The obsolescence of the service employee

When visiting a restaurant, you might expect to see a waiter coming your way. If you get real old fashioned the waiter might even bring a paper menu with him. You’ll get asked whether you want something to drink and if you want an appetizer. Now think about an experience in which so called waiter asks whether or not you know how the system works, drops off a tablet when you say you do and leaves you to it. Ordering drinks and food via electronic devices is getting more and more common. It seems that it is even reaching into other hospitality services.

Let us have a closer look at a system called Roomlinx. This system allows hotel guests to order room service, fresh towels and linen, plan when the maid is welcome to clean their messes, have someone to help carrying their luggage, and even to check out of the room. Instead of having to deal with human employees of the hotel, guests only need to interact with an electronic panel that has been placed in their rooms. Besides being service orientated Roomlinx also provides entertainment via pay-per-view movies, advertising opportunities for local businesses, a platform where guests can interact with one another, and you can even plan where you will be going in the morning with an online map.

These developments, even if they prove to be service oriented, might as well be the systems that cause the demise of the employees of restaurants and hotels. No one is in need of a chatty waiter or bored receptionist, especially not if you are enabled to do everything yourself. Now think of the amount of people who work in this industry. Of course you will need to have developers for this kind of system, but a lot of people who work in hospitality will become obsolete if this system keeps evolving. One might think this is a whimsical development, but another might suspect that this is one of the first steps towards a futuristic future.

One response to “The obsolescence of the service employee”

  1. Fabian Dekker (332721fd) says :

    In your post, you suggest that information technology could replace service employees. You specifically target the hospitality industry.

    I partly agree. In case of a tired businessman travelling around the world from hotel to hotel, I can see why this would be a good option. They don’t care about the personal service, they just need a place to stay in a town where they do not have a home. They demand easy access to all the services of the hotel/restaurant.

    But I believe that a main competence of the hospitality service is based on human interaction.

    First of all, the value of personal services by actual people is underrated. Customer are truly attached to interaction with other humans and do not only want to use services that are being based on software. We can derive this from Maslow’s pyramid, were social belonging and interaction is valued more fundamental compared to “achievement”. Also we see that companies like Spotify and Facebook are currently hiring more “human editors” to make their services more personal.

    Secondly, I think the variety of needs of customers in the hospitality industry is underestimated. I have been a manager of a restaurant for two years, and number of different problems and demands that people come up with is infinite. Accordingly, one could turn human interaction into a strong competence by not only fulfilling the initial demand of the customer, but also thinking for the customer. Illustratively, I have seen many elderly that are too shy or too proud to ask for a pillow in their back when they are sitting uncomfortably. However, when you offer them one, you make them happy without touching their pride. This underlines how nuanced and subtitle one should be in the hospitality industry.

    Therefore, although technology might replace some people in the service sector, humans will still be crucial to deliver proper services.

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