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Technology is an important imperative asset
for the Hospitality Organizational structure and performance as well as to
improve the strategic planning and competitive advantage within organizations.
With emerging trends in both the hospitality industry and technology, combining
the two together can help create a new paradigm for the service industry. An
increase in the growth of services in today’s industry is seen as important to
direct the attention of innovation of technology in the context of services offered
within the Hospitality industry. This reality, however, is rapidly changing due
to the practice of frontline technology infusion, or the deployment of
technology interfaces into employee- customer service encounters (Bitner, Brown
and Meuter 2000). In North America alone, self-service kiosk transactions were
forecasted to surpass one trillion dollars per year by 2014 ( Holman and Buzek,
2012). Prior research has suggested that companies view technology as a way to
enhance service exchanges and has posited that the increasing role of
technology in such encounters offers benefits to both customers  and firms (Bitner, Brown and Meuter 2000;
Salomann et a. 2007).

With the upcoming generations, the main focus
of the hotels is on the millennial i.e. Generation Y and the forthcoming
Generation Z. As compared to when the baby boomers used hotels and their
services, with the advancement of technologies there has been a lot of
development in the hospitality field which has therein changed the understanding
of the meaning of hospitality for these future generations. On average, 13% of
smart watch owner’s ages 18 to 34 (millennial) are much more likely to book a
hotel with smart watch technology than one without.  It is therefore necessary to take a look into
the customer perspective and apprehend what are their expectations when they
check into the hotel. This will prove favorable in the hotels context. Before
actually deciding what to implement in the hotel it is important to gauge what
the interest of the customer really is. Hotels are constantly looking for ways
to enhance the guest experience by going the extra mile and implementing new
technological advances is always an easy way to make the guests stay more
convenient, but hotels should also be careful in making the right investment.

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However, that said it is crucial from a
management perspective to find out how much of this technology is needed to
balance out the service aspect within the industry while at the same time
stating that technology must feature as an emotional component from the
customer perspective.

 

 

 

 

Problem
Statement

 

It is interesting to understand the impact
technology has on all our lives. Similarly, in today’s day, technology has
taken the service industry by storm. Customer self-service technologies such as
online bookings and self-service check-in and check-out have completely
transformed the face of the hotel industry. All that said it is important that
we find out just how much this change has affected the lives of the employees
working for these hotels. It is crucial to understand how the hotel personnel
decide to strike a balance in figuring out just how much self-service is too
much? Is the human touch given equal importance or less? When should the
emotional human element be given priority and if given just how many of the
customers will really welcome that approach as opposed to the technological
pathway. By providing a clearer understanding of this study it will help the
hotels to better understand their potential customer and what are the
customer’s needs and expectations when he checks into the hotel. This will give
the hotel an added advantage and will also help enhance the guest experience
thereby ensuring the guest keeps returning to the same property, which in turn
increases revenue for the hotel. Another learning edge is the employee
perspective and their concerns about the technological advances that are taking
place in the hotels. It will be interesting to understand their perspective on
these newly added processes as well as their view point on the new generation
of customers. Hence, there is a need to probe into the matter and ascertain
what the true perspective of the customers and employee is.

Research
Question

 

The main aim of this research is to find out
how has the incorporation of technology in check-in and check-out processes
affected the employees at InterContinental Geneva and what is their perspective
on the Generation Y and Z of customers who prefer to communicate only through
smart phones or new technologies, wherein they would prefer making or
cancelling reservations via the internet or receive their invoice via email and
not upon check-out. To try and understand what the ‘vision of service’ of these
generations of customers is and how they perceive service. The aim of this
research is also to better under the customers point of view when it comes to
the incorporation of technological advances into check-in and check-out
procedures. This research should help us better understand the right balance
that is required in the hotels or hospitality sector between technology and the
human element.

 

 

Research
Objectives

 

The main objectives to this study are as
follows:

·      
To analyze the positive and negative impact of technology on the
employees. We will find out the employee perspective and their concerns in the
check-in and check-out process with the incorporation of technology. This will
help us figure out the pros and cons that they face during the check-in and
check-out process and also how they pursue the customer and their preferences
when they come to check-in or check-out at the hotel.

