Joy, fear and sadness: these are just some of the emotions hotel guests feel when they encounter a customer services robot during their hotel stay.
The feeling of “joy” was felt by more than 60 percent of customers when dealing with robots in a customer service role, based on a new study from the Durham University Business School. “Fear” was the second most felt emotion by customers, making up 28 percent of the reviews.
Other feelings of anger (5 percent), neutral (4 percent) and sadness (1 percent) also featured in the reviews, which spanned 412 hotels in eight countries.
The researchers, who used a machine learning model to identify the hotels which had been reviewed on their own robot-powered customer service, found that interacting with robots also triggered emotions of love, surprise, interest and excitement, while discontent was mainly expressed when the robot malfunctioned.
The results of the study also showed many customers chose these specific hotels due to the fact they operated with customer service robots, revealing that hotels can use them as a selling point to customers, as well as convenience.
But hotels were also warned not to promote themselves as a “robot hotel” as it could create high expectations and potentially disappoint customers.
“Service robots have been increasingly adopted in hospitality service settings in recent years and large hotel chains have gradually adopted their services for housekeeping and butler services, interacting with customers and fulfilling concierge and front-desk tasks,” said Dr Zhibin Lin, professor of marketing at Durham University Business School.
“Previous opinion has been that customers felt uneasiness and discomfort when being served by robots, however this research suggests that customers actually, on the whole, have more positive interactions with robots and enjoy the experience of being served by one”.
The Smith School of Business, Queen’s University, Audencia Business School and Jimei University also contributed to the report.
The study will likely be welcomed by Relay Robotics, which provides delivery robots to hotel groups including Marriott, Hilton, Westin, Mandarin Oriental, Holiday Inn and Radisson. It recently raised $10 million in financing to accelerate development and deployment of its robots.