The little things that WOW (or un-WOW)

Photographer: Kevin Dooley
Photographer: Kevin Dooley
Staying at the Sheraton hotel in Downtown Atlanta this week. A few months back I was at a DoubleTree hotel in Cleveland, which is part of the Hilton family. Very different experiences.

At the Hilton, wifi was free and fast. At Sheraton it's $9.95 per day and slow as a dog.

At the Hilton, there were two fresh bottles of water in the room each day. At the Sheraton, they charge for water.

At the Hilton, receiving packages was free and they'd bring them to your room. At the Sheraton they charge $5 and I have to pick and carry them up myself.

Really, how much does it cost them to buy the bottles of water and give them to me? Not all will be used, so it's not even a cost of 2 bottles per guest per night, it's less than that.

How much does it cost to run the wifi service and just provide it for free?

How much does it cost them to operate the mail room?

I couldn't care less if I were to pay $10 more per night for the room. It's the poor experience of everything costing extra and having to bring up price at each step that pisses me off. And the inconvenience of having to bother with it at all.

Yes, I know that a dollar here and a dollar there adds up. There's an old story about American Airlines saving $40K/year by removing one olive from each salad in first class. (And look at how well AA is doing today.) And that they probably make a fair amount of cash on wifi and packages.

But in this world, wow'ing and surpassing expectations is so much more important for building a relationship and building loyalty than squeezing costs and maximizing each transaction at each point.

Another example: On the receipts from the restaurant, there's a 1-10 scale and they ask you "How are we doing? Please rate us!"

That's not helpful to the customer. I'm not going to write down "3" even though that's how I feel. And "3" wouldn't tell them anything about what's wrong. Was the silverware dirty? Was the waiter obnoxious? Was the food bad? What was it? They can't tell. So it comes across as insincere and disrepectful of me and my time and attention.

See if you can spot the button for the messages
See if you can spot the button for the messages
Like the phone message. When you get to your room, the phone flashes, because there's a voice message. Except most people can't find the stupid button to listen to the message (I asked at the front desk, they told me that) - of course the flashing button-like thing is NOT a button. The real button is hidden somewhere else entirely.

When you finally figure it out and have navigated the voice mail menu (like we all love those!), you get a completely standard message from the manager saying he'd really like you to fill in the feedback card on the desk. IT'S ON THE DESK! It's not necessary to steal 90 seconds of your customer's time to tell them that. It's right there!

But the most spiteful part of it is that they took 90 seconds of their customer's time and attention and delivered absolutely ZERO value to the customer. It was entirely self-serving on Sheraton's part. THEY want my feedback. THEY want me to pay attention to THEM and do THEM a favor. That's not good customer service.

That said, I know it takes courage. It takes real courage to do the right thing and trust that it's going to come back to you. I know, because I don't always do the right thing myself. It's easy to get seduced by the "oh, but that's the way things are, that's the way it's done, we have to do it this way, or we'll lose money, I'm afraid that if I act nice to people and give lots of stuff away, my kids are going to starve". That DOES take serious cojones.

But cojones makes for great businesses and great lives.

Your pick.



Great blog post. Interesting, I have the same feeling with the Hilton and Sheraton, visited Asuncion, Paraguay and share your thoughts. (you might mean cojones with o , as in Madelaine Albright "This is not cojones [...]", ie, balls)
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Lars Pind

Hi Luis Thanks for the feedback and for catching the spelling error. I've fixed it now. Will promise never to make that mistake again ;) //Lars
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