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Kiosks: What Are the Hotel’s Real Objectives – Are Kiosks the Answer?

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March 01, 2005
Kris Lambrecht

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© 2005 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

It is amazing that kiosk debates go back over two decades to the early 80s, and yet even today different hotel brands are still testing kiosk systems on a limited basis. Many online and print editors who interview me about Radisson’s Express Yourselfsm online check-in service are surprised when I state that Radisson has "leap-frogged" kiosk systems upon the launch of our new online check-in service. The question comes down to what are the real service objectives to an expedited check-in process. How can you keep the focus on the customer needs and deliver on those objectives.

Radisson targeted an expedited check-in system after extensive branding research and J.D. Power Guest Satisfaction survey information that showed the hotel’s check in/check out service was one of the top five elements that, if it was improved, would increase the guest satisfaction with a hotel brand. Further research showed that guests wanted a quick and easy check-in experience, one similar to their experience with airlines. They also wanted more control over their stay and more information choices. Finally, the guests wanted us to retain what they told us upon check in and they also did not want us to eliminate the friendly and helpful front desk staff.

Kiosk systems today can address the quick check in but fail to meet most of the other points called out in our market research. Kiosks are costly to the hotel, they add another piece of equipment in the lobby and create a cold and impersonal touch to the guest check-in process. Some guests would find the check-in process via a kiosk to fit their needs perfectly, but most business travelers will tell you that there are enough cold and impersonal parts of the business travel environment already. They like having a warm, friendly personal greeting and service by a front desk agent while providing a fast and efficient check-in. Also, while the concept of a kiosk check-in process might fit the needs of some hotels, it may not be the right fit for all the hotels in a brand. The Express Yourself service is available in all Radisson hotels in the Americas and for all guests who would like to use it.

The Radisson brand positioning is about "Enabling Choice and Engaging People." Radisson is able to offer relevant options to all of its guests, giving them the freedom to choose the elements that will best meet their needs, making each experience satisfying. A Radisson signature standard is an experience or guest touch-point that delivers value to our guests in unique and meaningful way that delivers our brand positioning. Express Yourself is a signature service owned by Radisson and delivers choice to our guests in a unique and meaningful way. Kiosks would not be a signature standard because they do not provide the same level of unique experience and would not be available or used consistently across all of our hotels.

With Radisson’s Express Yourself online check-in service, you can book your reservation any way you want from home or office via phone, hotel direct, online or through a travel agent, and then "Express Yourself" with Radisson’s exclusive online pre-arrival check-in service. Upon arrival at a Radisson hotel, you show your ID to the front desk staff and receive your room key. There are no signatures and no waiting. With kiosks, assuming that information gets loaded correctly and the keys are dispensed in the right order, you might have a quick check-in experience with a kiosk system, but you would not have an "Express Yourself" check-in experience.

The Radisson guest will receive a warm welcome and smile, be handed a key packet quickly and be directed toward his or her room. Can the kiosk provide a similar experience? The Radisson front desk agent will handle any last minute questions or changes, faxes or messages, credit card authorization issues, inform the guest of a room upgrade, and may even present the guest with a small gift as an elite member of our goldpoints plusSM loyalty program, all in a matter of seconds during the expedited check-in process. Can the kiosk handle all of that? We have found that there is much more to the expedited check-in process than just quickly handing the guest a key.

As stated earlier, guest satisfaction is the major objective of the Express Yourself online check-in service. Our guests have told us that they want a fast and efficient check-in process while being serviced by a guest service representative. That is why we state that Radisson has "leap-frogged" the kiosk check-in systems with Express Yourself online check-in service. We are developing a relationship with guests and learning their needs and preferences. One last reason to avoid that extra piece of furniture in the lobby is that we view the kiosks of the future via technology to be a variety of methods that are more friendly to the guest and convenient for the hotel. As always, more to come in the future on that topic.

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