Customer Experience AI Failure - Hotel Henn-na

Is 100% customer experience automation really convenient?

Sangsun Moon
Customer Experience AI Failure - Hotel Henn-na

In 2018, a hotel in Japan called the Henn-na Hotel made headlines as the world's first hotel staffed by robots. The hotel used advanced artificial intelligence(AI) and robotics technology to deliver a seamless, high-tech customer experience and service. But just two years after its grand opening, the hotel ran into serious problems and eventually closed its doors. Why is the Henn-na Hotel being called an AI failure story?



The dreams of full customer experience automation


The Henn-na Hotel, which translates to "strange hotel" in Japanese, was a highly anticipated project from the start. The hotel was designed to be fully automated, with a staff made up of robots and AI systems. The goal was to provide a unique customer experience by offering a futuristic environment with advanced features that would appeal to tech-savvy travelers.

The hotel features include

  • Facial recognition technology for check-in and room access
  • Robots to act as receptionists and housekeepers
  • In-room tablets that allow guests to control lighting and room temperature
  • A dinosaur robot to greet guests in the lobby


Despite the hotel's high-tech features, the rates are affordable, making the Henn-na Hotel an attractive option for budget-conscious travelers. The unique concept of the futuristic hotel has garnered a lot of attention from media and travelers around the world.


AI 실패한 헨나 호텔
A'weird' hotel with an AI as a hotelier


Henn-na Hotel's high-tech guest experience

Henn-na Hotel was an instant hit when it opened in 2018. Its unique concept and futuristic features as an AI hotel made it a popular destination, especially for travelers interested in technology. The hotel's customer experience automation services were highly praised by guests, and media coverage was overwhelmingly positive.


The early success of the Henn-na Hotel can be attributed to several factors, including

  • Novelty: The idea of a hotel staffed by robots was interesting and novel, attracting the attention of both media and travelers.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Henn-na hotels are relatively inexpensive, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious travelers.
  • Convenience: The hotel's high-tech features, such as facial recognition technology and in-room tablets, made the guest experience convenient and seamless.
  • High-tech appeal: The hotel's futuristic features appealed to tech-savvy travelers interested in experiencing the latest technology.



Henn-na Hotel fails to automate customer experience


Despite the initial success of the Henn-na Hotel, the hotel soon faced serious problems. Many of the problems were related to the hotel's reliance on AI and robotic technology. Here are some of the issues the hotel faced.


Causes of AI failure ① Technical issues


One of the biggest problems Henn-na Hotel faced was technical issues with its robots and AI systems. The hotel's robots were programmed to handle specific tasks such as check-in and room cleaning. However, the robots often malfunctioned, causing delays and frustrated guests.

At the Henn-na Hotel, the system was supposed to recognize guests' faces to allowthem to enter the room, but there were incidents where the technology failed torecognize guests' faces and opened the door to the wrong guest. Furthermore,there were reports of robots in the rooms not functioning properly and standingin the hallways.

Moreover, the in-room tablets often malfunctioned, and the robotic room cleaners were as inefficient as their human counterparts. The reputation of Henn-na Hotel was completely destroyed as guests complained about the inconvenience, which was not at all in line with the company's catchphrase of providing high-tech customer experience services.


Causes of AI failure ② Inefficient operations


Henn-na's reliance on technology made operations inefficient in some cases. For example, the robots used to clean rooms were not as efficient as human staff, and guests had to wait longer than usual for their rooms to be cleaned.

Also, the hotel's facial recognition technology for check-in and room access didn't work as expected, causing delays and guest frustration. The hotel's inefficient operations further tarnished its reputation and made it difficult to attract and retain guests. In other words, the customer experience automation service made customers unhappy.


Causes of AI failure ③ Lack of Human Interaction


Another problem Henn-na faced was the lack of human interaction. Although Henn na'scustomer experience service was fully automated, guests often found itimpersonal and uncomfortable. The robots were unable to provide the same levelof warmth and hospitality that a human employee could provide. Here are some ofthe issues related to the lack of human interaction.

