away from home. I believe that moving away from people aspect, even in tasks such as check-in will get rid of something that hotels have tried to brand themselves as. Also, from a business perspective, lots of people do not fill out forms that ask how their experience is when it comes to any sort of thing. It is more likely that people say how their experience was when they are checking out and talking to an employee. I think that because of the human aspect people are more likely to tell them about their experience and the people at the hotel will be more able to tell whether a guest is lying about the experience or not. I also believe that just by having more human contact within the organization, there is a better chance that someone within the hotel will be able to tell if a patron is having a bad experience whereas computing software cannot as of the moment. Overall I believe that it is best for hotels to use computing software, but not to great of a degree where they have marginally less people working within their organization.

    Reply
  5. Leonorah Chikukwa

    This is a positive thing to an extent. What 5 people do one machine can accomplish. This decreases the time needed to do those tasks and put people where it matters. Technology is a good thing for taking care of the technical stuff within hotels , however customer service needs to be done by humans. The company can minimize costs by hiring so many people in the long run and maximize productivity. People can be given different jobs, especially jobs that intel customer service such as greeting a guest when they arrive, or answering questions.

    Reply
  6. Katie Bergeson

    You will never be able to eliminate the human aspect of hotels, because it is a service industry, but through technology you can remove mundae jobs and make the whole process much more efficient.I have a year experience working in an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, and I think technology within the industry is a very positive thing. Automated check in, for example, would speed things up greatly and improve guest interactions because when many guests arrive at one time, not all of them can be attended to, and a lot of people end up irritable. Also, a lot of people don’t want a huge amount of human interaction on their vacation (me being one of those people.) Technology could improve other areas of a resort, such as an information schedule. Instead of 20 guests coming to a concierge and asking the same basic question (what time is the restaurant open, for example), it could just be delivered to their phone or accessible through an app. Keyless entry would be a big improvement, so that staff doesn’t have to spend their time replacing keys (or towel cards was a big one for me) when they could be dealing with important guest issues. An app could also make recommendations about activities inside the resort to participate in. For example, technology could see that a guest had a long night at the bar and suggest different spa packages to them. (making the hotel more profitable.) I think technology in the hotel industry would be a good thing, reducing the stress from guests who are agitated about things that are not inside the control of the staff.

    Reply
  7. Layla Lahiji

    Whether the automation process is a positive thing really depends on the perspective you’re looking at. In my opinion, technology will help to decrease the costs of the hotel, benefiting the business. However, I think this will decrease the quality of service given to the customers. Sure, check-in might be faster, and pairing the phone with the hotel key may allow for easier access to individual rooms, but will efficiency lead to greater customer service? The article states that “there’s no substitute for a real person who delivers their expertise”, and that “meaningful personal experiences are more likely than efficient transactions, to lead to customer loyalty”. I believe both these accounts to be true. I think human interaction is important, with the automation becoming a negative aspect that might decrease customer satisfaction. It’s sad to think that we are moving to a society that values relationships less and less. Today we are already beginning to engage more in social media than in personal relationships. We turn to our cellphones instead of to the person next to us. I’m mean we’ve all heard this before, it’s the story of every gen-xer, and to an extent maybe it’s true. I mean when I picture an automatic check-in and a keyless room entry, I think of it as just one more thing that I have to worry about on my vacation. And what happens when the cards don’t work? Won’t that create more frustration? We’re supposed to use this great technology and then when it doesn’t work, it takes more time to call someone and to get help, than to have the key system in the first place. It’s definitely the way of the future, leading to a more independent lifestyle.

    Reply
  8. Amanda Brown

    I believe there are both positive and negative aspects of a hotel such as the Hilton using automation processing. On one hand it does free up employee time which can be used to make the guests experience better. That gives the company an advantage since interacting and getting to know the customer is a great way to build a relationship and keep them as a returning customer. Automation such as the keyless door entry where customers can now use their phones instead of plastic key cards is another great way it would improve the hotel experience. I know that I personally lose hotel key cards all the time, and when its an actual key I lose it ends up costing me a lot of money so they can change their locks.
    On the other hand having the personal interaction with the hotel staff is a big part of hotel success. Of course having a beautiful hotel and lobby improve the hotel experience but what makes a lasting difference is the staff and the way they treat you. My family has been going to the same hotel since my Father was born and the one thing that really defines them from everyone else is the customer service. Every person is so friendly and greets you even if you’re just passing them in the hall and the owner is always around checking in on people. I don’t think it would be the same if those people weren’t around making the experience better

    Reply
  9. mackenzie

    I feel there are benefits to have automation, but overall I think it is going to be a negative change. I get that all industries are going to become more automated, but having the hospitality industry automated will be negative. This is because when entering a hotel i enjoy the company of the front desk staff. If this were just a computer I wouldn’t feel comfortable. A front desk staff is always readily available to ask questions or to deal with issues. Another issue is the security of using your cell phone to enter your hotel room. This is an issue for me because if i lose my phone and someone hacks onto it they would be able to access my room. Whereas with a card, if i lose that yes they would know where I am staying at, but they would have to try the card on every single room to figure out which one it belongs to. I feel automation should be kept to a minimal within the customer service/hospitality industry.

    Reply
  10. Sandy Derksen

    I believe that while hotel chain’s automating processes and the use of technology allowing for the hotel to hire fewer people is positive, it also has negative impacts on some employees in the industry. The use of technology in hotels allows for an increase in profit because the company has much more valuable information to use when making business decisions. It also allows for them to keep up in this technology driven world and increase its consumer base. The technology used by the business makes it able for employees to retrieve personal information about their customers, as well as potential customers, and in return drive business up. Although the increase of technology replacing some jobs in the hospitality industry is negative for some employees that have trained for certain jobs and are comfortable in their jobs, it also creates many new technical jobs. With such a focus on technology in businesses today, it is very useful for students and potential workers to gain a background or have some sort of knowledge of technology to be able to provide value for businesses.

    Reply
  11. Zac Nickel

    The hotel chains using more electronic ways of dealing with customers in my mind is a bad thing. While it may free up their employees to have more time to spend on guests, it definitely means that there is less of a need for people to be there. As it stands, on the average day that i would spend at a hotel, the person at the front desk doesn’t seem to be that busy. If there is a long line of new guests than this could be an issue. For the most part though, it would seem that they sort of just sit there waiting for something to happen. I have no experience in the field but from my interpretation, this is what happens. I believe this is negative because many people rely on jobs like this to get by. It is easy to make a machine able to do it, but it seems like that would cause a lot of effort on the end of the guest as well. Guests, i would think, will need to have their booking number in order to find their reservation. This is something that I have never needed before. It also seems like it could pose a lot of security risks. While hotels don’t currently do a big check to be sure of the identity of their guests, it would be very easy for someone to walk in and “steal” a room for the night. In my mind, going to a digital way of setting guests up with their room for the night is not a great idea.

    Reply

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