A recent Software Advice study (released Oct. 29) gauged consumer interest in robot butlers. Key findings were as follows:
- 56% of respondents are interested in utilizing robotic room service. (See below graph.)
- The most preferred robotic function is delivering items to rooms, cited by 51% of respondents.
- Half of respondents age 25-34 are more likely to choose a hotel with a robot than without one.
What jumped out at me about the survey results was a noticeable generation gap: Younger respondents were simply more interested in robot butlers than older ones. I sat down with Software Advice market researcher Taylor Short to pick his brain about the findings.
44% of survey respondents were 'not at all interested' in robot butlers.
One thing that jumps out at me is 56% reported some degree of interest in using robotic services, but 44% reported no interest at all.
With such a pronounced public disinterest, is this a major investment barrier from established hotel chains?
TS: I think a good portion of that disinterest represents a certain attitude about technology, namely, that many consumers simply aren’t interested in new technologies until it’s proven exactly how they are useful to them personally. At the moment, I don’t think this has enough compelling features for most hotels to invest, but it’s certainly something that could be a big draw for certain types of travelers in the future.
Aren’t hotels in general trying to cater to an older demographic (i.e. retired people, more established professionals with money, etc.) in the first place?
TS: That has been true for a long time, and those consumers continue to be the main customer base for many hotels, but the landscape is shifting to the younger age groups who now have the money and time to travel. This group isn’t interested in the same massive, branded luxury hotels as their Baby Boomer parents; instead, they’re looking for authentic, unique experiences. A robot butler seems like something they would be attracted to.
Millennials aren't interested in massive, branded luxury hotels; they're looking for authentic, unique experiences.Taylor Short, Software Advice
What are examples of hotels that cater to millennials? From my experience, young people opt for Airbnb or youth hostels anyway, not major hotel chains with the resources/scale to invest in robot butlers.
TS: You’re right. Young people are not nearly as brand-loyal as older travelers, and they’re very much likely to seek a random couch to crash on instead of paying for a hotel. But there are several sub-brands such as Aloft by Starwood and Hotel Indigo by IHG that forego the traditional hotel style in favor of more modern design and unique services.
When we first came across the “Botlr” story back in August, one of the drawbacks we imagined was these robots would be limited in the types of items they could deliver to your room. The compartment in the video looked pretty small. Are you able to offer any details as to what items Starwood has been able to deliver to rooms using the robot?
TS: All I’ve seen are small items like toothbrushes or snacks.
Savioke reportedly leases the SaviOne botlr to hotels at a rate of $3,000/month.
How much does it cost to manufacture (one-time cost) and operate (monthly cost?) one of these robots? I’m curious about the ROI on these devices.
TS: I read that they are available for lease with a service fee for roughly $3,000.
One of Brian McGuinness’ conclusions (in the Software Advice article about the study) is that the robot frees up hotel staff to “provide exceptional and personalized service for each and every one of our guests,” but it is almost counterintuitive to me.
Don’t you think guests requiring specific items delivered to their room would prefer a human touch for those deliveries, as opposed to a cold, emotionless robot? What are your thoughts here?
TS: It really depends on the guest’s preferences. A human touch will always be the hallmark of great hospitality service, but we’ve seen self-service check-in kiosks and fully automated hotels where you don’t see anyone, so the market exists for this kind of service. Plus, you don’t have to tip the robot.