In the New Guest Experience Guests Can Avoid Face-to-Face Contact with All Hotel Staff
In this article, I am going to explain why I think that the relentless increase in contactless technology will weaken hugely the spirit of hospitality in hotels. New technology and amenities will improve guest convenience and maybe exceed the expectations of many guests, but the service experience will be detached more and more from the essence of hospitality.
I think that the term “hospitality industry” should cease to be used, not just because the guest service experience continues to be based on the emotionless SOP-Customer Satisfaction concept which ignores the spiritual essence of hospitality, but also because of the rampant increase of emotionless contactless technology. Here is a critical look at what is now being done in the hope of exceeding guest expectations as hotels recover from the pandemic, and why the essence of hospitality is becoming an impossible dream.
The Missed Opportunity
Firstly, an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a revolution of the guest service experience afforded by the pandemic has been missed. The door to exceeding expectations by increasing the spirit of hospitality without limit was wide open, but the hotel industry ignored it in favour of technology, tradition, and so-called respectable, correct thinking about the nature of service. What a shame!
The Obstacles to Exceeding Guest Expectations
It doesn’t matter how well the SOPs are being trained to the (new) staff because the guest service experience will remain rather emotionless and robotic. Why? Because the guest experience concept used throughout the hotel industry is still the same old SOP-Customer Satisfaction concept. This concept severely limits and holds back hotels when they try to develop their culture of service and fulfill the beautiful, idyllic promises on their website.
So, apart from dusting off the pre-pandemic operational manuals and (re)training their SOPs like they have always done, how are hotels improving their service? They are doing this by increasing contactless technology that cuts out human interactions and also by adding amenities. Can hoteliers not see what this will do to the spirit of hospitality? Clearly not.
Already, the concept of SOP-Customer Satisfaction is unsuited to touching the hearts of the guests, but now hotels are adding more and more contactless technology as well as harnessing various material means based on the erroneous belief that these will create a Wow! effect in their guest service, make guests happier, and increase the spirit of hospitality.
Technology and Amenities Do Not Improve Hospitality
Physical items, such as amenities, food, beverage, and technology can indeed improve the service experience, but they don’t increase the spirit of unconditional love, compassion, metta loving-kindness, and heartwarming care, which are the spiritual heart of the service experience. Efficient and well-trained service together with lots of technology, amenities, etc., does not enable the essence of hospitality to flourish throughout the hotel.
There seems to be confusion about the difference between service and hospitality. If you want your hotel service to exceed guest expectations, then infuse the operational procedures with the spiritual essence of hospitality. Clearly, this is not happening because hotel groups and hotels would be boasting to the world about how they are doing this if they were. Executive Boards clearly haven’t yet even discovered the spiritual essence of hospitality. Unbeknown to them, when they do, they will discover the means to revolutionizing the guest service experience.
Hotel groups and independent hotels should be aiming to make their hotel service experience drip with the emotion and energy of this spiritual essence. Instead, we see an increasing focus on technology and amenities. In addition to piling on technology, luxury hotels are trying to attract guests with unique amenities: garden patios, coworking spaces, in-room offices, in-room specialty water, “bartender” or tap, themed rooms, workout equipment in your room, workout classes, rooftop bars, designs, furniture, and more. It’s a shame that so much money and time are available to make these changes while none is available to enhance the spiritual essence of hospitality.
What are many city hotels doing to improve their guest service experience? In city hotels, contactless technology started to become the norm even before Covid started, and a guest can now almost avoid meeting a member of staff during their stay by using the technology.
The Effect of Contactless Technology on the Spirit of Hospitality
The necessity of promoting social distancing has resulted in the widespread adoption of mobile technologies. So, while the service experience has improved in terms of convenience and efficiency, there has been a detrimental effect on the spiritual hospitality experience. Why? Because technology is cold and doesn’t touch the heart. Instead, it reduces face-to-face interactions and human warmth in the guest experience.
Contactless check-in through a mobile phone or a kiosk is common in city hotels nowadays. It’s efficient but devoid of true hospitality and human warmth. Contactless check-in integrates multiple platforms that work seamlessly together by integrating a mobile PMS with a digital payment gateway, a keyless entry system, and a mobile guest messaging platform. In other words, it provides a very efficient service experience, but it rings the death knell of true hospitality in the Lobby. Since SOP-Customer Satisfaction cuts out the essence of hospitality anyway, I suppose that contactless technology is a suitable extension of the concept.
