Self-service machines were invented to improve counter service and reduce repetitive work. It's commonly used in the bank (ATMs, automated teller machines) and train stations (ticketing machines). But, why is a self-service hotel kiosk not popular in the hotel industry?
Is a hotel kiosk even needed? The main reason for adopting a self-service machine is the increasing labour costs. Does the hotel experience increase labour costs and labour shortage? Yes. So, it's needed.
Is a hotel kiosk needed if the cost of labour is low? The second reason for kiosk adoption is the handling of money. Kiosk prevents human error and mishandling of money. Does the hotel front desk receive and transact money? Yes. But why is it not popular? Let's dive in.
The reasons why hotel kiosk is not popular
Firstly, the cost of inventing such a machine and the return-on-investment for the inventor. The price of developing such a system is high. If the return-on-investment of such a system is low, then no hotel is willing to absorb the cost of developing a hotel kiosk system. The estimated cost of hardware alone is around USD 10,000 as reported here.
For the banks, it's a no-brainer to invest because of the high labour cost at the banks' counters. The investment made to implement the kiosk can be recovered later on through the savings in the cost. Compared to the banks, the hotel serves fewer customers per location than a bank.
Since it does not make sense for a hotel to invent its hotel kiosk system, solution providers like Softinn came up all-in-one hotel kiosk system.
Secondly, the engineering challenges to inventing such systems that work with different hotel requirements are high. A self-service hotel kiosk does more than accept and dispense banknotes (if compared to a bank ATM).
The hotel kiosk has to retrieve guest bookings from Booking.com, Agoda, etc.; check if the room is dirty, encode the room key, and scan the passport or identification before collecting payments.
The hotel kiosk has more functions. Yes, I know, bank ATMs have a different challenge - security. But, my point is, it's not simple as it seems; a lot of coordination is required to implement a hotel kiosk system. This leads to the third reason why the hotel kiosk is not popular - The quality of implementation.
The quality of hotel kiosk implementation is the main reason hotel kiosk is unpopular. I found many hotels that bit the bullets but ended up disappointed. Let's talk about those who implemented the hotel kiosk but failed and then compare it with those who successfully implemented it.
The hotel that tried to implement a hotel kiosk but failed
Here's what I consider a failed implementation - The number of guests using the kiosk is lower than 10%.
No bank will be happy with the ATM if 90% of their customers still go to the counter. It's not worth the effort and investment if the kiosk serves less than 10% of the customers after it goes live.
How do you know if a hotel has a failed kiosk implementation?
There are three signs of a failed hotel kiosk implementation.
First, no guest review. None of the guests writes about their experience using the kiosk online (e.g. Booking.com, Expedia, Google Reviews etc). It's easy to find out since these are public data. Navigate to the hotel OTA listings (e.g. Booking.com) and then look for the recent guest reviews. Then, you can find out for yourself.
Secondly, only install one unit. This applied only to hotel chains; the hotel chain implemented the kiosk at only one of its branches. They never install the second unit. It does not make sense for a bank to keep the ATM at only one branch if the ATM does its job. So does the hotel chain. If the kiosk does what it should, the hotel will invest and install them in all its branches.
Thirdly, uneasy front-desk officers. The hotel front-desk officers discourage their guests from using the kiosk. Have you seen bank officers preventing their customers from using ATMs? No. But it happens when the machines do not perform their job. A hotel front-desk rather serves the guest outright instead of dealing later with a disgruntled customer who had a bad experience with a kiosk.
Do interview the hotel front-desk officer for their experience using the kiosk. Ask them how many guests use the kiosk a day. Then, you will know how well the hotel kiosk performs. On top of that, sometimes, the location of the hotel kiosk being installed also hint if the hotel encourages its usage.
Other than the cost saving, I have come across a hotel that implemented a kiosk for branding purposes. The hotel wants to be seen as high-tech and trendy.
Now, let's try to compare the above with a successful hotel kiosk implementation.
Successful hotel kiosk implementation
What do I consider a successful hotel kiosk implementation - more than 50% of hotel guest uses hotel kiosks.
How do you know if a hotel has a successful kiosk implementation?
Firstly, no one is manning the front-desk. Who needs front-desk 24/7 if the kiosk does the job? The front-desk officer is probably giving a customer a tour around the hotel or chilling with the hotel guest near the swimming pool. Exaggerating, but I think you get my point, a hotel with a good kiosk implementation frees up the front-desk officer. They are no longer bound to staffing the desk. They will go around serving the hotel guests.
Secondly, many online reviews talk about hotel kiosk. Good and bad reviews both are a sign of high kiosk usage. Of course, if you stumble upon a listing with more good reviews, that's even better.
Third, repeat purchases from the hotel owner. If the goal of the hotel owner in adopting a kiosk is to save labour costs, will they not install more kiosks for each hotel branch if it works? Of course.
Do interview the hotel front-desk officer. Ask them. Numbers don't lie. How many per cent of the hotel guest check-in through the kiosk? Anything above 50% is acceptable. Anything below 20% is a shame.
What can go wrong with the hotel kiosk implementation?
Below is not a deliberate list, but it's sufficient for you to consider before investing.
The room key issued by the kiosk can't open the door. The hotel kiosk needs to program the room key correctly. So, ensure your hotel kiosk is compatible with your door lock before purchasing. Softinn kiosk app integrates with over twenty popular brands and has hundreds of compatible door lock models.
The hotel kiosk failed to find the arriving guest bookings. The hotel kiosk needs to work with the hotel PMS to ensure smooth check-in of the arriving guests. This is easier said than done.
Why? A seamless integration between the hotel PMS and kiosk software is required to provide a good guest experience. Do make sure your hotel PMS has good integration with the OTAs (e.g. Booking.com) so the guest who booked online gets synced to the hotel kiosk machine.
I've seen a hotel kiosk solution requiring manual data entry (and human intervention) before a guest checks into the room via the kiosk. This defeats the purpose of using a kiosk, and it does not provide a seamless guest experience. Avoid such a solution at all costs because it defeats the hotel kiosk's purpose.
Support multiple kiosks per location. To my surprise, this was one of the problems encountered by a hotel owner who bought two kiosks. They can't get two kiosks to work for a single hotel. They can only use one at a time. This is absurd, but ya, it happens. Make sure you check and get confirmation before you place the order.
There are a few popular hotel kiosk providers in the market, only considering hotel kiosk vendor who has their own PMS and channel manager. This saves you the trouble of getting caught in integration and support issues where the vendors point fingers at each other.
Additional tips before implementing the hotel kiosk - communicate with your current team, especially the front-desk team. Some staff felt insecure and worried they would lose their job once the kiosk took over. I suggest re-training the team and moving them to the sales and marketing department.
Softinn Hotel Kiosk
Softinn is an all-in-one hotel kiosk solution provider. If you're keen to find out more about our hotel kiosk solution, feel free to submit a demo request.
This two-minute video demonstrates how our hotel kiosk solution works. You will learn how the kiosk works with the hotel PMS and channel manager.
This is the guest reviews received online that mentioned the hotel kiosks.
Will you automate your hotel with a self-check-in kiosk?
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