The hospitality industry has long been testing ways to scale back on human interaction. What started with kiosks in airport terminals and hotel lobbies has given rise to today’s innovations in touchless customer service – namely robotics. The trend toward digital customer service is likely to continue with hotel chains implementing Artificial Intelligence solutions and deploying robots to their properties to handle a myriad of tasks from Reception to Room Service.
Meet the hospitality robots in current use
• Next time you’re in Las Vegas for a convention, check out the Mandarin Oriental’s house robot named Pepper. Designed to chat up guests and provide a bit of entertainment, the four foot tall robot has the title of ‘technical ambassador’. Her responsibilities include greeting guests, answering questions about the hotel, and giving directions from 11am to 7pm daily. Pepper can ‘read’ facial signals and vocal cues to determine a guest’s age, gender and mood to then personalize a conversation.
• TUG the robotic bellhop is on duty at the Sheraton Los Angeles - San Gabriel Hotel. Its daily tasks are to deliver items like luggage, meals, and fresh towels to guest rooms. TUG was prototyped for the hospital industry where it successfully makes deliveries to doctors and patients by navigating the floorplan with an internal map. It can summon an elevator via a WiFi request and return to the docking station to recharge once an errand is completed.
• Connie, the robot concierge at the Hilton McLean, VA, was named for Conrad Hilton, the chain’s founder. Standing a diminutive two feet tall, Connie is displayed on a reception countertop and uses its arms to point as it gives directions or recommends a restaurant. Programmed by IBM, Connie can also translate languages for international hotel guests.
• The Aloft hotel chain (a Marriott brand) was an early adopter of robotic customer service, launching Botlr back in 2014. Botlr is a play on ‘butler’ and dresses the part with its tuxedo design. Aloft has placed robots in more than 70 hotel properties worldwide to welcome arriving guests and ferry amenities & food orders to guest rooms.
• If you’ve ever used the automatic pancake machine at a Holiday Inn Express, you realize that breakfast can be programmed. The M Social Hotel (a Millennium Hotels brand) has introduced AUSCA (sounds like Oscar), a robotic chef in Singapore. AUSCA works in the hotel restaurant, Beast & Butterflies, where he cooks two eggs per order, either prepared as an omelet or fried sunny-side up. The hotel also uses AURA, a female robot, to help cover the front desk and deliver items to hotel guests.
There are concerns that robots will crowd out human employees and eliminate jobs. But hotels rebut the claim, insisting that robots can quickly respond to more mundane guest needs, freeing real-life staff to provide the actual human touch. By answering the routine questions, the robots allow the front desk staff to answer phone calls and check guests in faster. With a successful launch at major hotel brands, it’s likely that you’ll have your room service breakfast delivered by a robot sooner than you think. Check out our article on today’s technology tools for a more personalized business travel experience.
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