Human Warmth Is on the Decline
For a fully optimized experience, many hotels also integrate with a mobile point-of-sale system for Lobby dining, a customer relationship manager for more targeted messaging, or an upsell automation platform for more streamlined conversions. The switch to mobile phones requires hoteliers to migrate away from singular on-site platforms and towards functional ecosystems of highly integrated mobile solutions. Service is improved, but the spirit of hospitality declines even further. I think that hotels are killing their golden goose.
One of the ways in which the hospitality landscape looks different today compared to in early 2020 is the degree to which owners, operators, and guests alike have embraced mobile and digital technology solutions. From mobile check-in, digital keys, and mobile food and beverage ordering platforms to mobile television remote control options and new service request messaging channels for guests, the proliferation of technology across the hotel industry is changing the way guests experience their hotel stay.
But all this “progress” means that the spiritual essence of hospitality is decimated more and more. Am I the only person who has noticed this or are hoteliers afraid to speak out about what the corporate offices are pushing on the “hospitality industry” as being the Holy Grail of the guest service experience?
The service experience is also being enhanced by innovation in the fast-expanding realm of in-room entertainment. A host of inspired new tech solutions are already emerging to allow guests opportunities to use technology the way they want; making it easier to stream in-room entertainment from their device to the television, for example. More enhanced streaming options and customizable in-room entertainment experiences are on the way-and are likely to fundamentally reshape hotel guest expectations and experiences. But the spiritual feeling of hospitality will not increase at the same time because this technology will ensure that guests stay isolated in their room.
One speaker at the 2022 ILHA Inspire conference urged for the continuous embrace of technology and the need to continually improve products and services, but challenged the attendees to remember the importance of humanity at the heart of the industry. I see the introduction of contactless technology as being like a runaway train that hoteliers will not be able to control, especially while the fuel of the train is the robotic and unemotional concept of SOP-Customer Satisfaction.
The Death of Conversation
The Hotel Industry Is Ignoring the Four Core Values
Is cutting out the spiritual element of hospitality how to exceed guest expectationsin your hotel service? Obviously not, but the industry-wide trend to leave out unconditional love, compassion, metta loving-kindness, and heartwarming care can’t be denied. You won’t find even one hotel mission and vision statement anywhere that includes any of these four core values of essential hospitality. I have looked in vain again and again to find one.
Hotels are obviously oblivious to the essence of hospitality. I attribute this to the hotel industry’s blind adherence to the guest experience concept of SOP-Customer Satisfaction and to the influence of the industry’s so-called leaders who uphold this concept. I believe that the so-called leaders have no idea that there is a better way than this robotic concept. Why does the hotel industry look up to the leaders of the biggest hotel groups for guidance anyway?
Does this focus on the material aspects of the guest service experience make the guests feel happier? Of course, it doesn’t. If you think it does, then you probably also believe that the happiest married couples are those with lots of material items, amenities, and technology. People crave for unconditional love, compassion, metta loving-kindness, and heartwarming care. These are what make people happy. Take note, “leaders”!
We are living in a time when excellent service and the incorporation of technology into the guest service experience are equated with a high level of hospitality. Corporate training programmes certainly seem to be reinforcing this thinking, and I expect that hotel schools are teaching this too. It shows just how the hotel industry is totally unaware of the spiritual essence of hospitality.
The 2023 ILHA Inspire conference should make the infusion of this essence into every aspect of the guest service experience and every interaction with the guests the theme of the conference, but I expect that technology will continue to dominate the hearts and minds of the speakers and organisers. Who needs and wants to experience unconditional love, compassion, etc., anyway?
Mission Statements Do Not Support the Essence of Hospitality
What do the mission statements of the so-called guiding lights of the hospitality industry tell us about what guest service should be like? Do they provide hope that hotel service will be infused with the essential core values of hospitality in the coming months and years? What about Accor’s core values, for example? Innovation, Guest Passion, Trust, Respect, Sustainable Performance, and Spirit of Conquest. Ooops! The essence of hospitality is clearly missing. So much for the concept of their staff being Heartists as Accor calls them.
What about IHG’s core values? Do the right thing; Show we care; Aim higher; Celebrate difference; and Work better together. Again, hotel service for them is not associated with the essence of hospitality – unconditional love, compassion, metta loving-kindness, and heartwarming care.
It is no better with other so-called hospitality industry leaders where the following core values are common: Quality, Integrity, Community, Profitability, Fun, Doing the right thing, Leadership, Teamwork, Ownership, Accountability, Inclusive, Caring, and so on. There is no effort in any hotel group to infuse hotel service with the essence of hospitality. That is the current situation in the hospitality industry and why the guest service experience won’t change.
