The pandemic started the ‘hands-off' way of treating guests, but it's up to operators to find a way to personalise the service, says Thorranze Cheung.
Digital transformation has become quite the buzzword over the past few years. The national lockdowns accelerated the need for digital transformation across all industries to keep people connected and businesses operating. But, if the core of digital transformation is automation, it may feel contradictory to the spirit of hospitality, which is people-driven and has human interaction at its heart.
Digital transformation for hospitality should be underpinned by human nature. Recent studies by Deloitte have shown us that customer needs and desires have been changed irreversibly by the pandemic. These changes include becoming more digitally driven, because digital provides a sense of comfort, convenience and security upon which consumers will continue to rely.
Sector insight has also shown that consumers may be slow to return to old habits and crowds. As much as they have missed the social experiences of their favourite places, health and safety still remains front and centre of their minds.
As much as your customers have changed over the past year, so has your team. Digital transformation can enable hospitality businesses to offer the best experience to customers and facilitate the best performance of your staff.
A digital-driven, human-centric experience
As we reopen our doors once more, how can we incorporate contactless service, yet maintain that all-important human touch?
Technology makes self-check-in, self-booking and self-ordering easy via customers' own devices. By using this technology, social distance can be maintained and pressure can be relieved from your team.
But hospitality can't forget about the human element, and this is where personalisation is key. This could be as simple as displaying customers' names on a menu or check-in page on a tablet – a small touch that will make people feel welcomed and recognised – and with digital booking giving you the information you need, delivering this has never been easier.
Yes, this may sound scary, but robotic technology, such as chatbots, has played a huge part in some countries that have suffered the most during the pandemic. It is not only an efficient way to cut costs and deliver contactless service, it is also a novel way to upgrade services and generate more attention from your target market.
Robots can be designed to fit in with your brand and environment. When real human intelligence combines with artificial intelligence, this is when robotics is delivered at its best.
When real human intelligence combines with artificial intelligence, this is when robotics is delivered at its best
Fully integrating robotics on your premises may well be a big job, but to do it little by little, integrating robotics in some initial areas, could be more affordable than you might think.
Technology to help your team perform at their best
Despite the best ideas to update services, without a team ready to execute the changes, we are still far from success.
If you are considering digital transformation projects to generate more sales or to reconnect with your customers, ask yourself these questions:
- Is my team ready and comfortable to embrace the new technology? How can we include them to contribute to the optimisation of the new service?
- Do we have the budget to create a new service in which the interface is manageable for staff members?
- Can we invest in technology to enhance the quality of the working environment?
Sometimes, the most rewarding investment for a hospitality business is to invest in the team and to embrace technological advancements that take good care of every team member. And, clearly, after the year we've all had, this becomes even more important in a post-pandemic world.
Thorranze Cheung is founder and design director at Red Unit
Photo: Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com
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