“Remain connected to [the] experience. Be a generous host.”
These are wise words that apply to just about every business circumstance, driver, and mission statement. If they don’t, they need to.
When’s the last time you put on a pair of Customer Shoes? Walking in the shoes of your customer is critical before opening a business as well as regularly during the life of the operation. Literally walk through the spaces, calling the phone numbers, navigating the website and online tools, and visiting and experiencing the facility with customer eyes and sense.
- Does it all flow easily for them?
- Does it cover common questions that will arise?
- Does it match the brand name and image?
- Does everything make sense?
- What can be improved, streamlined, and better?
These are really straightforward and fruitful exercises to conduct when you’re honest with yourself and can be constructively self critical towards improvement.
Too many establishments of all shapes, kinds and sizes neglect this element of doing business: The Customer Perspective. A recent hotel stay brought this to the surface for me. I’m truly curious how many hospitality lodging businesses book themselves a room, go through the entire process of staying, paying and being in the facilities they try to sell to others.
Here are just a few things I encountered at a recent hotel stay:
- The bed was a Sleep Number bed, with a broken mechanism. So the mattress was semi-inflated, differently on both sides (queen bed) so it felt like I was rolling around on a squishy water-bed, with a noticeable trough in the middle. It made for poor sleeping.
- The room temperature regular system was confusing at best. With a wall unit and its own operating panel plus a wall thermostat 15 feet away with no indication they were connected or how to coordinate and regulate, it was frustrating and cold (!).
- No recycling. Anywhere on premise. In this day and age, this is unforgivable.
- The curtains didn’t fully close to block light for sleeping and to ensure outside privacy, they weren’t designed to either. Indeed, the hotel had a trades person suspended from the top of the building doing some sort of work right outside my room at one point with an easy view inside.
- The bathroom door was awkward at best, opening in to block access to the shower tub, which meant in an otherwise nicely appointed bathroom, you had to shimmy around the door, half closing it to navigate to get in and out. Why don’t more hotels utilize the brilliant idea of pocket doors?
- The in-hotel restaurant needs special attention. “Only One?” – what kind of greet is that?! Do hosts/servers greet “Only 5?” The size of a party should be acknowledged with open arms, never “only” or “just.” For the solo traveler it’s especially irritating.
- The restaurant was silent but for the regular voice level gossip of the staff. Some soft music would be in order to make it feel more welcoming.
- The oatmeal was soggy and the plate on which the bowl was perched rose ever so slightly in the middle. So when I poured in a bit of milk, it was lopsided and very close to overflowing.
- The “seasonal fresh fruit”….I didn’t realize melons were early summer seasonal fruits. Because they’re not. Nor was the watermelon or anemic honeydew. This is just plain lazy. A small-sized “cup” of this seasonal fruit was $2.75, which was also totally overpriced. Don’t hold hotel guests captive if they choose to eat in-house.
- Last was the exposed outlet under the desk in the room. Not only unprofessional and unsightly, also potentially dangerous.
What did I like about my stay? It was literally blocks from where I needed to go to and fro, the bellhop was helpful, pleasant and friendly; they offered complementary newspapers and airport shuttle; complementary wi-fi (which every hotel should offer and build into their rates); the room was clean and otherwise comfortable.
If the staff, from bellhop to the president of the establishment, walked through the process from booking to checking out they’d develop a much greater property and therefore business. It’s a crying shame really and completely avoidable.
Will I stay there again? That’s a toughy, though most likely not. When the time comes, I’ll remind myself of these facets of the place and see what else is available.
Get a pair of shoes. Customer Shoes. Try them on and walk through your business with them. See what you notice and make positive changes. If you need help and find this exercise tricky, then hire a mystery shopper or customer service pro who will give you an audit.
Every business and organization that wants to stay alive and thrive should be doing this, at least once a year, better 2 – 3 times, with various people chiming in.
Now get out and go for a walk.