The pandemic has spurred a contactless technology trend, one that was already underway–including voice control (e.g., smart speaker TVs), motion sensing and mobile controls. In China, where the pandemic is still epidemic, contactless technology has become most prevalent in hotels with some employing robotic room service and facial recognition check-in.

Yet given that contactless technology is expensive and difficult to pull off, especially when attempting to implement along each step of a guest’s journey experience, researchers in Hong Kong wanted to know if contactless technology impacts user satisfaction.

“The hospitality industry is based on the warmth of human contact, and misgivings have thus been raised about the efficacy of contactless service,” Dr. Fei Hao and Prof. Kaye Chon of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, wrote in their recent report.

About 1,500 mainland Chinese residents who had stayed in contactless hotels were surveyed to examine the nexus between personal characteristics and positive experiences.  The results were tabulated by what the researchers called customer equity, how each respondent viewed the “value”, “brand” and “relationship” of the transactions.

Meantime, their findings centered on how customers were predisposed to technology, otherwise known as technology readiness.  The term derives from a Technology Readiness Index (TRI), a gauge of users’ optimism, innovativeness, discomfort and insecurity using unfamiliar technology. in other words, It is a measure of a user’s comfort with new technology.

This gauge can also be linked to the idea of an early adopter curve, a theoretical construct that marketers use for targeting new products. The hypothetical curve identifies subsegments of likely users, including those who are eager to try out new technologies along with others who prefer to wait periods of time as the technology matures.

in the survey process, respondents were also asked to take the TRI test, exploring each one’s technology readiness. The results between TRI and customer equity were tabulated, demonstrating that there was a positive correlation.  The findings led researchers to conclude,“the hospitality industry should integrate customers’ technology readiness into service design and marketing programs.”

Ideas from Theodore Koumelis, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Travel Daily News

International Service Design Institute, an organization with virtual training for service designers.