Domino’s Pizza is now introducing DRU, a robot, uh, “autonomous delivery vehicle” for pizzas in Australia. It has what’s described as a cheeky (perhaps Rosie-like) personality, powered by artificial intelligence, and will, for the time being, be confined to bike paths and bridges, rather than actual roads. And although DRU has what’s described as extensive obstacle avoidance technology, there aren’t any plans to bring DRU yet to the U.S., where Domino’s continues to learn the hard way that pedestrian and opposing-driver lives have value.
These robots that are sproutin’ up all over in hospitality and customer service, such as Connie, Botlr and DRU, are deployments of customer service technology in a way that is very visible to customers– unmissable, in fact. In each case, the technology not only assists the interface with the customer, it is the interface. Certainly there is entertainment value in this. But I think some of the most interesting applications of technology in customer service are to support great service from the background with the human still retaining the essential and emotion-laden interface position.
One of these support positions where technology can aid flawless customer service execution is in supporting an accurate and updatable guest preference tracking system. Such systems don’t have to be complicated. When The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company started building such a system, it did so via manual entry and a goal of noting just five preferences per guest and satisfying three or more of these preferences on every subsequent visit at whatever Ritz-Carlton in the world that guest might travel to next. This allowed Ritz-Carlton to create a hotel company at which, wherever in the world you stayed, you were ensured of a stay that was customized in ways that related to you as a person and to what you had enjoyed on previous stays. Of course, Ritz-Carlton has expanded its system since those days, but it still follows the same principles.