How Can Humanoid Robots Modernize Your Reception?
Automation today is an important facet of digitalization in businesses. This is not just restricted to office work but can be easily applied to the reception area as well. Receptions in business lobbies range from corporate offices to hotels. Because the brand image is so heavily tied to the first impressions that visitors receive when entering a place of operation, businesses today take receptions into account when implementing automation and digitalization projects. However, when considering digitalization and automation, the way reception is innovated has to be considered. Is a touchpoint kiosk enough? Are there better ways to make the reception a more seamless and frictionless experience? This is why humanoid robots like Pepper can be a very important element to implement in these innovation projects. However, before discussing the many advantages of humanoid robots at reception, let us analyze some of the pain points found in receptions.
What Challenges Are Found in Reception?
From the creation of and all the way until after a meeting, there are a lot of issues and pain points found for the visitor, receptionist, and host. Here are some of the pain points found in a study done by our strategic marketing team:
Starting at the creation of the meeting, there can be a sense of urgency by the host. The host may have to focus on sending the invitations, following up with the future guest, make sure the reception desk is aware of the visit, etc. And the receptionist may find themselves in a position where they might have too much work and manage a meeting room (finding one, reserving it, etc.).
At the arrival, the visitor may find that there may be a long queue if the company is large enough, or if it’s a corporate building with multiple tenants. During registration, there may also be issues where the visitor is not properly identified, and they have to wait to call the host to confirm the meeting. With that said, on the receptionist’s side, there may be an issue trying to find a meeting, as there may have been a miscommunication between reception and the host, the visitor may be frustrated and the receptionist has to deal with it. A lot of places may not even have VMS to help handle registration, and thus may slow down the sign-in process.
During the waiting period, the visitor may find it cumbersome. The host may have either a really busy schedule or a meeting that may have gone on for too long, thus the receptionist may be unable to contact the host. Depending on the business, the receptionist may also be in charge of handling refreshments while the visitor(s) wait, meanwhile have to answer the “Are they ready for me yet?” questions.
Badge management for some places can be an issue as well.
The idea of any visit in general is for the visitor to get in and out as painlessly as possible. Their visit needs to be pleasant all throughout, and in recent studies done by Proxyclick, close to 50% of visitors in the US to corporate lobbies had a bad experience. About 68% of their meetings started late due to reception issues, and about 68% were uncomfortable with the amount of personal data they had to provide. Within that discomfort, they described several factors that were receptionist being unhelpful, not receiving a warm welcome, long queue lines, etc.
Technology as a solution
Automation in the reception area can be a common and smart solution for some of the pain points. Robots like Pepper can be a touchpoint for visitors to easily check-in and make the experience painless. With VMS, as mentioned before, the host can create a meeting that will send an SMS or email to the visitor and receptionist so that there’s no miscommunication. During check-in, the visitor does not need to worry about supplying too much personal information, and just have to bring their notification email or SMS that may contain a scannable code. Scannable codes may help reduce queue lines and the receptionist workload, which can allow the receptionist to focus on other tasks, like badge creation or person to person interaction (warmly greeting visitors, etc).
Using technology to handle meetings and visits can allow for ease of registering a meeting and mixups, like booking the same room by two different groups at the same, can be avoided. Similarly, when the guest checks-in, they can be easily notified of where their place of meeting will take place, and can either be guided by technology or the receptionist. Another interesting aspect of technology at reception is that robots like Pepper are able to warmly greet visitors, as they are social robots. In a study conducted by Opinionway on Pepper at the reception, 80% of the respondents believe that Pepper can offer a better experience than a standalone kiosk can.
Some minor quality of life improvements technology can present in the waiting area, is providing wifi passwords, asking the guest if they would like some water or a cup of coffee, etc. It can be supplied by the receptionist, or the tech itself can indicate where the coffee machine is or even bring it to the customer itself (in the case of robots).
Pepper as a receptionist
Our Pepper robot is a very capable social robot that can be paired with any VMS (Visitor Management System) and aide the receptionist with mundane tasks. Pepper can warmly greet people that arrive at the lobby, whether it’s employees or visitors. He can make the check-in experience a pleasant one, and can automatically detect the visitor and notify the host of their arrival. In hotels, Pepper can offer a more personalized experience, entertainment, and can be for information and services. In the Opinionway study one of the participants, Guillaume, says “This robot acts almost like a personal assistant capable of satisfying a certain number of needs when you go to a hotel.” In the corporate setting, Pepper can act as a mascot of sorts that welcomes visitors and employees during their check-in, and provide useful information about the company. Pepper is created with the intention of increasing the quality of service and to allow staff to focus on more valuable tasks.