First, the robots couldn't handle complex requests from guests - they weren't even up to par with the likes of Bixby or Google Assistant, which are built into smartphones - and their voice recognition wasn't up to the task, even with as light dialect. What's more, the robot recognized household noises as commands and disturbed guests' sleep.


The hotel's after-sales service for guests who had problems with the robot or needed help beyond its capabilities was also lacking. They were so confident that the robot would solve all their problems that they didn't even have the means to contact the front desk.

The lack of human interaction made some guests uncomfortable with the automation of the customer experience, leading them to call the robots in the hotel"scrap metal." Some guests even missed the warmth and hospitality that human staff could provide.


AI를 통한 고객경험 자동화에 실패한 헨나 호텔
AI failures show the limitations and challenges of AI services

Maintaining the hotel's state-of-the-art technology, including robots and AI systems, was one of the most important challenges for Henn-na. However, robots require constant maintenance and upgrades, which is time-consuming and expensive. This is time-consuming and costly. In addition, the hotel's reliance on technology means it is vulnerable to cyberattacks and other technical issues.

Henn-na Hotels started with low rates and a high-tech concept, but they couldn't afford the astronomical maintenance costs to keep up with rapidly evolving technology. It was a downhill slide for Henn-na Hotels as they were criticized for failing to automate their customer experience.



Limitations and challenges of customer experience automation


The Henn-na Hotel's experience offers some valuable lessons for businesses considering adopting AI and robotics technologies. Among the many stories of AI failure, it also offers some unique promise.


Prioritize reliability and maintenance


When adopting advanced technologies like AI and robotics, it's important to prioritize reliability and maintenance. Henn-na's experience highlights the importance of ensuring that your technology is reliable and that you have a plan to maintain and upgrade it. Without proper maintenance and upgrades, technology can quickly become outdated and inefficient, leading to technical issues and increased costs.


Consider costs and benefits


Before adopting advanced technology, it's essential to carefully consider the costs and benefits. Advanced technologies can improve efficiency and reduce costs, but they can also be expensive to implement and maintain. It's important to carefully weigh the costs and benefits and consider the impact on the customer experience. Many AI failures can be traced back to a failure to listen to these possibilities.


Listen to guest feedback


Guest feedback is essential for businesses to improve their operations and provide abetter guest experience. The experience of Henn-na Hotels emphasizes the importance of listening to customer feedback and making changes accordingly. Guest feedback can provide valuable insights into areas that need improvement, such as a lack of human interaction or technical issues.


Balance with human interaction


Customer experience automation can improve efficiency and reduce costs, but it's important to balance automation with human interaction. Robots and AI system scan handle certain tasks, but they can't provide the same level of warmth and hospitality that human employees can. It's important to find the right balance between automation and human interaction to deliver seamless high-tech customer experience services.


AI를 통한 고객경험 자동화에 실패한 헨나 호텔
We can learn from AI failures to predict how AI and humans can coexist.


Why you need humanity for a better customer experience process


AtDataHunt, we dream of automating every task with AI, but we don't want to lose our "humanity" in the process. That's why, even in the midst of all the structured customer experience processes, there are still tasks that need to be done by human workers. AI systems can be better than humans at some simple tasks, but they can only be perfected with the addition of human interaction.

This is where the human-in-the-loop approach comes in, where we don't rely solely onAI's judgment to clean the data, but always include a human touch. This approach has helped DataHunt achieve up to 99%+ data relevance and completeness.


The Henn-na Hotel case illustrates what organizations should keep in mind when adopting AI technology in the future. They should first find the right balance between customer experience automation and human interaction, and prioritize reliability and maintenance.

They should also carefully consider the costs and benefits, and listen to guest feedback. By doing so, companies can successfully adopt advanced technology and seamlessly deliver the "warm and fuzzy" - the human touch - between high-tech customer experiences.


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