Robot Concierges In The Hospitality Industry


Artificial intelligence has become more important due to the improving knowledge of human limits regarding customer service and guest management in the hospitality industry. One of the major problems in hospitality is understaffing at the front desk and concierge operations. Artificial intelligence aims to solve this with the development of robot concierges, which are steadily gaining traction. 

The field of intelligent robotics merges AI and robotics technology to produce robots capable of manual tasks and some degree of cognitive/intellectual function. These robots are trained to deliver in-person customer service, provide booking and room information, and respond to customer requests.

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic took a massive hit on the hospitality industry due to travel restrictions worldwide. On the road to recovery, hotels have had to implement several low-contact measures to reduce the transmission of the virus. The pandemic has further strained human staff, who need to be extra wary and note more rules that guide relating with guests. The need for reduced human interaction also opens up a bigger avenue for non-human customer service options like robot concierges.

The École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) carried out a study using a humanoid robot concierge - Pepper - to evaluate how customers respond to robot concierges and provide insights for service companies adopting the technology. The robot was controlled remotely by a human employee who could give answers to questions unavailable in the robot’s database. Following interactions with customers, EHL assessed the feedback across five dimensions - reliability, assurance, responsiveness, aesthetic/tangibles, and empathy, for which the technology was perceived positively.

Robot concierges minimize human contact from front desk to room check-in, offering solutions that become more personalized with increased human interaction. Chatbots can also be used to answer questions by guests round the clock. Customized hotel phones enable guests to converse with the robot concierges from the comfort of their rooms via the chatbot service.

Robot Concierge Use Cases

Aloft Hotels, in 2014, premiered a revolutionary use case for robots in hospitality by introducing A.L.O — robotic butler or Botlr — in its Cupertino location. The robot fulfilled room service requests and delivered food to guests. 

Henn na Hotel in Sasebo, near Nagasaki, Japan, uses robots for nearly every step of the customer experience in the hotel. A multi-lingual robot handles the front desk and facilitates check-in, a porter robot transports luggage, facial recognition opens the room doors, and the room robot - Chu-ri-chan, controls heating and lighting and provides basic information about the weather. 

Hilton hotel’s first robot concierge service, Connie, an IBM Watson creation, is available to customers to suggest nearby restaurants, activities, and directions to places and help the hotel operate more efficiently by reducing the burden on human staff. 

At the Bionic Bar on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship, a pair of robots can stir, shake and strain all types of cocktails, and guests can select predefined drink recipes or create their own beverages on a tablet.

New York Yotel Hotels’ luggage-carrying robot - Yobot, can handle about 300 luggage items a day, reducing the need for human effort and time and saving the hotel some resources.

Beyond providing services for guests, robot concierges can also attend to potential guests before they come to the establishment by providing directions and offering personalized services and whatever else they might need.

Threat to humans?

Robots were borne out of the need to increase efficiency and reduce time spent by humans on certain tasks. Still, the consensus is that certain nuances of humanity and human interaction cannot be replaced by robots, at least not anytime soon. Emotional connections, body language, and contextual adaptation are still needed in the hospitality industry, even with the presence of robots. Less human effort will be required, but certainly not zero human effort.


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