The Changing Attitude of Staff Towards Their Jobs
The problem is exacerbated by the effects of Covid on staffing. Before the Covid pandemic it was easier to create a service culture because there was much less staff turnover and understaffing, and staff did not have to worry about losing their job at any time. Nowadays, job insecurity significantly affects employees’ job engagement and turnover intention. Staff may also experience anxiety, pessimism, and sadness because of Covid, and this will affect the service experience.
In addition, the attitude of hotel staff has changed and hospitality is not seen as a career for many years of one’s working life. This change in attitude will inevitably affect a hotel’s guest experience.
We shouldn’t forget that employees may worry about providing face-to-face services for normal customers since some Covid-infected individuals may be asymptomatic. Thus, they may avoid physical contact and keep a social distance from customers, leading to further drops in the warmth of the guest service experience.
How to Infuse Service with the Spiritual Essence of Hospitality
I think that the hotel industry as a whole is being badly led by the industry’s leaders. The model for creating the guest service experience needs to change. Covid provided the opportunity to revolutionise the service experience, but none of the leaders saw this, and they still don’t as their websites show clearly.
The service experience should be infused with unconditional love, compassion, metta-loving-kindness, and heartwarming care, but we all know how service training is carried out. Using the SOP manuals to train service procedures only creates robotic and very lukewarm hospitality as the SOP manuals do not include these core values. The SOP manuals should be rewritten to include the four core values in every aspect of a guest interaction, and the core values should be included in every service training session. This means that Team Leaders and Trainers should undergo spiritual capacity development and be deepened in the core values.
Staff training and development needs to be transformed, if service is to be infused with the essence of hospitality. Hotels need to learn how to develop the spiritual capacity of their employees so that their staff can infuse the essential core values of hospitality into their guest service experience. This isn’t going to happen with the current generation of hoteliers though.
Clearly, hotel groups and independent hotels need to rewrite their mission and vision statement and choose a new range of core values because their current choices and statements belong to the traditional SOP-Customer Satisfaction level of the guest experience.
The Team Leaders and skills trainers have to learn how to train SOPs that are infused with unconditional love, compassion, metta loving-kindness, and heartwarming care, and coach staff so that they can include them better in their jobs.
Hotels also need to learn about the heart and the spiritual heart. The heart is more than just a blood pump and it enables hotel staff to do wonderful things that affect the energy and spirit of the hospitality experience. Both are vital parts of enhancing the guest service experience with the spiritual essence of hospitality. Indeed, they are the means of revolutionizing the hospitality experience and of banishing the concept of SOP-Customer Satisfaction to the Museum of Hospitality forever. Until the hotel industry embraces this, the current efforts to improve the guest service experience can only produce more of the traditional pre-pandemic same.
The more love you give to others, the more you will be filled with love. A study some years ago at Kassel University in Germany, measured the light being emitted from a person’s chest area. They found that it increased 5,000-fold when the subject intentionally meditated on sending healing love to a specific person. This kind of experiment has been carried out so many times. By developing their spiritual capacity hotel staff can become beacons of love and light in line with their true selves.
The Effect of Sending a Healing Intention on the Human Aura. The Photograph on the Right Shows How Sending a Healing Intention Has Strengthened Someone’s Human Energy Field.
Hoteliers Can Be Obstacles to Change
But how on earth do you explain this to the current generation of hoteliers who have spent their whole career with the concept of SOP-Customer Satisfaction, and to Executive Boards who would probably rather die than include the four core values of essential, spiritual hospitality in their mission and vision statements. Who can imagine an Executive Board member saying, “We should make it our goal to enhance the guest service experience with unconditional love.”?
Future generations of hoteliers will understand what needs to be done and they will learn how to use the heart and spiritual heart to increase the limitless spiritual depth of their hospitality and thereby increase their revenue. Currently, corporate office folks haven’t got a clue about the role of the heart and spiritual heart in creating limitless levels of hospitality. There is no point Accor’s corporate office calling their employees Heartists if they do not know about the heart and the spiritual heart.
To sum up, I don’t think that the direction the hotel industry is taking as it recovers from the pandemic and improves its guest service experience is beneficial in the slightest to the spirit of hospitality. Contactless mobile technology eliminates human interactions and further reduces human warmth during the guest’s stay. In addition, because SOP-Customer Satisfaction remains the norm, the spiritual essence of hospitality will continue to be weak in the guest service experience. As this trend continues, one day the name “hospitality industry” will have to disappear.