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Kiosks: Self-service Kiosks Provide Superior Service

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March 01, 2005
Clyde Dishman

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© 2005 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

First there were ATMs and pay-at-the-pump. Then self-checkout spread from supermarkets to other retail formats. Today we can print our own boarding pass at the airport and check ourselves in once we reach our hotel.

The hospitality industry is next in line for widespread application and adoption of self-service technology. And, given the growing consumer comfort with and expectation of self-service convenience in other areas of our lives, it’s likely to take hold quickly. Many hoteliers are in fact currently testing, piloting and rolling out self-service solutions.

Hospitality is not much different than the other transaction-oriented businesses utilizing self-service kiosks. Hotels need to provide superior service, control costs and increase revenue. Self-service kiosks are providing the industry with the means to accomplish these goals and achieve a competitive advantage.

Service is the cornerstone of our industry. A self-service kiosk can enhance the service that your guests expect by providing them with the option to quickly check-in after a long flight rather than wait in line at the registration counter. The front desk staff is now available to handle guests that have an issue or require special assistance. Guests requiring special assistance now perceive improved service also. Best practices in self-service indicate that at the beginning the best implementations utilize existing staff as a greeter or concierge. Staff can assist guests as they check in or out, thus providing a more personalized service.

Self-service kiosks enable large resorts and casinos to manage numerous guests arriving concurrently or in groups. Smaller properties that may employ only a single person on any shift can utilize a kiosk to handle frequent guests that do not require assistance, rather than making them wait. Upon check-out, a kiosk can allow a guest to print an airline boarding pass. We may even see a time when certain times of the day are not staffed and the kiosk is the only means for check in or out, as is the case in Europe today.

The technology available gives all types of properties choices for the kind of kiosk to deploy. There are free-standing kiosks that support multiple automatic key encoders as well as in-counter units with an automatic or manual encoder. Emerging technologies such as biometric lock systems may eliminate the key card altogether, allowing the kiosk to accept the guest’s fingerprint and encode the lock. The range of available options can make deploying a kiosk cost effective and efficient for any size hotel.

Front desk of the future may be a counter with an integrated kiosk. The professional, friendly staff member may meet guests as they arrive, usher them to an available kiosk and assist them as they check in. The staff member is then available to advise the guest of amenities or other offerings within the property. Once considered an expense, the staff can now generate additional revenue.

The kiosk also offers a more consistent means to increase revenue by providing another touch point that can be used to make offers to the guest. Would you like to upgrade your room? Would you like to be our guest for dinner at a special price? Would you like breakfast delivered to your room?

The intuitive, touchscreen kiosk also provides a means to control costs. Turnover in the industry is significant, and a kiosk can help reduce hiring and training costs for front desk staff.

As frequent guests become more familiar with the kiosk, it provides a way to promote the brand and customer loyalty. For example, frequent guests can be alerted to real-time rewards and incentives at the time of check-in, such as a free upgrade, or notified that they have reached a new plateau that qualifies them for a free nights stay.

As the travel industry has introduced self-service, both kiosks and Web-based check in have become commonplace. These methods of check in coexist for the traveling public and provide options depending on the traveler’s personal situation at any point in time.

Technology today provides the means to combine the self-service functions of the travel and hospitality industries. The hotel kiosk can at check out or check in allow the guest to print an airline boarding pass. The kiosk now becomes a multi-use device to provide additional services to the guest. The same will be true for the hospitality industry, where kiosks and Web based will not only coexist, but will be complementary and provide a multi-channel environment.

With Web-based airline check in, the flyer has all the documents required for boarding. With Web check in for a hotel, someone is still responsible for encoding the room key. Once checked in on the Web, the traveler could print a document with a bar code that is scanned at a kiosk to issue a room key. Once at the kiosk, the guest can be offered rewards, upgrades and other promotions.

A guest’s first impression when checking in to a property is most often a lasting impression. Self-service kiosks offer a real opportunity to delight your guests with superior service, provide a significant marketing tool and control costs.

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