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Does customer service need a human touch?

03 Oct 2022
People 1st International

Imagine checking into your hotel, but it isn’t a person who hands over your room key; it’s a robotic dinosaur wearing a small white hat. Until recently at the Henn-na Hotel in Japan this was everyday reality. A stay at this special hotel included a robot concierge, a small robot that delivers your room service, and robots essentially doing every job possible.

The hotel opened in 2015 and received mixed reviews. So much so that in 2019 it announced to abandon half of its robots. News showed that they decided to stop half of its robot service due to complaints from both of its staff and guests regarding the robots’ poor performance. The hotel found that robots annoyed the guests, would often break down and were unable to answer basic questions.

It’s possible there was a gap between the customer expectation and Henn-na Hotel’s original motives, or maybe it‘s as simple as the hotel lacking the human touch.

However, this example does raise the question of how businesses can use technology to effectively enhance the customer experience staff offer, rather than to replace them.

Technology is unlikely to ever replace all jobs; even at the Henn-na Hotel the experience failed to reduce costs for management or workload for its human employees.

The travel industry is a good place to look for inspiration on the way to embrace modern technology, as major travel operators have demonstrated to their and their customers’ benefit.

In 2015 TUI introduced special stores where customers can not only browse for their next holiday destination, but experience the destination too. These stores use virtual reality to give customers an insight into the locations and hotels they could visit. They can take a virtual walk in 3D around a seaside town, or use the experience to explore a hotel’s facilities before they book.

Companies like First Airlines also offer immersive virtual reality travel “trips” to places like Hawaii, Rome, and Paris.

More recently TUI Destination Experiences, together with Mixed Reality I/O, conducted tests in Palma de Mallorca on the use of augmented reality on excursions and activities.

These technologies sit alongside and work with staff to give customers the best  experience possible. And as research shows, the most significant performance improvements occur when humans and machines work together.

Our recent insights into customer service expectations revealed that when it comes to customer service, well trained, knowledgeable and happy staff is still the aspect consumers value most when it comes to customer service, with 68% of respondents singling out high quality staff interactions as their number one must have.

So whilst customer experience increasingly relies on digital, it still needs to be infused with the human touch.


We support customer-facing businesses in the UK and internationally to build, develop and retain skilled workforces through our WorldHost Programme. To find out more visit:

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