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The state of tablets for 2015

Now that it’s 2015, tablets are a mature technology product, if they weren’t already. This means there are a lot of competing devices in various sizes available for purchase – even those besides the industry leading iPad and its little nephew, the iPad Mini – and that many consumers have already planned to make such an acquisition. Moreover, true mobile and smartphones already fulfill many of the tasks that the larger tablets are best suited for.

Tablets aren’t as light as mobile devices, making them a tad more cumbersome for transport. Additionally, they aren’t as adept for typing, multi-tab browsing or a host of other functions as the full-fledged computer. So, as the middle child between desktops, laptops and smartphones, where does that leave tablets? Now that the novelty has worn off, what use do tablets have in the hotel space?

In a broad sense, you should look for uses that take advantage of the tablet’s portable nature as well as its large screen size – a size that makes the screen sharable for two or three viewers as opposed to the cell phone screens which are smaller and designed for only one pair of eyeballs. Along these lines, here are some ideas for you to consider:

1. Mobile check-in. This one is pretty obvious, and for good reason. Consumers are increasingly looking to bypass the front desk altogether by checking in via their smartphones. New technologies are also emerging that allow guests to safety use their smartphones as their room keys.

If these pursuits aren’t possible for you at the moment, consider the tablet compromise. Desks can be quite intrusive for developing rapport, so why not have front desk clerks roaming the check-in area with tablets, ready to assist arriving guests? In this capacity, clerks could double as bellboys, signing guests in while simultaneously hauling their bags. Alternatively, how about just setting up tablet kiosks for check-in, no staff members required?

2. The everywhere concierge. Building on the last idea of how tablets can allow for role overlap, you might also consider other such mergers like having your valet or doormen act as pseudo-concierge staff. I’m not suggesting that you abolish the concierge position altogether, but when armed with tablets, the ability for such team members to assist and further satisfy visitors greatly increases.

Here’s a situation for you to consider. It’s a heavy downpour while the doorman stands under the main entrance carport. A couple blunders outside and the husband quickly exclaims an expletive, having not realized that it’s raining. They turn to the doorman, inquiring about the fastest walking route to their prearranged destination. Sure, the staff member could point them on their way with clear verbal directions, but as many of us are visual learners, it would be more effective if the doorman called up a map on his or her tablet for guidance.

Dedicated concierge staffers can also benefit from using a tablet instead of a desktop or laptop. There’s the sharable factor – two people, guest and staff, side by side looking up a request versus those same two conversing over the unintentional barrier of a desk. In this sense, your concierge team won’t need to be chained to a station or area but can respond to guests by meeting them wherever they happen to be. Moreover, such accessories like attachable keyboards (think of the Microsoft Surface) might also help your team members use tablets while also having a bit more of the functionality provided by a computer.

3. In the restaurant. Servers could use tablets to record diners’ food and drink selections, but many always-on-the-move staffers might such devices to be a tad clunky and burdensome when compared to the basic notepad and pen. Similarly, they might be used on the back-end to relay orders through various parts of the kitchen or for inventory management. Lastly, they could be used as menus via dedicated preloaded apps. Yes, patrons are able to view the menu on their own smartphones from your website, but this just doesn’t have the same pizzazz as having all your dining options neatly lined up in a slideshow or turnbook-style app alongside some beautiful high-resolution photography of the food. There’s plenty of rigidity to this idea due to startup costs and the potential for theft, but because very few are currently executing this concept, imagine the impression you’d make on diners by being the early adopter. 

4. In the rooms. You might find this surprising, but this is one area of the hotel experience where I wouldn’t recommend tablets. Many properties have already completed such installations and are using their devices as universal in-room remotes that are able to control the HVAC, lighting, phone, television and room services calls, in addition to all other obligatory functions like access to the web browsers or gaming. However, the clear majority of guests are not only more comfortable using their own devices in the private space, but they also aren’t keen on learning a new operating system during their downtime. My solution when considering tablets, is to provide lots of easy access recharge stations as well as complimentary WiFi.

5. Travel research. It’s important that you think about how consumers are utilizing their tablets at home. While many statistics point to the majority of online bookings still coming from the computer and the smartphone making by far the greatest headway in this area, tablets are increasingly being used for preliminary travel research. Hence, any “brand.com” revisions you do must take this platform into account. Are you simply porting over the existing website? Or, have you incorporated reflexive design elements so that your brand.com is optimized for this class of devices?

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