The Henn Na Hotel in Japan, which from 2015 has employed almost 250 robots to meet guests' needs, is cutting back on automation after its experiment failed to reduce costs or workload for employees.
The hotel will reduce its robotic workforce by more than half and return to more traditional human-provided services for guests, though it will maintain a number of robots in areas where it found them to be effective and efficient. Its change of direction can offer lessons for companies that are pursuing robotic solutions for customer service roles.
The hotel utilized a host of robots including in-room voice assistants and a robotic concierge. It also put robots to work behind the scenes to complete tasks such as sorting and transporting luggage. While robots moving luggage into and out of storage containers or around the hotel has proven to be useful, most of the other deployments have not, for a variety of reasons.
Foremost among these is the growing obsolescence of some of these robots, with units like the in-room assistants leaving customers frustrated with their experience. In other instances, robots didn't actually eliminate the need for workers, such as at the check-in desk, where robots designed to look like dinosaurs greeted guests but still needed humans to make copies of passports, for example.
Most consumers are still uncomfortable with robots when they need to communicate with the machines face to face. Instead, robots should be developed for tasks where they work alongside trained employees and are likely to have the most meaningful impact — after all they are not good enough to replace all human work at present.
concierge: n. 看门人，门房
deployment: n. 部署；调度