Coming To Luxury Hotels (Only) – Human Service

The human touch and personalized service have long been a luxury at department stores, airlines, restaurants and any number of other avenues where consumers pay for a thing or an experience. 

The hospitality industry has been an exception though. 

But, writes Matthew Kronsberg in the WSJ, that may be changing:

Consider this:

At the Aloft hotel in Cupertino, Calif., guests who request a toothbrush or razor from the front desk will find Botlr, a short, poker-faced servant-on-wheels, delivering it to their door. Neither Botlr nor Connie care if you stiff them on a tip.

or this:

When Daniel Politeski, an engineer from Vancouver, Canada, approached the check-in desk at the Henn-na Hotel, near Nagasaki, Japan, two staffers were waiting to serve him: Should he approach the young woman in a cream business suit or her colleague, who bore a close resemblance to a Tyrannosaurus Rex?

He went with the T-Rex, not just because interacting with a dinosaur seemed novel, or because he liked its bow tie, but because it was the one that spoke English. The young woman took no offense at being bypassed; she, like her reptilian co-worker, was a robot.

So if the staff is robotic, but is efficient and gets the job done, will guests care?

At low-to-mid-market hotels that cater to varying degrees of price-sensitive clients, I don’t think they would or should, since what they’re after is generally a somewhat clean hotel with a bunch of amenities that just work.

Not so, at the other end of the spectrum

Maria Razumich-Zec, regional vice president and general manager of the Peninsula Chicago, among the most technologically innovative hotels in the U.S., thinks it’s unlikely that automated desk agents and concierges will become as ubiquitous in hotels as TVs, especially not in luxury hotels. “Technology is part of Peninsula’s DNA,” said Ms. Razumich-Zec, “but it doesn’t take the place of human interaction. We believe there’s no substitute for the personal touch.”

So in the next 2 decades, with AI becoming ever-more powerful, robots becoming ever-more versatile and interactive bots becoming a fixture in our everyday lives, its easy to see why just the rich will expect and want the human touch – and pay a premium for it. 


Amazon’s New Strategy


It appears that Amazon is acquiescing to the “Why should Internet retailers be exempt from collecting sales taxes” argument (I fully support that argument – level playing fields are always good for everyone) and trying to use that to further its market share by opening tens of major distribution centers around the US. That should make next-day or even same-day delivery a very real possibility for millions of shoppers (even, non-Prime ones).

Kudos to Amazon’s strategy and their ruthless drive for efficiency, automation and leveraging of economies of scale. 

I wonder what Walmart’s response is going to be…Other retailers, especially those with showrooms, will have to figure out good reasons to have shoppers come into their stores to buy things. Maybe, eventually, anything that can be bought without without the need for a look/touch/feel will be bought on Amazon.

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