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Self-Service’s Future within the Hospitality Vertical Market

We’ve all reviewed countless case studies on self-service applications in hospitality and the benefits these applications are providing to the enterprises that deploy them, their customers, employees and trading partners.  But what is the future of self-service in hospitality? What are some of the most compelling applications? And how is the technology and distribution paradigm for these applications changing?

Hospitality represents a huge, largely untapped market for self-service technologies.  VDC’s analysis suggests that less than 15% of hospitality enterprises with annual revenues greater than $100M have invested in self-service solutions, compared to 27% in the retail market, and trends bode well for increased investment.  The business imperatives of hospitality enterprises: maintaining customer loyalty, increasing share of wallet, reducing operating costs, and improving operating efficiency, align nicely with the value propositions associated with a short list of self-service applications that are receiving increased investment consideration.

But hospitality enterprises have a difficult tightrope to walk: ensuring world-class, personalized service while deploying technologies that enable their customers to serve themselves.  In VDC ’s experience, the best self-service solutions can do all that and more, enhancing the customer experience while providing valuable information back to the enterprise regarding the wants and needs of their most valued customers.  And leading operators are increasingly extending this functionality to gain similar insights into other core stakeholder communities, including employees and trading partners. 

In fact, the list of customer-centric applications receiving investment consideration is growing, as commonly supported applications like rewards/loyalty programs, self check in/out, and bill payment are complemented by less penetrated emerging applications including wayfinding, age verification and table-side transaction processing.

What’s more, the core technologies, infrastructure and deployment models supporting these applications are changing, making the value propositions associated with them more robust and more compelling for the hospitality operator.
While the kiosk remains the primary mechanism through which self-service applications are deployed in hospitality, this is changing.  The infrastructure supporting kiosk installations is becoming more stable, as enterprises increasingly turn to integrators that can support multiple applications using a common, device agnostic platform that is integrated with supporting enterprise software and CRM applications, enabling key content to be lifted and replicated across multiple applications and insights captured during customer interactions to be aggregated with data secured during other customer facing events and analyzed holistically.  This is enabling hospitality operators to look beyond the kiosk at other technologies that can complement their self-service infrastructure.  For example, interactive displays, mobile terminals andsmartphones are supporting a growing list of application requirements as hospitality enterprises strive to make the applications more accessible to their costumers, employees and trading partners. 

So, the first generation of self-service solutions were just that—stand alone systems designed to provide information and transact business.  The second generation of self-service solutions are branching out to cover a broader array of customer-facing and enterprise-centric interactions, all the time aggregating data captured to gain the insights required to drive service excellence and identify sources of sustained competitive advantage.  But what’s next? 

VDC believes that the power of these applications will be further bolstered as systems integration extends beyond the enterprise, gathering insights from complementary systems that augment the enterprise’s knowledge of their customers, employees and trading partners.  Further, enterprises will continue to pilot the feasibility of new technologies that could dramatically address the needs of a new breed of customer—one who is increasingly short on time, wired and technology savvy. 

Consider the following story: a health care consultant living in New York plans to visit a client in Chicago.  She books her flight, hotel and rental car on-line.  When she reaches the airport, her flight is delayed, but she finds an alternative flight, transfers her ticket and boards the plane, managing each of these transactions via her cell phone.  When she arrives at O’Hare Airport, she registers using a rental car kiosk in the baggage claim area. When her shuttle arrives at the garage, her preferred vehicle is gassed and waiting.  Upon her arrival at her hotel, she by-passes the concierge desk and enters her room using a 2Dbarcode symbology displayed on her phone.  In her room, she secures a dinner invitation from a former colleague also doing business in Chicago and staying at the hotel.  After a successful business meeting the following day, she returns her rental car at the airport.  Supporting systems record her mileage gas consumption and inspect her car for damages using telematics and imaging technologies.  Before boarding her shuttle, she receives her bill via e-mail, along with her boarding pass for her flight home.  She is alerted via text that she has left a bag in the backseat of her car and that this bag will meet her when she arrives in New York.  

This is the future of self-service in hospitality.  These solutions will become increasingly vital, bridging the gap between IT, operations and strategic planning for world class hospitality enterprises and smaller companies striving to differentiate themselves and grow.

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