Why are hotels ditching the front desk? Hotels at both ends of the market have been replacing their front desks with airport style check-in systems. Is this the inevitable future of the front desk – or a step too far?

Pros

  • No standing in queues! Pop-up screens can deal with the extras – such as table bookings and wake-up calls – so you can arrange your entire stay in one go.
  • Check in systems could remember choices for future reservations, from your dietary requirements to your favourite room bar drinks, creating a more personal experience.
  • Language barriers and communication problems will be a thing of the past if you can just select your native tongue from a drop down list wherever you go.
  • Room choices can be brought to life with 3D representations of the available rooms at different price points – helping you to make the best choice for you.
  • You could ultimately have a check-out kiosk on every corridor – or an all encompassing app on your phone – so you can literally come and go as you please.
  • Removing the front desk opens up the entrance space for other use such as rest areas, coffee lounges and/or artistic design features.

Cons

  • Any technological issues could result in complete chaos if the hotel does not have sufficient staff on the roster to step in and take over.
  • An absence of people leads to a lack of ownership when problems arise – how can you be sure something is being dealt with if there’s no-one to complain to?!
  • Guests have different levels of computer literacy and reading ability – replacing people with computers could present a barrier for some and actively alienate others.
  • Over time hotels could find their staff are losing those valuable front-of-house skills – solving problems, tailoring recommendations and making guests feel welcome.
  • Replacing people with machines smacks of a cost cutting exercise. This could negatively impact perceptions of high-end hotels that differentiate themselves by delivering more services with more people (doormen, valet parking).
  • With no industry standard ‘front desk system’ guests will always be negotiating different technologies wherever they stay, which could create tension.

It’s a hard call. We can see the advantage of having a nimble front desk system that accommodates plenty of personalisation. On the other hand we think that nothing beats the personal touch when it comes to delivering the best customer experience, as our own business shows!