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The True Value of Human Connection (By Campbelle Howland)

Today, almost everything in business is about technology. Technological developments that streamline processes and make instant decisions as well as even eliminate human jobs. We have seen ordering options appear in chains like McDonald’s and Panera that require no human interactions when consumers place and pay for an order. Big hotel chains are moving to mobile check-ins, or replacing receptionists with robots, like at the Henn na Hotel in Tokyo.
Once a people-dominated, the service industry has slowly started being replaced by screens and robots. This transition makes the traditional customer service model a commodity that many customers still seek. According to Cecilia Mauritzson, Managing Director at Nobis Copenhagen Hotel, “Today some hotels entirely do away with check-in staff to cut down on service and optimize the process. This pared-down approach makes guests appreciate good service even more.”
While cutting down staff may speed up the process and reduce expenses, guests are not experiencing a personalized welcome. Accordingly, hotels using machines will decrease their differentiation value in comparison to establishments with more personable customer service.
Differentiation value is extremely important because it establishes the difference between a business and its competitors. It highlights a business' positive attributes and features that are not offered at other establishments. Such differentiation value can be the make or break in a customer’s decision between options.
One big downfall of technology replacing tradition human service is that the opportunity for suggestive selling is lost. A computer may be able to offer additional options, but they lack the experience of an experienced individual, who can offer their advice on a customer’s meal or accommodations, and pairing items accordingly.
Replacing staff members with screens or robots removes the personal touch of the hospitality industry. Technology is not able to actively listen, which makes customers feel valued and truly heard. Instead, they can only complete the directed work.
This is not to say that technology should not be utilized in hospitality organizations, but we must be cautious not to let them remove or reduce the value that human connection provides in customer service. Technology can be used to enhance this value by allowing staff members to complete tasks more efficiently, thus freeing up more time to spend focused on the customers.
Francois Botha wrote an article, “Why Family-Owned Hotels Hold the Key to the Hospitality Industry’s Future”, detailing how in terms of customer service, big companies should be looking towards smaller, family-run hotels who make guest service more efficient instead of replacing it with technology. Good customer service starts with the observance of specific situations and making judgments on how to provide the best possible service. This often means having the ability and agility to adapt to changing guest needs and continuing to move forward when faced with new demands.
In my personal experience, the positive interactions with a staff member when I enter establishment effects my entire experience, and often part of my day. For example, being able to speak directly to a barista in a coffee shop about my order often makes me more excited for the finished product and creates a positive lasting impression of the shop. Additionally, talking with someone, as opposed to simply ordering on a screen, can turn a bad day into a positive one, simply by having a person show care and interests.
In the hospitality industry, creating a positive guest experience is the ultimate goal. Whether it is a hotel or restaurant, we aim to create an environment that is comfortable and welcoming. While so much technology is becoming more and more readily available, we must be careful in determining how to utilize it without losing the value of human connection.

1.      How can we utilize technology without replacing humans or decreasing customer service quality?
2.      How has someone in a hospitality organization made an impact on you?

About The Author
Campbelle Howland is a Junior at Cal Poly Pomona, studying Hospitality Management on the Food & Beverage track. She is a member of the Collins College Food & Beverage Professionals Club and has gained hospitality experience starting in 2015 as a prep cook, then Hospitality Management Intern, and Food & Nutrition Services Intern. Originally from the Bay Area, she has lived in Oakland, Seattle, Mountain View, and currently Pomona. Campbelle enjoys spending her time away from school exploring coffee shops and trying new foods with friends. Her interests include cooking, baking, photography, and lots of long distance running.

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  1. I think this issue regarding the human element in the Hospitality industry will be a larger issue going forward. Restaurants and hotels, though designed to provide comfort for people, are at the end of the day businesses, and as such, expanding profit margins will always be on the mind of all business operators. The reasons why such a thing is plausible is because of the low skill barrier for people who enter the Hospitality industry. As far as technical skills go, not many are needed to work in a hotel and restaurant. This issue regarding the value of human workers over machines is going to eventually cause questions regarding value in the human element in the future, and whether or not there is going to be a moral obligation to keep people as part of the work force as much as possible. I'm curious to see how this plays out as our planet's population increases over the next few decades.

    1. Are you enrolled in one of my class? If so, mind providing your full name or some clue for us to see who you are?

  2. Joselyn Ung HRT 3020 Section 3
    Technology is always advancing and improving in the hotel industry. However, it will never replace the warm welcome a customer gets from a staff compare to a robot or computer system. Instead of replacing humans with robots, technology can aid humans in multiple other aspects besides providing hospitality. A way we can utilize technology without replacing humans is by having front desk workers socializing with guests to understand their preferences which can be imputed into the computer systems and saved for reference. This will provide the guest with hospitable service from the workers while being able to keep log of the customers information.

  3. HRT 3020 - Section 4

    I completely agree with this article. I believe that many people have concerns with technology steadily progressing towards making changes in the world, both consumers and employees. Many employees find technology intimidating because many jobs once performed by humans with specific skillsets are now being replaced with technology. Many consumers are bothered with the ever increasing use of technology in places in which they receive services because it lacks that personal touch. This concept is parodied often in advertising commercials that mock the companies that make use of automated customer service and robotic answering operators with difficult to use voice commands. Consumers want to be catered to with that personal touch, and yes, technology in many cases increases efficiency, but in other cases overcomplicates a relatively simple task. I personally detest technological hospitality because I often have further questions or concerns that simply cannot be addressed by the click of a restricting drop down box option. In order to keep a competitive edge, I predict companies will resort back to using humans for service once the novelty of pushing touch screen buttons on kiosks wans. At the end of the day, we are all humans desiring that personal human interaction to cater to us.


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