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The Dawn of the Robot Revolution

Robots are coming to the hotel business. Here’s how one can make your business more profitable and cooler to your guests.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015
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The hotel industry is going robotic. But not in a scary Skynet Terminator style way, thankfully. No, this fleet of robots is helping hoteliers save money and boost customer service all while adding a fun way for guests to interact with an intriguing piece of technology.

Created by Savioke, Relay recently appeared at HI Connect® where this friendly and easy to program robot excited and delighted conference attendees about the future potential for robotics in hospitality. One of the things we’ve been hammering home lately here at Hotel Interactive® is how critical it is for hotel operators to find ways to use technology in ways that shift the customer-employee relationship from transactional to experiential.

And this little robot, that stands as tall as your typical Star Wars R2 unit, is a great way to free up employees from mundane and time consuming tasks such as delivering a toothbrush to a guestroom. This way hotel staff can focus on wowing hotel guests with enriched customer service.

“This robot is something interesting that helps attract millennials, and others too. But Relay also allows the hotel’s staff to focus on higher level tasks like interacting with guests. Let the robot do the boring work of riding elevators and walking down halls and let humans provide better service,” said Savioke CEO Steve Cousins.

Relay has been in operation in two aloft Hotels, one of which has been in working under the name The Butler at the Cupertino, CA location. Not surprising since that’s the center of the technology innovation business and home to Apple headquarters. A third hotel has signed up for a product test as well.

At the Cupertino location, the robot has made more than 1,500 successful trips in its first six months of operation, saving myriad staff hours. According to Cousins, The Butler is only about 10 pounds and runs for hours at a time. When not in use it automatically goes back to a charging station to refresh its batteries.

And Relay is poised to make a big splash in the industry very soon.

“We are moving gently with field adoption and looking to be able to produce them in scale. We expect to do about 50 in field this year and ramp up production for 2016,” said Cousins. “And the best part is owners can get a quick ROI since they don’t have to worry about paying health benefits or overtime. As the cost of labor goes up, hotels must look at technologies to keep people more efficient and keep service levels up.”

Cousins said it takes just 15 seconds to load the robot with a room delivery and then it goes off on its own, eliminating a task that could take paid personnel 10 to 20 minutes. When it arrives at the room the guest is signaled. And get this; when the guest opens his or her room door, only then does the robot open its storage compartment so the guest can remove the item.

“If an hotelier is in a market with tight competition, they can immediately raise service levels to edge out the competition.”

The robot is preprogrammed with the entire hotel’s floor plan so it knows exactly where to go and can also sense people or items that are blocking its path to avoid any collisions.

Cousins sees this as the ultimate hotel amenity. “Some guests will choose to go to a specific hotels because it has a robot versus one that doesn’t,” he said. “But cost savings is the primary reason to invest in this technology and the second is a potential increase in revenues.

Cousins added this is especially good for overnight deliveries when staffing levels are low and the front desk person would have to leave the lobby. Now all the employee has to do is load up requested items from the adjacent grab and go market and send the robot on its way.”
“It doesn’t take many deliveries per day of a $10 in snacks for the robot to pay for itself,” said Cousins.
Now word yet on the introduction of Bocce speaking protocol droids.
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