 

·      
How is the job stability of the employees being affected after
Automation? With automation being the major aspect of advancement within the
hospitality industry, this will help us to get an insight into how the
employees feel their jobs are being affected. Are they comfortable with the
changes in the check-in and check-out procedures? Or would they rather prefer
the traditional procedures?

 

·      
What can be done from the Hotel perspective to retain its
employees? Every hotel has two main revenue generating sectors: The customers
and the hotel employees. A hotel has to look out for both of these sectors. By
bringing in the technological advancements and easing the way for guests, the
hotel needs to ensure that this in no way hurts the employees. With automation
taking up a lot of the jobs that the employees would do, it is important to find
alternative tasks to be handed out to the employees.

 

 

·      
To find out what other training can be offered to the employees at
InterContinental Geneva that will be most effective in adapting to tasks where
technology hasn’t been incorporated. As mentioned earlier, while technology is
quickly advancing and easing the way out for most processes at the hotel, it is
also crucial to understand that a lot of these tasks were earlier being
allotted to  employees are now being
taken over by technology. The hotel thereby needs to find ways and means of
educating their employees by offering them trainings in other tasks that would
need manual supervision or empowerment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature
Review

 

Within the Hospitality industry, whether a
particular service is provided by means of technology or simply by
employer-customer engagement, how a guest perceives and asses this service is
of utmost importance. There have been multiple changes in respect with hotel
procedures due to the incorporation of technology. There technologies can be
either product or process oriented. Process oriented technologies refer to
those whose application introduces new ways of conducting business and the
transformation of business practices (Tornatzky and Fleischer, 1990). One of the
major reasons hospitality is running towards technology to fulfill these
processes is because of the challenges faced by growing customer expectations.
As per a recent survey conducted, 64% of U.S Hotel guests said it is ‘very’ or
‘extremely important’ for hotels to continue investing in technology to enhance
the guest experience (Oracle Hospitality, 2017). On the other hand, 94% of
business and 80% leisure travellers value the ability to use their smartphone
to request a service or message hotel staff (Oracle Hospitality, 2017). 

According to a Cognizant survey, over half of
the U.S travellers want more automation in hotels. This includes their mobile
devices to check- in (54%), open their door (50%), communicate with staff (49%)
and check-out (57%). The numbers were recorded even higher for frequent
business travellers (Phocuswright, 2016). But that said, even though customers
say they want technology doesn’t necessarily mean they will use it. A 2016
Market force survey conducted found that only 3% of U.S customers checked in
online, 2% used an app and merely 1% preferred a self-check-in kiosk. The
majority of the customers forming a 93% still checked in with the reception.

As per the survey conducted below, it shows
that most guests go straight to the Front Desk for check-in. 71% of those who
checked in at the front desk had a wonderful experience and believed the check
in to be effortless and hassle free as compared to the 59% who preferred to use
the kiosk desks. The numbers were similar for check out procedure as well.

 

 

                               Fig 1:
Experience Checking in at Desk vs. Kiosk (Market Force Information, 2016)

 

 

Keeping in mind that as technology enables
guests to travel and explore more and perform a lot more of their transactions
through an app on the cell phone it gives us reason to ensure even more that
the human touch points remain more important than ever.    

Technology at any given time through the
process of a self-check-in or check-out kiosk or even through an app can fail
and have a software malfunction. It is important in these events to ensure that
there are employees or a human touch that is available who are empowered to
solve these issues with their skills. By removing the major element of human
contact we are disregarding the true value of hospitality and the service
industry. It makes it more unemotional and indifferent. The pure soul
connection is only possible with employees or the human aspect directly and not
with a smartphone and that is what hospitality is all about.

After a whole day of booking reservations,
airline tickets, taxi services, etc. it is quite possible that the customer may
not have had any interaction with another person and might as well just look
forward to checking in at the hotel and having a conversation with the front
desk agent. There is no substitute to what a friendly face with a smile can do!

