The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) posted a story earlier in the year titled, “What $1000 a Night Gets You.” This piece highlights how clients with sufficient means are willing to pay for intimate and exclusive service at boutique hotels. Keep in mind $1,000 is the cost for a basic room in this new breed of lodging. That price doesn’t include the myriad of extra fees and charges that is sure to accompany this type of hotel experience.
Sure the high prices are shocking to most (including us) but the ratio of high prices and small-scale allow these hotels to deliver an exquisite level of service. And believe me, there is a market of people with the funds and desire to pursue these hotels.
On a recent PROTOCOL business trip I stayed at a decidedly less expensive “working class” hotel and was roused by my 7:00 am wake up call. A cheerful woman’s voice informed me that breakfast is in the lobby, reminded me that there’s is a complimentary newspaper by my door and asked me if I needed a weather report. But wait a minute! What’s this? This is a real person talking to me, not the recording I’ve become accustomed to in other similar hotels. That alone was enough to wake me from my road warrior stupor.
The ultra expensive boutique hotel goes considerably further to wow its clients with service. The WSJ article tells tales of offering a personal concierge to perform your bidding and loaner Mercedes. But the article in the WSJ about crazy expensive luxury hotels and my recent wake up call at the working class hotel got me thinking about how the key element of exceptional service is the same at both facilities: A Personal Touch
It’s that Black Door with all the Graffiti on it
Why do we respond positively to personalized service? I believe the answer is deceptively simple, we appreciate being recognized for our individuality. This point brings to mind an experience I had while traveling in Italy. I walked the charming streets, surrounded by all the old world atmosphere that is Europe. At one point I sauntered down a residential alley lined with well-appointed houses built from stone and highlighted by imposing front black doors. All the doors were the same sturdy oak painted with a shiny black lacquer, save for one.
This standout door was long overdue for a paint job. Over years of neglect, many passersby took the opportunity to carve into the fading paint. It’s on this canvas that the bold made their mark, lovers declared their passion and adversaries staked their claim. No doubt the other, well-kept houses on the street were better furnished, but it was this door that made a statement that spurned me into contemplation. And I would give anything to see what was behind it. I spent some time just staring at that door, thinking about the stories it would tell if it could speak. I couldn’t keep myself from taking a picture before I wandered off and now we use that picture as a back drop to our blog page.
Give me a Service Modality, Vasily. One Service Modality only, please.
We believe it’s important for business to define their service modality. That is to say, how do you service your clients? Once marked, you’ll do well to stick to the plan. Those businesses that fail at this step run the risk of trying to be all things to all people. And for anyone who has ever tried this, you’ve learned it’s impossible.
The very same WSJ article we’ve discussed here provides us with a good example of a business stepping outside of its service modality. One hotel underwent a umpty squat million dollar renovation, so to increase bookings, they tried offering reservations online. This did not work well. New clients who booked online complained about the extra fees the hotel charges in addition to the room. While at the same time loyal clients were annoyed with the reduction of availability and the inclusion of “bargain shoppers.” In short the hotel’s established clients asked the management, “Why do you want to open the doors to anybody?”
The hotel responded brilliantly, one can still request a reservation on-line, but it’s not confirmed until a representative from the hotel calls to speak with the guest. Again there’s that ever important personal touch. And while this example may smack of elitism, a $1,000 per night hotel is the last place you’d want to be if you’re concerned about the substantial extra charges that are sure to be on the final bill. It’s akin to ordering lobster at market price, if you gotta ask, go for the chicken.
Ever watch an interviewer? The majority are so focused on the next question they’re missing the potential right in front of them and forgetting a very basic tenet: Engagement. Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more we know our customers, the better we become at anticipating their needs. Regular communication is key to correctly servicing our clients. Engagement helps us to act differently than everyone else. This engagement works both ways as customer feedback is vital to success. Ultimately the end result of this customer interaction is loyalty. And loyal customers make business great.
Tina & GUY, Partners
PROTOCOL wine studio