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Kiosks and luxury hotels are not compatible. We’ve been hearing this from so-called experts for decades. Yet the European-based boutique hotel chain citizenM has proven the opposite. In fact, Kiosk usage at the citizenM hotels reaches virtually 100% in all properties. Of course by removing the front desk, citizenM automatically increases kiosk usage. But the real magic is that the guests truly enjoy the kiosk experience and some even select citizenM because of it.

Why did citizenM succeed so wildly whereas other hotel chains have retired their expensive kiosks or put them in a dark corner of the lobby where they gather dust? One could talk about the pleasing and inviting design of the kiosks (designed and developed by Enzo Systems). One could talk about the physical placement of the kiosks in the front rather than the back of the lobby. One could say that the citizenM clientele appreciates automation.

Certainly all of these factors contribute to the success. However we would like to talk about other aspects, perhaps more subtle but equally powerful: the user interface and HMS integration. Ask a guest about the user interface at the kiosk and the answer will be as often as not: “I don’t recall.” Now think about that for a minute. You put months of effort into a user interface and the guests can’t even remember a thing about it. Did you fail? No, this is exactly what one should try to achieve with a user interface. Something so simple, so natural that people don’t even notice that they are using a piece of advanced technology.

The user interfaces that we do remember today are too often the ones that frustrate us, confuse us and force us to think too much. If we have piqued your curiosity and you want to know more about the citizenM interface, you’ll just have to see it for yourself in person. But we can tell you a few things that you will not find on the kiosk: advertising, links, multi-field entry screens, complex selection boxes, videos or flashy graphics. Instead you’ll find a natural flow of questions and answers and before you know it, you’re done and on your way to your hotel room.

So what about the second subtle but powerful aspect that makes the kiosks at citizenM a success? The integration with theKiosk at citizenM hotel management system – hetras, in this case – goes beyond what we typically call an interface or integration. By using hetras’ web services, the kiosk doesn’t have an interface in the classic sense. Instead it’s just a front end to the hetras database. This means, among other things, that if hotel staff can locate a reservation and check in a guest, then so can the guest. It also means that no data can ever get lost or distorted in between the kiosk and the hotel management system as it’s all essentially one system.

“Hotel groups around Europe are asking us to help them achieve kiosk success similar to citizenM” says Uli Pillau, managing director at hetras. “The citizenM kiosk is a customized solution. Look for a standard hetras kiosk product in the near future.”

The hotel of the future will offer three primary ways for guests to check in. Which one(s) will your hotel choose?

Kiosk check-in. We all know this from the airports already and hotels often follow the lead of the air travel industry – albeit a few years later. Is a kiosk a sign of poor service? We think otherwise. A fast and simple check-in is always better than a slow and complicated check-in, especially when one has to wait in line.

Mobile check-in prior to arrival. We estimate that virtually 100% of your guests will carry a mobile device in the future, and the vast majority of these devices will be app-enabled smartphones. These guests will be able to check themselves in with their device, possibly choosing their own room number and then using their device to open the door, thus by-passing the check-in altogether. Good service? Absolutely! Guests want to be in control of the process and there is no better way to give them the control by building it into an app.

Roaming Receptionist Check-In. This is a slight variation on the traditional front desk of today. Instead of the guests walking to the desk, you walk to the guests, carrying yourImage tablet computer. You can collect payment information, get the registration form signed (if these are still required in the future), generate a room key and send the guests on their way. This just might be the ultimate in service. Let your guests sit in comfy lounge chairs on in the bar while you check them in. Or take care of it in the hotel shuttle from the airport.

Will there be a fourth way? Comments welcome!

 

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