TV's Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi has warned hoteliers not to let technology get in the way of customer interaction and service.
Polizzi (pictured) used her keynote speech at the first day of the Annual Hotel Conference 2014 yesterday to urge delegates that while technology should add value, "there is no substitute for a good customer service and a smile".
Speaking at the Hilton Deansgate hotel in Manchester, she was particularly critical of restaurants that relied on tablets for ordering as they tended to make the brains of waiting staff go idle. "It doesn't matter what device they are using, staff still need to have charm," she said.
Polizzi admitted that she is "a hopeless Luddite or ‘late adopter' to technology" who doesn't tweet or do Facebook: "I'm very old school and am terrified of the brave new world, but can't ignore it."
However, while pondering and being wary of such future developments as facial recognition at check-in and self-cleaning bedrooms, she said that she would love a mini-bar that "recognised my preference for white wine and vodka and that was child proof".
For Polizzi, the greatest challenge of the internet world is the way it now dominates hotel bookings and reviews, which in turn can impact future bookings.
"Everyone now considers themselves a critic, yet customers today don't complain face-to-face. In the good old days if there was a problem, a complaint would be made to the duty manager, providing the opportunity for an apology to be made and the problem be put right. Now every issue is magnified afterwards."
Polizzi advised the delegates that they should always respond to online reviews, just as they would to any letter of complaint, and in doing so should not let their egos get in the way. "A criticism of your business is not the same as a criticism of you," she said.
Polizzi also amused delegates by telling them that her late grandfather, Lord Forte, advised: "you need to be dropped at birth to work in this industry."