This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

April 21, 2010

Consequences of Embracing Technology

Companies have long used technology to support the work of people with disabilities and moved form-completion online to eliminate paper. We have also seen airlines and railways use self-service kiosks to eliminate service personnel. Recently, hoteliers have followed suit with self-service kiosks?with mixed results.

Now, a just-released study from Cornell University reports that when self-service works correctly, it enhances guest satisfaction and ultimately improves hotels' financial results. However, when problems occur with the system, guests are far less likely to return. . . much less be willing to pay a premium rate.

Titled "Integrating Self-Service Kiosks in a Customer Service System" the hospitality study found that adding self-service kiosks improved the hotels' financial results, but the improvement showed a time lag. Thus, they caution hoteliers not to expect instant returns from adding self-service kiosks. Moreover, when something went wrong with the self-service check-in, the hotels in question saw a reduction in guests' willingness to pay and willingness to return. For this reason, the study's authors urge "careful rollout of self-service technology, along with substantial staff support for guests who are using computers to check-in".

Another interesting finding was that the addition of self-service kiosks did not increase guests' perceptions of service speed at check-in. This finding is somewhat curious, since the addition of self-service kiosks at grocery stores is perceived by many to be a time-saver.

Remember when banks and airlines began using began using self-service systems? They had a human being there to assist people who were unfamiliar or fearful of using the technology. Apparently, hoteliers need to invest someone's time and attention for the same familiarization process.

Now, many mass-merchandisers including Wal-Mart, Target, and most supermarkets have installed self-service kiosks to assist in the check out process. Particularly younger customers happily embrace this technology; some older customers feel short-changed by the lack of service.

As different industries embrace various technologies to serve guests better, increase productivity, or work more efficiently, employers must realize that they will need more highly skilled workers to support these more complicated systems. Also, from the consumers' point of view, these systems must work correctly or there will be bottom line consequences.

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