To self-service or not to self-service? That is the question for hotels. An exploratory study of Senior Hotel Managers' perspectives
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Abstract/ Summary Customer self-service technology such as self-check-in kiosks has been implemented successfully at airports. Travellers seem to have accepted this technology and have become familiar with the concept. Self-service kiosks are currently also introduced in some American, European and Asian hotels. However, New Zealand hotels have not yet generally taken advantage of this technology. This study researches hotel managers’ views on the advantages and concerns of these self-service kiosks and their impact on customers and the hotel’s front-office operations. In addition, the managers’ concerns, related to introducing the kiosks are discussed. The aim of this study was to gain the perspectives of managers from New Zealand’s four and five star hotels regarding the impacts of self-service technologies (SSTs) on the hotel’s front-office operations and guests. A qualitative, case study research methodology was used in this research, to understand the managers’ perceptions and impacts of the self-service technologies. The research was conducted through ten semi-structured interviews and common themes which were found to be important to these participants were discussed. The research highlighted that managers had certain reservations towards SSTs, which may explain why they have not yet been implemented in New Zealand. The main reasons expressed were that personal service is vital in four and five star hotels, especially for leisure guests who like the friendly interactions with employees. Additionally, the costs to implement and interface the kiosks are significant and need adequate justification either through adding value for the guests or reducing costs for the hotel. There also may be some difficulty in interfacing the kiosks with each hotel property’s front-office system and the local New Zealand banking system. Finding the appropriate kiosks for each property would be imperative for SSTs to be a success. Managers believed that there are significant benefits associated with introducing SSTs in hotels. For the customer, managers felt that kiosks enabled benefits such as allowing check-in efficiency, additional guest-control, customised service interactions, choice of communication language for foreign travellers and easy, standardised service interactions. Managers felt that kiosks would predominantly benefit corporate and regular travellers, due to the efficiency and speedy self-check-in process. For the hotel, managers viewed kiosks as being able to lower labour costs, alleviating pressure on check-in staff during busy periods, enabling easier data access for customer-profiling and improving revenues through customised up-selling. Also the introduction of kiosks is predicted by some managers to revolutionise the hotel lobby and evolve employee roles, where service staff may greet guests on the lobby floor rather than from behind the reception desk, and spend more time creating closer relationships, adding to the guests’ hotel experience and being more customer-orientated. This study in New Zealand found that the majority of managers supported the introduction of self-check-in kiosks as an alternative value offering, as long as the kiosks were introduced as complimentary to service staff. Well-trained and friendly staff, in their opinion, would always be vital for guest satisfaction and reducing staff numbers would lower the hotel’s service standards.