Some concerns about robots in the reception area can be about robots like Pepper replacing the receptionist or some of which were around Pepper’s interactivity. Worth mentioning that Pepper is able to interact with multiple people and thanks to his emotional AI, he’s able to empathetically communicate with people. In the same Opinionway study about Pepper, people were also concerned with the retention of data and privacy which is an understandable concern, but Pepper is GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) friendly, and data not stored anywhere. And in regards to whether or not Pepper would replace staff, for the SoftBank Robotics team, Pepper was designed not to replace humans in any environment, but to be an aide. He is meant to help humans like receptionists by making their workload less stressful and to allow them to focus on important tasks, like person to person interactions.
The Sanitary Benefits of Robots
Humanoid robots like Pepper can be an invaluable tool to help in this particular climate we find ourselves in. As mask-wearing and social distancing become a norm in society, technology like robots can help assure people that they will have a safe experience. Offices, hospitals, and many more are moving towards telepresence for work, care, and in some cases reception. Office spaces are becoming cleaner and less occupied by its workers as a measure to reduce risks, and in a lot of cases, there is constant reminder of keeping your distance from others to ensure everyone, both guests and staff are safe.
For example, our robot Pepper has recently been updated with a mask-checking solution that can detect up to 5 people. This can help enforce the mask rules set in place by both businesses and local governments. Also, scanning and touchless check-ins, it can reduce the risk of contact, as a lot of people can come into contact with screens. In our own offices at SoftBank Robotics Europe, we have Pepper robots doing a contactless check-in and reminding us to pick up some new masks, wash our hands with alcohol, and walk over to the receptionist to have our temperatures checked. Prior to this, if we confirm that we will be working on a specific day, Pepper will email us a QR code we can use in order to sign in.
Pepper Greets Guests at Marriott Hotels
Looking for a nice hotel next to Disneyland in Anaheim, California? Our branch in the United States deployed a Pepper at Courtyard by Marriott’s Theme Park Entrance Hotel, which is one of the highest-rated hotels under Marriott’s chain. The hotel was looking to not only improve their stellar reputation but also elevate the brand image in a unique and innovative way. According to Bill Cleaver, the general manager at the hotel, “We wanted a connection. We wanted to have something that could light up the kids’ eyes and the parents’ eyes as well. And Pepper just had that in spades.” Partnering up with SoftBank Robotics America, they found a solution in Pepper. The solutions implemented were a web-based CMS (Content Management System) and even a Hidden Mickey Mouse game. There were also tests to introduce storytelling about the history of Disneyland and other fun activities.
The results went above and beyond the expectations of the hotel, increasing their reviews and stars, increasing guest engagement, brand satisfaction, and propelled the hotel to be in the top 3% among all Courtyard by Marriott Hotels in Guest-Intent-to-Recommend. Pepper experienced 2.5 mins of interaction on average in over 200 daily interactions, and the hotel was able to run numerous promotional campaigns. With this use case, we can see the amazing results Pepper can bring to a brand image and the overall impression of visitors. As a versatile tool, you can adapt it to your needs, as it was for Marriott Hotels.
Pepper works at the “Best” Philips Branch
Our partners in Netherlands, WELBO, have deployed a Pepper at Philips’ new office in Best, Netherlands. They wanted to make this branch their “best” branch and therefore sought to modernize their reception area. Colloquially known as “Philly”, Pepper has been a successful addition to the Phillips team. Philips’s robot delivers services such as floor map guidance, meeting room guidance and even keeping the workplace safe by reminding social distancing guidelines. Both staff and visitors eagerly greet Philly and are very captivated by her. Visitors end up asking about her at reception and enjoy being guided to their respective meeting rooms by the affable robot. Phillips’ staff are excited about the results Philly is producing already and they are looking forward to adding more content in continued collaboration with WELBO.
As we mentioned, innovating the reception area with modern, smart, and responsive solutions is the best way to establish a good brand image from the get-go. The first time impressions your visitors will get is important to get right. From corporate offices setting meetings to hotel lobby check-out, robots like Pepper can really make a difference in elevating the visitor and customer experience. Paired with CMS and VMS applications, you can really create an innovative perspective for your brand and easily tackle some of the pain points discussed earlier, and allow your receptionists to focus on more important tasks and add value to the visitor experience. Like we saw with the Courtyard Marriott use case, Pepper does really raise the bar and create engagement with the hotel’s guests.
Because Pepper can be operated in a contactless form and comes with amazing features like mask checking, it can be a huge bonus to insuring your guests feel secure that measures are being taken to maintain safety in a COVID era. We believe that humanoid robots really add more value to the reception area over touchpoint kiosks. Working in conjunction with a receptionist, having a robot like Pepper in your team can set brands apart and set a really good impression. How about you? Do you believe humanoid robots in reception can enhance the visitor experience as well?
Contact us for more information and insights on how Pepper's reception solution can work for you!