The term smart hotel has been a buzzword in the hospitality industry for some time now. From implementing services powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning to adopting Internet of Things–based solutions like keyless entry, hospitality technology companies are leaving no stone unturned to maximize guest satisfaction.
However, not all technology solutions influence the guest experience and increase overall customer satisfaction. Some high-tech hotel amenities are more readily accepted and adopted, while others face resistance.
In this article, we’ll explore those technologies that have hit the sweet spot in the hospitality industry, striking the right balance between "perceived usefulness" and "perceived ease of use".
Do guests accept, adopt and use new tech?
If you manage a group of hotels, you might continuously think of adopting new technologies to improve the guest experience. But that can only happen if those technologies are accepted, adopted and used by your customers in a meaningful way. This is where the technology acceptance model (TAM) comes in.
The technology acceptance model refers to the process of the adoption of new technological advances by users. According to the TAM, the adoption of newer technologies depends on two factors.
Will the new technology solve any of the existing problems? That’s the first question that users subconsciously ask before actively adopting a newer technology.
Perceived ease of use
You, as the proponent of a new piece of hotel technology, might believe that it is quite easy to use, but if the guest experiences difficulty with it, that technology won’t be adopted.
VR tours offer a taste of the hotel experience
What do travelers pay for when they book a room at your hotel? The amenities? The room service? No! They are parting with their hard-earned travel dollars in anticipation of the the wonderful experience hotels will provide with those amenities and services. What if the technology in the hospitality industry could give prospective guests a taste of this experience before they book a hotel room?
A virtual tour of the property can easily provide this preview with little to no technical hassle or overheads. In fact, these days, a lot of hotel operations publish 360-degree videos of their guest rooms and common areas. Potential guests can use virtual reality headsets to get an immersive view of the hotel and its amenities.
Since taking this VR tour does not involve any significant technological know-how or skill, its perceived ease of use is quite high. But does it address the needs of customers wanting to preview the experience of the hotel stay before committing financially? Yes, to a great extent. Hence, in terms of perceived usefulness as well, a VR tour is an attractive choice.
Into the metaverse? Not so fast...
On the other hand, can the same be said about a metaverse-based hotel tour? As of now, no. There are two reasons: first, in the metaverse, you don’t really see the actual images or videos of the hotel you intend to stay in. What you get is, at the very best, a “digital facsimile” of the hotel.
What's more, accessing the metaverse-based hotel can be a little challenging, since it’s not as straightforward as a 360-degree video-based VR tour. Thus, from both the perceived usefulness and the perceived ease of use points of view, the metaverse is inferior to VR-based hotel tours.
The Internet of Things and automation
More and more hotels are harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) to create smart hotel rooms, which can elevate the guest experience. Unlike low-tech traditional hotel rooms, smart rooms typically rely on a network of interconnected devices and software systems that work together, automating various tasks and enabling guests to use mobile apps to control granular aspects of their rooms.
Hilton, for example, has its dedicated Hilton Honors smartphone app that offers guests the advantage of staying in a "connected room". The app can be used for keyless entry to the room, or to adjust the room temperature or lighting to suit guest preferences.
The Annex in Toronto revolutionized customer service in the hospitality industry by reducing customers’ need to contact front-desk hotel staff. From an information system that reveals the WiFi password to a mobile app that provides complete information about the hotel and its amenities, and from cardless entry to a digital front desk, the Annex leverages IoT in an impressive way.
Automated luggage-storing robots
It’s not just at airports where travelers risk losing their suitcases. In hotels, during check-in or check-out, bags can occasionally get misplaced. And more often than not, the reason behind it is human error. Some hospitality industry operators are adding cutting-edge automation technology to their hotel services in order to avoid such errors while handling luggage.
Yotel, for example, has come up with a unique robot — Yobot, to take care of the luggage-handling process. With the help of an automated weighing system and barcode mechanism that doesn't require the collection of much in the way of guest data, Yobot keeps guests' luggage safe and accounted for.
From a TAM point of view, Yobot is uniquely positioned. Firstly, the perceived usefulness of the robot can easily be seen and felt; guests can rest assured that their luggage is safe and secure, with an almost 100% possibility of getting it back. (There's also the fact that, as surveys have shown, people tend to perceive the arrival of robots in the hospitality sector as a positive development.)
Easy-to-use vs. cutting-edge
Some hotel technology companies suggest that the perceived ease of use of state-of-the-art tech amenities in a smart hotel can sometimes make potential customers less inclined to stay at that property. Why? Because if a piece of hospitality technology looks too easy to use, it won’t appear sufficiently "cutting edge".
This is where Yobot wins. It is user-friendly, but the complexity of the underlying technology is beyond that which a layperson can easily understand. This creates a balance between "too much ease" and "too little ease".
PressReader: for smart guests of smart hotels
Hotel guests, especially those who are traveling for business (or for bleisure), tend to keep themselves updated on the latest happenings in the world of politics and business. But no matter whether your hotel’s guest is a biz traveler or just someone enjoying a holiday, it has almost become a standard part of many a traveler's morning routine to sip a cup of coffee while leafing through the day's newspaper.
Unfortunately, more and more hotels are finding it unsustainable to offer complimentary morning newspaper service as the price of offline newspaper subscriptions keeps hitting new highs. Many guests also have lost the habit of reading physical newspapers in favor of getting the news on their smartphones.
This is where digital platforms like PressReader come in, offering a world of content to its users. They allow hotels to continue the tradition of supplying newspapers and magazines, but with a modern touch. Hotel owners can offer digital newsstand service at a fraction of the cost of providing hard copies of newspapers to guests.
A world of news at guests' fingertips
In a world of noise, hotel guests want to read quality newspapers. Unfortunately, it is not feasible for a hotel to subscribe to all the publications that travelers might desire. And the lack of the newspaper that a guest loves can put a dent in his or her experience of staying in the hotel.
By putting thousands of the world's top publications at guests' fingertips, PressReader effectively solves the issue. But how do digital newsstands stack up against the TAM?
Now let’s ask some questions:
Does a digital newsstand service like PressReader have perceived usefulness?
Yes. While giving guests access to the newspapers they want to read, PressReader and similar platforms also provide hoteliers with a more sustainable solution. Hence, they have perceived usefulness to both guests and hotel owners.
Does a digital newsstand service like PressReader enjoy the perception of ease of use?
Yes. Guests just have to log in to the hotel’s WiFi to access a world of content. With PressReader, they can even download newspapers and magazines to read after they check out.
These digital newsstands also have their own dedicated mobile apps that make accessing the service on smartphones and other mobile devices more seamless.
For a new technology in the hotel industry to be adopted, it needs to satisfy both TAM conditions. Digital newsstands like PressReader satisfy the conditions of being both useful and easy to use.
It's all about the guest experience
The hospitality industry's digital-transformation spree shows no signs of slowing down. Those hotel operators who can leverage the latest technology trends to better meet guest expectations will be the ones that emerge with the competitive edge.
Remember: in the end, travelers opt to stay in a hotel because they want to feel comfortable, safe, happy and relaxed.
Technology plays a significant role in enhancing guest experiences across the entire lifecycle of a hotel stay, from booking a room and checking in to staying and checking out.
And this is just the beginning. Today’s bleeding-edge technology is tomorrow’s old tech. As the evolution continues, emerging technologies will continue to empower hospitality businesses to create exceptional guest experiences while increasing operational efficiency. It’s an exciting era for travelers and hoteliers alike.