People power Automation of our everyday lives is a natural progression but in hospitality the human factor is a real point of difference, says Intelligent Business Systems managing director Gareth Powell
read a quirky, fun story the other day. Residents and businesses in Redwood City, California, and Washington DC are having food delivered to their door, by robots. The two-foot tall, six-wheeled machines weigh in at about 40 pounds empty and travel at 4mph, just above walking speed. At the moment the robots are accompanied by handlers but the aim is to have them operating solo once they’ve been thoroughly pavement-tested! It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie but a robot delivering food is just one of numerous innovative ideas racing around an increasingly technology-savvy automated world. The Guardian has also reported car manufacturer Volvo is seeking drivers who commute into London. Volvo wants them to take part in its self-driving cars trial, the largest test-drive ever conducted by the automobile industry. Volvo’s ultimate ambition is to make operating self-driving cars as easy as using a smartphone. Jaguar Land Rover and Ford are also undertaking trials for an innovation that US government research predicts could lead to an 80% decline in the number of car accidents by 2035. In the hospitality sector, Forbes reported Hilton Hotels has been giving Connie a run out at the Hilton McLean Virginia in Washington. Connie is a quasi-concierge robot powered by Watson artificial intelligence from IBM. All three technologies are great fun and pointers to the future, although Volvo’s boss reckons it will be 30 to 40 years before fully autonomous cars are in everyday use, while Connie’s appeal will stand or fall depending on the human interaction around her!
“Hilton Hotels has been giving Connie a run out at the Hilton McLean Virginia in Washington. Connie is a quasi-concierge robot powered by Watson artificial intelligence from IBM” While we will have to wait for self-driving cars, automation of our everyday lives is a natural progression as technology becomes increasingly culturally embedded around us. Using the internet on a regular basis is second nature for the vast majority of us. According to the Office for National Statistics, eight out of ten adults in Great Britain accessed the internet on a daily or almost daily basis in 2016, compared with 35% a decade ago. Last year, 70% of adults accessed the internet “on-the-go” using a mobile phone or smartphone, nearly double the 2011 estimate of 36%. In 2016, 77% of adults bought goods or services online, up from 53% in 2008. Clothes or sports goods were purchased by 54% of adults, making them the most popular online purchase in 2016. In the hospitality sector, automation is the name of the game. Hands up those of us who have changed how we order and pay for takeaways, food to go, and eating out in restaurants from three or four years ago? We’ve been operating in the cloud for more than eight years and were one of the first to fully embrace cloud technology. Today, potential hospitality clients see 100%
cloud-based systems as an essential requirement when specifying solutions. Equally, we use application program interface (API) technology to integrate with more than two dozen key applications, covering everything from mobile payments and booking tables in advance to managing staffing levels and online ordering. We understand technology’s ultimate endgame is about making the end-user’s guest experience as enjoyable and as smooth as possible. No matter how sophisticated or smart the technology at our disposal, an emotional human connection is still essential in a hospitality sector that now employs almost as many people as UK manufacturing. Our solutions are designed to manage multichannel pressures. This includes the enormous challenge of streamlining platforms and systems to place the guest experience at the heart of everything operators do. We help hospitality retailers achieve a seamless omnichannel customer experience through cross-channel data synchronisation, easy promotions and loyalty programmes and free them up to provide an enhanced level of personal customer service. After all, when you go out for a meal it is the quality of the food and service you enjoy and share with friends afterwards. For proof, glance through any web reviews for restaurants and read the comments. Operators managing their online reputations know poor service can make the difference between success and failure. Good as our technology and solutions are, the human factor is a real point of difference. I recently received a charming note from a client, a senior director moving on to pastures new. In his email he commented it was a pleasure working with Intelligent Business Systems and I quote: “It’s been such a pleasure working with you all. Professional, hard-working and good people. Thank you for helping me and the team here deliver a truly wonderful EPOS solution.” The personal touch was a common theme for two new additions to our client portfolio. Emmett Loughran is chief operating officer of the Japanese Centre Group. He has worked with other EPOS providers who “tend to leave you to it”. He said: “If you lose data or make a mistake, it is tough luck. IBS will do everything to help you. I love such passion and commitment to what they do. That extra care is important to us.” Brighton Pier Group IT manager Richard Price recognises the difficulties of working with larger corporate technology providers: He said: “It was very frustrating asking for simple day-to-day things and having to jump through hoops to get a simple, straightforward answer. With IBS they can get things done immediately and everything is much easier.” Our business is geared to factor-in the human touch. That’s why we always ensure our telephones are answered by a person rather than diverting calls through an annoying automated system. It’s why we have a shift system where support technicians are available to talk one-to-one to clients between 7.30am and 9pm. It’s why we rarely sub-contract installations to third parties and why we won’t be employing robots to make coffee for you if you visit our head office.
Gareth Powell, is managing director of Intelligent Business Systems – www.ibs-systems.co.uk
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Propel Quarterly Spring 2017 - The essential information resource for pub, restaurant & food service operators