The rise of the virtual lobby

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With traditional ways of working increasingly being replaced with more tech-driven solutions, Click. explores the rise of the virtual lobby and how properties are looking to stay one step ahead

Setting the guests' first impression, the lobby is one area that has been significantly impacted by technological advances in recent years. From robots manning the front desk and delivering room service, to kiosks that allow self check-in/out, property owners are employing various technologies in a bid to increase guest satisfaction and staff productivity.

Enhancing guest satisfaction

An increasing number of properties are turning to digital solutions to assist guests with their check-in - resulting in a more efficient experience for the traveller, and more time for staff to focus on various other needs.

“We automate many traditional hotel processes with the ultimate mission of saving our guests and crew time to get on with the things that are important to them,” says Sahrette Saayman, Director of Communications, YOTEL. “Instead of long queues at traditional reception desks, where guests wait to check in and out, we have replaced it with an automated process whereby guests can even check into the hotel on the app on their way there and just collect the key or use their mobile devices as a key.”

Photo: Hotel Monville.

'There is an amazing interest around the robot service.' Photo: Hotel Monville

In today’s world, where just about everything can be consumed on demand, time-saving tech is becoming a unique selling point for properties. “Our technology is one of the main ways we differentiate ourselves from traditional hotels,” says Saayman. “By staying ahead of the latest technology, we provide our guests with a unique experience.”

Jean-Cédric Callies, Director of Sales and Marketing at Hotel Monville, agrees that providing digital options in the lobby can benefit both guests and staff. “Guests can check in easily and quickly at electronic kiosks, where they will also automatically receive their room keys,” says Callies. “Human receptionists can thus dedicate more time to helping guests discover Montréal’s many attractions.”

“At the beginning, we noticed a need for the staff at the Hotel to inform and explain our technologies to the guests,” continues Callies. “After eight months of operations, it is a great success. We have seen an increase in the online guest satisfaction, but also regarding the number of return guests.”

Financial ROI

Property managers are finding that guest satisfaction isn’t the only positive impact technology can have, citing financial gains as another benefit. California-based Savioke has worked with numerous hotel chains - such as Marriott, Hilton and Crowne Plaza - providing their lobbies with an autonomous delivery robot, named Relay, that helps staff out by delivering items to guest rooms quickly, safely and reliably. Relay is the first fully-autonomous indoor delivery robot that works in the dynamic public environment of hospitality.

“There is financial ROI that we’re seeing. Hotels are telling us that having a robot is a revenue generator because they’re not only increasing occupancy rates but also selling a lot more marketplace items,” says Lauren Schechtman, VP Marketing and Sales, Savioke. "Some hotels report doubling or tripling their marketplace sales due to guests calling down from the rooms saying they would like a snack or bottle of water simply because they want the experience of a robot delivering their items.”

It remains an unusual technology in a hotel, which is great for us. There is an amazing interest around the robot service

Hotel Monville is noticing the same trend, with the attraction of their robot also leading to financial return on investment. “We have 40 to 60 orders per day through the robot room service. Sometimes we’ll have small value orders from guests who only want to see the robot moving to their rooms,” says Callies. “It remains an unusual technology in a hotel, which is great for us. There is an amazing interest around the robot service, for diverse reasons and not only room service.”

Increasing staff productivity

Another benefit that has emerged from incorporating new technologies into standard work processes is the increase of staff satisfaction and productivity. “At least in the US, hospitality has the largest turnover rate of any other industry,” says Schechtman. "Doing tedious, time-consuming and boring work, such as delivering items like toothbrushes or linens, takes a person away from their true value of assisting guests.  This interrupts workflow and impacts job satisfaction. Staff can be more productive and effective when they have a robot working alongside them.”

YOTEL has also noticed the impact on staff. “As a technology-led hotel, we’re able to not only use it to benefit our guests, but also to help facilitate workers’ duties,” says Saayman. “Through technology, we can make hotels better places to work, improve staff recognition, and attract better employees. This drives all the way down the guest experience and creates real operating expenditure savings, as well as enhancing productivity.”

It appears that rather than replacing the need for front-of-house staff, new technologies instead work in harmony with humans to benefit the overall guest experience. “People will always expect the personal touch, and as more people spend time working from home, this has become more important than ever,” says Saayman. “Technology lets us do just that, spend more time with our guests.”

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Hero image: credit to Markus Spiske, Unsplash

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The lobby is one area that has been significantly impacted by technological advances in recent years
Automating traditional hotel processes has the potential to enhance the overall guest experience
Hoteliers who employ delivery robots are noticing an increase in small value orders from guests, impacting their overall financial ROI
With time-consuming and mundane tasks taken care of by technology, staff have reported an increase in satisfaction and productivity