By Erick Kobres
As technology innovations continue to transform every industry and job role in the United States, the service industry is certainly no exception. In fact, Gartner believes that artificial intelligence (AI) will create 2.3 million jobs in 2020 while only eliminating 1.8 million, for a net gain of half a million jobs added to American company payrolls.
In the hospitality and sales verticals, technology innovations, including customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and point-of-sale (POS) tools, have come a long way. Well before the term CRM was coined, salespeople would keep journals to track customer activity and acknowledge a sale through handwritten thank-you notes. Before POS systems, we had cash deposit boxes, followed by simple cash registers, then barcodes, mobile payments and now cloud-based technology.
Inevitably, the course of every industry will continue to evolve, incorporate and need more technology to be successful. AI is the next innovation poised to make an impact on hospitality. Many businesses will adopt intelligent machine automation, and by 2022, Gartner predicts that one in five workers engaged in mostly non-routine functions will rely on AI to do many of the humdrum tasks associated with their roles.
Only very recently have voice and natural language processing technologies advanced enough to truly interpret questions and deliver intelligent answers. Machine learning has allowed Siri and other voice platforms to get smarter. Custom voice programs are becoming even smarter and more intuitive, demonstrating the true ingenuity and potential of these hands-free options.
Humans in the hospitality industry won’t be fully replaced, though. By allowing a virtual assistant to manage everyday mundane tasks, such as taking simple food orders, humans can dedicate more of their precious time toward meaningful customer service interactions and tackling more complex issues with guests. We are already seeing large restaurant chains like McDonald’s moving to adopt this technology to build a more efficient and consumer-friendly model, ultimately helping customers accurately place and receive orders better and faster.
Businesses Should Be Leaders In Training Workers
In the next year or so, we should start to see the next round of enablement through voice assistants. Amazon has started to show us what is possible with Alexa and Alexa-enabled endpoints, and we’re finally getting closer to these opportunities with Siri. Although this type of purchase intent is already available through some early apps, we’re going to see it become ubiquitous.
While augmented reality (AR) has yet to become a prominent feature of most businesses, consumers should expect to see more adoption within the hospitality industry in the next few years. AR-powered signage can equip hotel and venue managers as well as restaurant owners with the ability to route customers to specific locations, including pickup or check-in points.
Some hotels are also using AR to make the hotel experience more compelling and thematic. For example, Holiday Inn devised an AR experience around the 2012 Olympics in the U.K. that enabled guests to view realistic, virtual representations of sports celebrities in the hotel by using their smartphones.
Restaurants are also taking advantage of AR promotions. Restaurant chain Bareburger recently ran a Snapchat contest, offering free food to people who scanned Snapcodes from their takeout bags. To redeem prizes, customers posted Snapchat stories featuring Bareburger AR images and then brought the Snapcode to the nearest Bareburger. The restaurant also ran an AR filter that allowed customers to access menu items in detail, effectively previewing their customized food order before placing it.
Biometrics is another key technology that is consistently improving and finding its place within many industries. Facial recognition has been well executed by Facebook, and Apple has shown that biometrics have proven consumer benefits with Touch ID and Face ID. In a hospitality context, we’re getting closer to seamless processes where consumers can authenticate a purchase without a phone or wallet, digital or otherwise. We’ve already seen frictionless use cases with proof-of-concept trials at Amazon’s physical store, Amazon Go, in Seattle and now additional stores are planned for Chicago and San Francisco. Microsoft is also planning to create its own version of Amazon Go.
The nature of biometric authentication allows for consistent and seamless customer transactions that enable users to leave right after a restaurant meal with the confidence that their bill was paid automatically without the need for waitstaff or pay terminal interaction. Due to infrastructure, security requirements and the complex way credit card processing systems work, this ability may take some time to evolve, perhaps as much as five years. Since this is a potentially disruptive change, it will likely be the case that progress and adoption are hindered by consumers’ increasing fears of privacy and security.
Hospitality Without Technology
Ironically, as more and more technologies exist to help us do our jobs, the concept of tech detoxing is gaining ground. Some hotel chains like Wyndham Grand have offered promotions to guests willing to give up their devices and go “off the grid” during their stay. The thinking is that if guests aren’t surfing the web, they’re more aware of their physical surroundings, open to other amenities and, ultimately, will utilize more hotel services and facilities. Even with promotional pricing, hotels are coming out ahead and customers have an excuse to unplug for a more relaxing and fulfilling experience.
While exciting technology advances will undoubtedly improve many business processes within the service industry, there are few signs that customer service and human interaction will be fully replaced by automation any time soon. Tools like AI, AR, and biometrics can bring us to a new level of enablement and a transformation of the customer experience in the hospitality context, but their purpose is inherently limited to providing a more frictionless experience with mundane tasks — not amenities and experiences.
Technology is no match for the warmth and personality of the maitre D’s welcome at your favorite restaurant or the hotel concierge whose 20 years of personal connections lands those sought-after dinner reservations or concert tickets.
The future of hospitality will accommodate both human interaction and more advanced, efficient technologies that best serve both consumers and businesses alike. -https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/06/28/new-technologies-will-revolutionize-the-hospitality-industry/#18db635673c3