I have recently submited a request to contribute to a blog discussing customer service trends. I was surprised to hear back from the editor that this otherwise respected blog was receiving posts on customer service not on technology / digital. My response to the editor was :
" Not considering technology as a customer service issue represents a self-fulfilling prophecy in itself (deteriorating customer service). For example, automation has already been introduced in many hotel chains i.e. Premier Inn, Radisson reducing the need of human interaction considerably, hence a clear impact on customer service and perceptions. Revenues have grown considerably and yet they are delivered with the same number of hours as 10 years ago ...employees do far more with less, and as automated self-checkins are in place their role becomes less customer focused. They are also more stressed and less committed to brand identity, hence a direct impact on their perception of the actual perception of the brand (identity gaps). Identity gaps affect customer perceptions of course, lowers loyalty & impacts on business development as well. Numerous studies show that one of the first positions to go due to automation is the low skilled hospitality positions. The hospitality role will change, to incorporate a human/technology relationship by continuing to deskill hospitality workers, which is why hospitality businesses tolerate high levels of staff turnover...needless to point out that high staff turnover impacts on customer service and perceptions, the easiest way to evidence this point is by looking at the large gaps within the Guest Satisfaction surveys results. So, considering technology, digital and related as separate issues and not related to customer service is a fallacy and a seriously lost opportunity to prepare for the future of customer service...".
Unfortunatelly, the impact of technology on employment & skills (deskilling) will have a very strong impact on the HR proffession as well. If you are a HR proffessional in an industry such as hospitality it is quite likely that you are already experiencing the impact: lower skilled employees, higher turnover, less consistency in results. As HR professionals are also scarce within the businesses (efficiency exercises) you have probably already had to make a choice and shift your focus from the proactive approach to developing people, inspiring, genuinely passionate and focused training programmes to managing performance & behavior issues. As training resources become more scarce new skills are required to stay on top of both developing your staff and managing performance. I would like to suggest that digital skills are at the top of pile when further developin skills as the HR Manager of the future. One example is the raise of free training from large and well renowed universities, platforms as Coursera or Khan Academy are great examples where your staff can take on various training, hence supporting your training needs. Moreover, David Kelly, the well know futurist was talking about the skills that people will need to develop and was specifically refering to the "working with the machines" skills...as a HR Manager who is now undertaking the work of 2 or even 3 people you will need to stay up to date with technologies that will make your workflow smoothly allowing you to focus on teh 20% that will deliver 80% of your employee related results. Simmilarly, in the light of automation concerns, your employees will also need to develop skills that will add value in their working with teh machines...you should really start thinking about what that skills will be and how they will be delivered into the business. It may be that as machins are taking more and more jobs within teh busines the skills that both you and yur staff will need to gain are adapting and learning new skills faster than ever before. How will you support your team to change their job roles & skills in as litle as one year ? (as Tom Ford suggested in his excellent book Rise of the Robots). How will you motivate the overweight, bored employee (studies shown that far more poeple have died last year due to abesity than due to malnutrition) to continue to develop his/her skills at a more furious pace than ever before?
At our hotel in Ealing we have already started work, supported by our digital marketing consultant in puting together a program involving several learning platforms. many of our employees have already taken various courses in areas like digital, customer service, 3D printing, programming, management and leadership and many many more. We encourage all our staff to be open minded and develop as many skills as posible to help them prepare for their future..because we care. We have worked with a romanian translator & interpreter to support our romanian staff in developing their English language skills to the point of some of them being able to take on basic course on Coursera. Yes, it is tough...there is no time, resorces are low as you already know but we made a conscious decision to care...and we do.