There is a very fine line between high- tech
and high-touch as a theory. In some ways the market segment does demand that
there be innovation and development based on technological advances and
technological needs. Nonetheless, even though a lot of these segments demand it
to be automated there is a huge majority who prefer to hold hands all the way
through the process thereby giving hospitality its true meaning. This dilemma
becomes more difficult when we notice that there are a lot of benefits that are
offered by these self-service technologies, which mainly include labor cost
reduction from the hotels perspective and an equally compelling benefit for
guests. When this is the case, the question automatically arises, who is the
true beneficiary and why chose a human touch when technological advancement is both
cost saving and efficient.

Another aspect is the fact that the hotel
industry also extensively relies on technology to help improve the productivity
and efficiency of their employees and staff as well as to improve customer
satisfaction. This is both beneficial to the staff of the hotel as well as the
hotel itself. Services that are more technologically oriented related to front
office, housekeeping, engineering, concierge, and food and beverage operations
in hotels are not only more efficient but also more effective (Hotel News
Resource,2005; Frumkin, 2002).  Technology
has become an inevitable source of competitive advantage for the industry, and
this trend will definitely prolong for many years to come as technology
provides a lot of benefits to the hospitality industry.

Currently, mobile check- in and check- out is
one of the biggest trends in the industry. However, only about 3% of guests use
mobile check-in and check-out services (North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction
Study, JD Power, 2016). Even though this concept is associated with high
satisfaction results, data suggests that only high level of employee
interactions gain high satisfaction and likelihood return (Global Travel and
Hospitality Practices, Rick Garlick, 2017). From explicit check- in and
check-out processes to Digital Key Advances, the trends within Hospitality are
surely progressing but there is always going to be that need for human touch,
one which technology cannot replace. Hence, the goal is to understand how much
of technology is needed in the right amount to satisfy the guest whilst at the
same time keeping the emotional quotient alive. Digital technology of course
won’t replace employees from hotels anytime soon; however it is for sure that
the two combined with definitely work together in tandem.

When we take into consideration the other
three objectives, it is important to note that there is no previous research
done on these topics as there is no ethically right or wrong answer to those
questions. With unemployment hovering just below 10%, hotels should be
restricting rather than promoting self-service technologies. These concerns are
not new and hence, it becomes essential to find out about the same. When we
interact with the employees directly and hear their opinion it will help give a
clearer outlook on this project. This study will help understand the major
concerns that employees have in terms of technology taking over their jobs. We
get to see just how much technology has impacted their day to day lives within
the industry. The need to study and research about this will help us to come up
with ideas in order to retain the jobs of these employees. Alternate training
methods and coaching ideas can be taught to the employees, which will help them
to advance in alternate fields in their career. The Hotel needs to ensure it is
their duty that the employees feel valued and significant within the industry
as they are after all the core element that forms the hospitality industry!

At the end of the day, Hospitality is a
people’s business one which ensures that customers or guests always leave
delighted and content with a promise to come back. While self-service
technology offers the guests and customers its convenience and flexibility, it
is only fundamentally needed that hotels offer their one point face to face
contact or human touch to enhance the whole experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Methodology

 

The main aim of this research to is to find
out the employee perspective on the generation X and Y of customers who
communicate through smartphones and other technologies. This study from a
hospitality perspective will better us to understand our employees and the
concerns they have in regards with the new technologies being implemented at
the hotel. This also gives us a chance to interact with the customers and
interpret their understanding and vision of service.

To perceive this, research in the form of
primary data collection will be conducted. It will be based on the empirical
findings of the research. This can either be done through interviews or surveys.
We will be conducting timely interviews with the employees of InterContinental
Geneva. Interviews are a far more personal form of research. It will help us connect
better with the employees. We will be able to ask them both open and closed
ended questions. This will be able to give us a better perspective and
understanding of what the employee is thinking.

The research would rely on a qualitative
analysis of data. It would prove beneficial as qualitative approach tends to
unearth a lot more thoughts and opinions, which when taken into consideration
will be an aided help with the employees. This will guide us to dive deeper
into the issue whilst also giving us a richer understanding of the bigger
picture at stake.

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