David Kong, CEO of Best Western
"We found that when most people got into their hotel room, they disconnected it, presumably because they didn't want Alexa listening to them in the room."
Quote from David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts, in an article on PhocusWire this week investigating how hotel guests interact with in-room Alexa devices.
Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered on our site that week.
There was nothing particularly surprising in the Best Western boss's admission that hotel guests were a bit turned off by having a friendly voice in their rooms who wasn't a fellow traveling companion.
It could be argued that the last thing tired customers wants to hear when they settle into their room is a sprightly Alexa telling them things that they do not want to hear.
This, as the chain's David Kong explains, was even worse when it happened in the middle of the night.
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An understandable annoyance that may make techies chuckle a little bit but ultimately didn't do much for the so-called "positive guest experience" that hotels are so desperate to achieve.
Complaints came in and the experiment was deemed, in not so many words, a bit of a failure.
Some may well decide to dismiss voice-enabled technology as being a bit odd and, therefore, not a forward-thinking addition to the modern guest room.
Yet there is a touch of the "information superhighway - it'll never catch on"-type reaction here to all this.
Voice technology is in its early stages, championed by tech heads and the curious as a channel through which they can grab information and, crucially in this context, engage brands and their services.
Fledgling products always face either difficulties or hostile receptions, as a combination of naysayers or those at the sharp end of poor initial experiences decide that something is not worth the effort.
For now, Alexa and Google Home are lodged firmly in that period of doubt.
But voice-enabled engagement, for all its quirks and errors, is likely to become the primary channel by which users and brands interact in the future.
It is fairly likely there will be a moment when consumers "get it" at scale and those without a voice strategy are left behind.
So, it's kudos to those that are trying but a word of warning that to rule out something completely, because its formative days are problematic, is a dangerous game ... as many travel brands of old have found to their cost.
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