Hotel Problems & The Lessons To Learn

I have just returned from a family trip to Baltimore. We’ve enjoyed the city, and the concert we’ve attended on the Saturday night. We have also for the most part enjoyed the hotel at which we’ve stayed (at least my wife and my daughter have), but there were 3 things that I believe were unacceptable in the hotel service that we have received. I am normally not the one to complain, and neither is this something I want to pursue in my today’s blog post. I will not mention the name of the hotel, as the purpose of this post is not to bring a brand down. What I want to do now is to learn from the mistakes of others.

First of all, there was a clear breakdown of the internal communication channel or a lack of staff training (or maybe even both). Upon our arrival, the hotel’s doorman explained where I may park my car, and how I should take my parking ticket to the hotel’s registration desk to get it validated for free parking. Next day I’ve learned that I was “mislead” by that hotel’s worker, and parking is, in fact, not free (but $24 per 24 hours), and what the validation of the parking ticket really does is puts the parking charge on my hotel bill. The second thing that lead me to the conclusion about the communication channel’s breakdown or lack of training was the hotel’s operator informing me on Saturday night that buffet breakfast is served from 6 am till 10 am, and when we arrived at the restaurant on Sunday morning, we’ve learned that on weekends they are serving breakfasts until 1 pm. What a mindful thing of them to do, and what a bad way for them to market it.

Secondly (a minor thing to some, but still), a breaking of an explicit promise took place. The hotel’s room has a coffee/tea-making machine with a sign saying something along the lines of “Treat yourself to a delicious tea”. The word “tea” was actually used, but no tea was supplied (just regular coffee, and decaffeinated one). It may not be a big deal to some, but my little Princess loves hot tea, and she was upset about not being able to have her tea before going to bed (because I did read that sign to her when we just walked into the room). We didn’t have the time to get into the discussions with the hotel’s personnel on how we are supposed to treat ourselves to tea when there’s no tea provided; so, she went to bed without it.

Finally (and this, in my opinion, is a major one), there was a breaking of an implicit promise too. The roll-away bed that they brought up into the room for my five-year-old Princess was of an extremely low quality (terrible air springs and mattress support), with the mattress covered with a squeaky plastic protector. My daughter refused to sleep on it, and I have gone down to the reception to ask if there are any other types of roll-away beds they can offer. I was told, that this was the only type they had (mind you, in the morning, I have seen a different type rolled out of one of the other rooms on our floor, but that goes back to the communication channel breakdown paragraph). So, I took her place, and in the morning woke up with my whole body aching after a bad-bad sleep. If I understand things correctly, one of the main things that the hospitality service must provide by definition is a quiet and comfortable sleep. If the hotel doesn’t care to do that — it fails.

A couple of years ago I read an article about the success of the Four Seasons hotels. One thing that made them stand out, in comparison to most other hotels, was a belief that guests should have everything they can think of without having to ask for it, while other hotels operated more on an “ask and you shall receive” principle. I think there is a lot I, as a marketer and manager, can learn from Four Seasons and the experience I’ve had today. I hope it give you some food for thought too.

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