Anyone who has visited a Disney Park knows that experience plays a major role. It all starts off at the cash register with the music you hear, the costumes and the animated cartoon figures that are walking around. Everything contributes to the atmosphere that Disney in his own words describes as ‘magic’. Moreover, the park constantly does everything it can to further optimise visitor experience. For example, nowadays it is possible to skip the waiting lines for popular attractions with a so-called fast-pass that allows you to enter the attraction at a time of your own choosing.
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Can hospitality be automated?
It all appears to be human handiwork. However, the experience and the constant wow-feeling are partly made possible by technology. The question is, which part of the experience can be provided through means of software and when does the human factor remain indispensable?
The same question applies to the reception desks in office buildings. Many organisations make hospitality – giving a guest the feeling that he/she is welcome – a high priority. This hospitality generally starts off with a warm greeting from the receptionist and sometimes ends with the offer of some fruit or a bottle of water. To quote one example, in many financial institutions the traditional receptionist has been replaced by a host.
The digital, unmanned reception desk
Receiving guests seems like a human task; but this can be done differently as well. A recent development is the unmanned reception desk. Some offices now use walls on which visitor information is projected, or kiosks where a visitor can register him/herself. Some systems even issue visitor passes, after which the visitor can continue on through the building on his/her own. Furthermore, instead of a receptionist registering a visitor and informing the host of his/her arrival, automated licence plate recognition technology can be used at the entrance instead. When a guest is registered in advance and his/her licence plate is then recognised on arrival, it is possible to send a message automatically to the host, who then knows that his/her visitor has arrived.
The major benefit of an automated reception process is that a digital reception desk can easily handle busy peaks. An example of this is the online check-in for a flight, after which a traveller only needs to hand in their baggage, avoiding the need to stand in a long queue. This process also requires less physical contact, is faster and more efficient, and prevents irritation due to long waiting lines. These automated reception processes could yield benefits particularly in large office buildings that house multiple organisations.
Automating the reception process does not always have to mean that a guest feels less welcome. This depends on various factors, such as the type of organisation and what it potentially has to gain by automating the reception process. Whatever the choice, one process does not have to preclude another. On the other hand, it is important – regardless of choice – for the visitor to have an optimal visiting experience.
Of course work will always be work and will never come close to the experience offered by an amusement park. However, with a little bit of Disney magic, a short visit to the office can be transformed into a genuine experience.