Service – Choice

I recently read an article about the death of the traditional hotel front desk. It offered a confusing viewpoint. On one hand it discussed how the relaxed check style, like we offer at qualia, where aarriving guests are met with a complimentary glass of champagne and then invited to sit down while the host joins them to complete the check in, has now spread to mid-market hotel chains who are … “revamping their lobbies and replacing imposing front desks with little pedestals manned by customer-service agents. Some hotels have dispensed with furniture altogether. They’ve turned the task of checking in guests over to roving “hosts” equipped with portable computers”.

The writer then goes on to give examples of … a few new-wave properties [that] don’t even have people. They assume arriving customers can handle their own check-ins via the lodging equivalent of automated-teller machines”. These include the new European brand CitizenM hotels … “Among the hotel’s innovation: totally automated check-in. To check in, you go to kiosks near the hotel’s entryway. You swipe your credit card, confirm your details, and a plastic keycard is created”

“Today’s traveler is much more tech savvy and much less interested in the traditional relationship between hotels and guests.” says Robin Chadha marketing expert at citizenM hotels.

I strongly disagree with this whole premise. I believe guests are actually looking for a deeper connection than hotels have ever offered before. There are far too many automated and impersonal interactions in this world. Checking into a hotel is an exciting experience, to be shared and enjoyed. I’d much sooner support the philosophy of Hyatt’s new Andaz brand.

“Andaz is about giving great service in a relaxed way,” says Toni Hinterstoisser, general manager of the Andaz on Wall Street, which opened last month. He tells his staff – “A host’s job is very different [from a traditional front-desk clerk’s]. They are supposed to be like the conductor of a symphony. We want them to anticipate your needs when you check in, make you relaxed, and be the person you call throughout your stay when you need help.” Hinterstoisser goes on to say that sometimes his staff are so keen on the new check in philosophy that they … “push too much” to get arriving guests to sit down at check in, accept a beverage and relax. “I stress to them that Andaz is about choice” he says.

Maybe thats the whole crux of the matter. It’s not about what I think you want, what CitizenM hotels or Andaz hotels think you want … it’s about choice. Having the option to stand up, or sit down, to check in via a robot or relax with a glass of champagne.

A few days ago, David Levin, one of Britain’s most successful hoteliers fired a broadside at Australian hotel service. Levin says guests are being offered lower standards of hospitality in many top Australian hotels than they might enjoy in their own homes. “Many of the staff in leading Australian hotels don’t understand the meaning of hospitality – a lot of them don’t have a clue,” says Levin, who has visited Australia every year for 42 years and has just concluded a six-week visit to Sydney and Melbourne.

I disagree with that, but the interesting comment he makes is … “And they’ve forgotten about service. You can’t say to a guest who is maybe hungry and jet-lagged that ‘breakfast service is over’. You should be giving your guest what they want. That is the meaning of hospitality and it seems to be getting lost.”

Listening to guests, anticipating needs, offering a CHOICE, now that I agree with.

To see the full articles referred to above go to –

http://www.theage.com.au/travel/they-dont-have-a-clue-british-hotelier-pans-australian-service-20130221-2ete3.html

http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/blog/seat2B/2010/09/hotels-increasingly-ditch-the-front-desks-with-emergence-of-younger-biz.html?ana=lnk&page=all

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