As the world moves towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, more advanced technologies are being utilised today with the goal of improving productivity across industries. However, revolutionary change does not occur overnight and there remain barriers in ensuring the smooth transition to Industry 4.0, says Martyn Cox, event director, FHA – HoReCa
Within the hospitality industry, there is still uncertainty among businesses due to the perception that the move towards Industry 4.0 could undermine the value of human interactions which forms the foundation of exceptional customer service. Furthermore, many businesses struggle to utilise the right technologies where it truly matters, thus leading to greater insecurity towards the benefits Hospitality 4.0 could bring.
While such concerns are valid, there is potential to mitigate them to allow hospitality players to methodically find its footing in the new digital age, rather than diving head-first without the proper preparation and understanding.
Harnessing digitalisation to boost employee value
Digital transformation has made an already crowded hospitality industry even more competitive, with businesses constantly jostling for position in an ongoing battle to win loyal customers and market share by adopting the latest technologies.
But can machines replace humans in the hospitality industry? Will digitalisation render human interactions – core to a positive customer experience – obsolete? The key difference between surviving and thriving in the new era will come down to how new technologies are adopted to provide support to employees in providing personalised services to customers.
For instance, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help to elevate businesses’ understanding of their customers as it allows them to collect relevant information and gain valuable insights from the vast amount of data that is created throughout one’s lifetime.
Insights can range from customers’ ideal air conditioning level to their food allergies, and by having real-time access to such data, employees are in a better position to deliver highly personalised service levels that today’s guests are increasingly demanding. These new technologies can also add value by automating common processes, which in turn, improves overall efficiency as employees are freed from performing time-consuming, repetitive tasks. This is particularly evident in restaurants as the integration of automated systems in their daily operations make tasks like taking and processing orders, and creating bills and payments more efficient. This then allows them to serve more customers while providing staff with the opportunity to spend more time providing exceptional, personalised service and thus, encouraging higher spend and customer loyalty.
Tailoring solutions for employees and customers
The proliferation of new technologies can often overwhelm businesses, and the hospitality industry is no exception. From the use of Augmented Reality (AR) to recognition technology, there is a wide variety of ways such solutions can be applied. But if they are not executed appropriately, it may create friction and dissatisfaction among employees and customers alike. Therefore, hospitality businesses need to focus on investing in the right solution for all stakeholders, instead of spreading themselves too thin.
Another challenge faced by the hospitality industry is the broad set of requirements it needs to take into consideration due to the various consumer segments and demographics it targets. While the implementation of innovative technologies may improve the experience for some, it could also create inconveniences for others.
A case in point is the use of a self-service check-in kiosks in hotels, which allow guests to skip the reception altogether and save time. While business travellers may want to do so due to the enhanced convenience, leisure travellers may prefer to be welcomed by a staff, who will not only process their check-in but also provide recommendations during their stay.
Therefore, it is crucial that hospitality players evaluate if the new technology is able to solve a common pain point or exceed current guest expectations, before they are implemented.
In the same vein, businesses also need to give thought to which forms of technology their staff need the most and the potential value it will bring to their operations. Factors to consider include the ease of integrating the new technology into existing processes and infrastructures, and whether it will empower employees to offer more personalised services to guests.
Knowledge-sharing is key to maximise gains
As the spotlight continues to shine on the benefits of Industry 4.0, there is a growing number of hospitality players who are willing to take the leap into new technologies. Nevertheless, the industry needs a greater push to drive mainstream adoption of these advances, especially as we approach the next phase of digital transformation.
The immense potential of Hospitality 4.0 cannot be realised without increased awareness of the opportunities presented by these technologies across the industry. This can only be achieved through knowledge-sharing. Furthermore, in the labour-intensive hospitality industry, workforces need to be upskilled to be better prepared.
An effective way to do so is through industry events. These events provide a conducive platform for professional interactions to take place and for industry players to test out their innovative solutions.
In an industry where success is defined by customer satisfaction, it is essential that hospitality businesses continue to meet the growing demand for personalised services by using digital technologies to free up human workers for critical tasks and complex customer interactions.
In future, customer experiences will be defined by the impeccable blend of technology and human talent.