Eliminate the Hotel Check in Desk - Is It Possible?
We often hear about the rapid digitalization of the hospitality industry. But walk into a hotel during peak hours and you typically will find a massive hotel check in desk and a long queue of guests waiting to be manually assisted by the front desk clerk.
The persistence of the counter has remained, despite the ability for guests to nowadays check in online to their hotel using their mobile device or a kiosk. This brings the question, why are we still clinging on to it, and is it even possible to eliminate the hotel reception desk?
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How Does the Check In Process Work in a Hotel Today?
Many components of the guest journey at a hotel have changed throughout the years. But one part that has remained the same is the check in process in a hotel. Regardless of the country you are visiting, or the star level of the property, they all follow a similar standard operating procedure.
Which makes sense. After all, you have to comply with regulations. With that being said, let's start by breaking down the traditional check in process today.
Now, if we take a closer look into the check-in processes, it becomes evident that the vast majority of these tasks can be performed by the guests - without the need for any human assistance.
But many in the industry argue that the front desk operations are integral to building bonds with guests and providing them with a "feeling" of staying in a hotel. While service will always be an important element of any hotel, the way we deliver it is evolving and becoming more efficient to meet the needs of a changing customer.
The question remains whether the front desk is a necessary point of contact between hotels and their guests today. Or, if you can still deliver the "hotel feeling" by eliminating the front desk.
Check In without the Hotel Reception Desk
Let's be frank about it. Several industries have already taken the steps to redesign their operations and automate redundant processes.
Have you ever taken a flight recently? Walk into an airport today and chances are you'll see several self-service machines. In fact, many airline carriers will now ask you to use the machine to scan your passport, confirm T&C, and print luggage tags before walking to the airport counter.
If you enjoyed this time-saving experience, then you're not alone. SITA research shows automation and technology increase passengers' satisfaction as they travel.
Source: Passenger IT Insights SITA 2019
So why wouldn't it be the same for hotels? After all, much thanks to recent technological advancements, guests can perform all check-in procedures - without your employees' help.
Let's take a look at how we - at Metasphere - enable our clients to achieve it through our self check-in system.
Online check in is all about smoothing out the check in processes and journey flows. And putting the guest at the center.
In Anita's case, she will be able to complete mandatory check-in procedures on her terms. Whether that would be at home, at the airport, or in the taxi on the way to the hotel.
So instead of queuing at the reception desk and relying on the receptionist to give her the key (which is one of the known disadvantages of traditional check-in). She'll be able to go directly to the kiosk, scan her QR code and passport, and collect her room key.
And what about your front desk agents? Well, by physically removing your front desk, you really remove a barrier between the employees and your guests.
Instead of being confined to the desk, your receptionists can now walk freely around the lobby and engage with your guests on a more personal level. For example, they could chat with guests as they enter your lobby, assist them to find the information they need or answer any questions they might have.
This is an excellent way to provide better customer service and create a more enjoyable work atmosphere.
How Secure Is Online Check In/Hotels with No Front Desk?
Another concern by hoteliers is that you would compromise on the security by letting your guests independently check in. In many properties, the receptionists also function as "guardians", protecting the establishment from fraud and controlling identification documents.
Of course, this is a valid concern. But it is important to note that there are plenty of technological components that can help to improve the security. From which one is biometric face recognition.
At Metasphere, we use biometric face recognition to validate the guests' passports. Our advanced technology verifies the guest's identity and prevents unauthorized guests from checking in by:
Using computer algorithms to match the person standing by the kiosk with the face on the passport/id document.
Confirm the validity of the passport's expiry/end date.
Are you still not convinced it's safe? Well, recent research from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), has shown facial recognition systems have up to 99.97% recognition accuracy level. And that is probably a higher accuracy level than what your employees would be able to catch!
But that being said, rather than completely relying on artificial intelligence-powered technology. It is wise to have employees supervising the lobby - and to intervene in case there is any suspicious activity.
Metasphere's installment at the tech-savvy hotel M Social Singapore
Advantages of Eliminating the Front Desk
The check in desk at a hotel has been an integral part of the experience for decades. But now, as more establishments are embracing the digital age, hoteliers are discovering the advantages of eliminating the reception desk.
Let's have a look at the top advantages of eliminating the front desk below:
Quicker check in experience - Your guests will be able to complete the check-in process at their own pace, avoiding any frustration of waiting in queues.
More freedom - Your guests will have the autonomy to check in at their convenience.
Higher customer involvement - Your guests will become engaged, as they are more involved in operations.
Less work burden for your employees - Your employees will have less mundane tasks and more time to focus more on your guests and other tasks.
Costs savings for labor costs - The more tasks guests can take over from your employees, the less number of employees are required.
Apart from this, we have discussed the benefits of self check in systems in our earlier blog post that you can take a closer look at if you want to learn more.
Disadvantages of Eliminating the Front Desk
While we argue eliminating the check in desk at a hotel could make it easier for your employees to focus on their core work. It is important to note that it may come with some disadvantages worth considering.
Key disadvantages of eliminating the front desk:
Employees resistance - If your primary objective is the reduction of labor costs, then you will find resistance from your employees, so make sure you have a strategy to overcome this.
Guests’ technical skills - Though self check in systems are extremely easy to navigate and handle, the system will not be as intuitive to those who are less tech-savvy. Make sure you have a friendly employee nearby to help them if they are confused, or do not know how to use the system!
Large initial investment - Naturally, this will be a big project, and it may take some time. Apart from involving architects and key stakeholders. You'll need to find an experienced kiosk vendor, like us at Metasphere, that can install it on your property, connect it to your PMS interface and ensure a smooth onboarding process.
Frequently Asked Questions:
We've collected a few common frequently asked questions regarding hotels with no front desk.
Can You Check into a Hotel without Going to the Front Desk?
Yes, you can. Increasingly more establishments are implementing online check-in systems, typically via mobile device, kiosk - or in Metasphere’s case - both ways. A similarity between these systems is that they enable guests to complete check-in procedures independently, without any human intervention.
But different local regulations, or hotel policies, may require an employee to intervene at certain steps in the self check-in.
How Can the Process of Check-In Be Improved?
It comes down to how hotels can improve the experience for their guests. One of the frustrating parts of check in is waiting in long queues for tasks which can be done by themselves.
Here, self check in systems can come in handy. They’ll give your guests an alternative to the desk and enable them to check in at their own convenience.
Can You Check-in to a Hotel Remotely?
It is possible to check into a hotel remotely. If you are looking for these types of solutions for your property, then your best bet would be vendors that sell mobile check-in systems. You can read about the pros and cons of kiosks and hotel mobile key systems in our latest blog post.
Conclusion: Eliminate the Hotel Check in Desk - Is It Possible?
Looking at the mandatory check-in procedures at a property, it is pretty evident that the majority of them can be performed entirely by the guest with the help of new technology.
But whether or not you want to eliminate the hotel check in desk depends on your property. For some, it could make sense to eliminate it and involve your guests more in your operations by having employees perform other duties.
While for others, it doesn't. For those operations, it would make more sense to simply add two or three kiosks to at least relieve your employees' work burden during peak hours.
Whatever the case is. The technology is widely available. It is much more affordable today and does provide a quick return on investment, especially if you are operating in a country with high labor costs.
Now, if you want to see how we help hoteliers - just like you - improve their guest experience and reduce labor costs using a kiosk, schedule a free demo with us today!