Some Hotel Somewhere, 2012
Back when he was riding the crest of the In Search of Excellence popularity wave, author and management consultant Tom Peters came to Norfolk, Virginia, to give a speech. I remember very little about the speech. But I do remember the story he told at the beginning.
It seems that Mr. Peters doesn’t like to have to entertain or be entertained by the local burghers when he goes someplace to give a speech. Accordingly, when he came to Norfolk he arrived the night before his presentation and went straight to his hotel.
Upon entering his room, Peters found a giant fruit basket and personal note from the hotel manager. He appreciated the gesture, especially the thoughtful handwritten note.
As he contemplated the fruit basket, Peter’s eye was drawn to a large and luscious looking strawberry atop the mound of fruit. But when he reached to grab the strawberry he found that the half of the berry that wasn’t visible from the outside was mushy and covered with mold. As you might imagine, that sight deflated any interest Peters might have had in digging deeper into the pile. And like many of us who look for experiences to pull into our presentations, Peters used this experience as a lesson in how a good idea can turn into a bad customer experience all because of a small detail not being executed carefully.
I’m not a celebrity, so I don’t expect hotels to shower me with ambrosia. I used to be impressed that the desk clerks at Doubletree hotels gave me freshly baked cookies at check-in. But then I learned that they do this for everyone.
I like to think that I don’t expect too much from hotels. But last week’s travel reminded me very quickly that I’m pickier than I thought. To wit:
· Why is that hotels can’t seem to find radios that have controls that are intuitive, that work well for FM stations and that have decent fidelity?
· Why is it that the “hotel that loves business travelers” doesn’t have a desk big enough to actually work on?
· Why is that so many hotels that cater to business travelers can’t seem to come up with desk chairs that don’t make it necessary for me to stack up three bed pillows to reach desk height?
· Why do hotels that cater to value travelers offer free wireless internet service and hotels that cost many hundreds of dollars more a night charge you an extra $14 for the same service?
· Do you suppose the people who specify and purchase those little courtesy shampoo bottles with round screw-off tops have ever tried to open one when their hands were wet or soapy?
I don’t travel every week. But I do travel frequently enough to be a minor connoisseur of hotel design, wayfinding and ergonomics. Let me suggest that the people who design hotels should be made to go spend a few nights in one of their hotels. If they did we travelers might have a much better time. And while they’re thinking about that, maybe they could do something about the radios.