Mobile and the Human Touch


The human touch is without doubt what makes a hotel’s service unique. Today’s mobile apps and other technologies have many people claiming the loss of this element, and predicting that there is not space in the world for both human touch and technology, one or the other must go.

While I can understand the viewpoint, I disagree. Hotel apps assist travelers in booking, checking in, navigating the property, accessing their rooms, ordering room service, making requests, checking out, and many other things. The argument is that a guest who is using all of these services would potentially never interact with hotel staff at all, therefore removing all service points during the stay and furthering the commoditization of the industry. Some hotels are even removing guest-facing staff entirely, replacing front desk employees even bellhops with robots.

“We will always need humans behind a real hospitality experience.”

This, however, is far from the norm, and even further from what most of us want to see in hospitality. The purpose of technology in hotels should be to enhance the human touch, not to replace it.

For example, let’s look at the check in process. When a guest arrives, the front desk staff member completes the following checklist:

  • Greet
  • Ask for name and other information
  • Input that information into the system
  • Find room number and discreetly tell the guest
  • Give key
  • Give paperwork, handouts, hotel information, directions to find the room
  • Respond to any questions the guest may have

Let’s say this process takes 10 minutes. For the guest, 10 minutes of interaction with a staff member probably won’t seem very long, but if we consider that they’ve also had to wait in line to begin this process, we begin to see where frustrations can build.

At our hotel, the front desk checks in 200 guests per day. That translates to 33 hours per day checking in new arrivals, performing the expected amount of service for the interaction. Meeting expectations is great, but we must exceed them to leave a lasting impression on the guest.

“The staff has gained over 15 hours of time to personal service”

Enter the hotel app. Half of the guests now choose to bypass the front desk entirely. They may not see human interaction in the first few minutes of arrival, but they have already increased their happiness by not waiting in line. Later, when they actually want something, the hotel staff has gained over 15 hours of time to put into more personal service to the guest. This could mean fulfilling requests faster, paying more attention to return visitors, or spending more time with the guests who desire the interaction from the beginning.

Busy people who have ten minutes to get to their room, change clothes, and hail a cab do not have the same time for a welcome speech that leisure travelers may have. Mobile gives the option to bypass the speech altogether, or lessen the time needed to give the same information so that more people can have access to it.

There will ALWAYS need to be humans behind a real hospitality experience, but not every traveler wants it during the entire journey. Technology is able to free up interaction time from people who would prefer not to have it and allow more for those who do.