Striking the right balance

At BW HOTELIER’s latest webBlast series, The GM Show, Finding the Perfect Balance - Technology & Human Touch: Getting Back Business Efficiencies, hospitality industry experts deliberated on whether to depend on technology, should human touch return or should it be a perfect combination of the two?

In another episode of BW HOTELIER’s webBLAST series titled Finding the Perfect Balance - Technology & Human Touch: Getting Back Business Efficiencies, a group of distinguished panellists from the hospitality industry united to discuss this subject. Industry stalwarts who voiced their opinions in the discussion included Reuben Kataria, GM, The Leela Hotel & Residences Bhartiya City Bengaluru; Amandeep Kaur, GM, ITC WelcomHotel, Bengaluru; Lakshamanan Ramanathan, GM, The Westin Chennai Velachery; Ruban Das, GM, Hilton Chennai; Ravi Rai, Cluster GM, Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach, Novotel Vijayawada Varun and The Bheemili Resort; Animesh Barat, GM, Hyatt Place Hyderabad and Maverik Mukerji, Area Head – Bengaluru, Mysore and Gandhinagar, Accor who was also the moderator of the show. 

The show began with the host putting up the first question to Maverik Mukerji. Replying to the question if cutting-edge technology is critical in customer experience, especially in the current scenario and at the same time, human touch is equally important to create an exceptional experience and whether we should maintain the balance between them, Mukerji said, “Hotels need to adopt a hybrid model that relies on technology and humans behind it. At Accor, we already have AI on many digital front-facing platforms to offer best services. But we must keep people in charge of the technology not just at the backend but to monitor in real time and be able to react to it.”

The entire touchless experience be it, check-in, stay, facilities and utilities to billing and check-out. That has been the evolution over the last two years to where we are today. Sharing his view on the major benefits technology brings to guests, Reuben Kataria said, “All our parameters are based on ‘Let the guest decide’. Major impact has also come on F&B. It was not thinking in terms of QR codes, but now there are more apps in this space. But human touch will always remain.”

The moderator next moved to Amandeep Kaur and asked her some of the areas of technology that a hotel should invest in for delivering a better customer experience. “No technology can replace human touch. But hotels must engage in technology that focusses on guest experience. Technology should be such that the guest can willingly engage with technology without any apprehensions,” she expressed.

When asked as to share few examples of how technology could go wrong when dealing with customers and that there could be instances of some being ineffective to deliver the desired customer experience or support with an emotional intelligence, Animesh Barat said, “Digital menus and QR codes are fine but what about personalisation? Does the customer get the right idea about the food he is ordering without any suggestion from a chef or a sommelier? Contactless is more transactional not interactional. I feel resorts are missing out on the boat in a big way.” 

On how does technology integrate into the customer experience especially in enabling guests to connect with the brand and how has technology aided the hospitality business from each standing hotel’s standpoint juxtaposing today with how they were pre pandemic or perhaps five years ago, Ravi Rai said, “Human side of technology will not go away. Human contact is paramount. Business owners who can do that will emerge winners. Technology should be seamless and play a connected role. When used well, technology enhances the memories that travellers create.”

When asked if technology is evolving at a pace that couldn’t have been foreseen and that in a fiercely competitive world of hoteliering, does this make the hotel companies stress the need to upgrade for meeting the changing dynamics of purchasing power, Laxmanan Ramanathan said, “There are no ways about technology evolving and ushering in efficiency. Technology is not limited to a hotel alone and is part of everyone’s lives. Hotels have adopted various technologies over the last couple of years. Real time communication is perhaps the best take away. It is equally important to keep upgrading technology at the backend too to serve the guest better. And if competition is doing it, we need to have it too but then it should be without losing the human touch.” 

Ruban Das, talking about a view that smart companies/ brands/ hotels managing ratings and reviews through specialists which do not mirror on ground realties, said, “Online reviews cannot be ‘managed’. It is not anybody's game to manipulate the responses. Pleasant and memorable experience the guests have go a long way in getting positive reviews. Also, the rate of response of neutral, negative, positive reviews and the response time, preferable before 48 hours, plays an important role towards the scores. But I must say that while you can push for the score, the text analytics plays a major role in understanding the problems and the solutions offered.”

The show culminated with Bhuvanesh Khanna thanking the esteemed panellists for sharing their thoughts and views on the subject and informing about the next GM Show at 5 pm on February 24 on Transforming Guest Experience: The Ultimate Business Growth Lever.


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