I travel often for business and have for years. Back in the 1990s, I was part of the first advisory board for Wyndham’s Women on Their Way to address how the hotel company could better address female travelers. Our conversations led to some pioneering steps by hotels to address women’s specific travel needs including the issues around personal safety.
Personally, I love staying in hotels. I love room service, I love having someone else pick up after me, I love the quiet after a day of business meetings and other gatherings where I can sit and think, write, or do nothing at all. Business trips and hotel stays are breaks from my daily routine and often a creative catalyst for me.
Not every hotel experience is created equal. Not every one of my hotel experiences is stellar. I recently stayed at a hotel with my family and a man was able to open our room door in the middle of the night. Luckily, the safety latch was on, and our startled voices scared him away.
When I went to the front desk to tell them about the incident, they listened then said “Oh, that was probably hotel security.” When I protested that it was clearly someone who was drunk and somehow was able to get access into our room, they responded with “OK, well, we’ll let security know.” That was it. Needless to say we won’t be staying with that hotel chain ever again for their dismissive attitude toward security.
What makes a hotel great? Both big things and little things, but to be totally honest, it is often a number of little things that can make a really big difference.
You could easily replace “hotel” with anything that involves customer service and attention to detail, and you’d see that great customer service truly does make a business. You could also remove “for women” and just focus on what makes a hotel or a business great and still hit the mark.
Here are some of my thoughts on what makes a hotel really great – and not just for women:
1. Personal touch is meaningful – I love the hotels that remember I’ve been there before. It doesn’t take rocket science to keep records of guests. A place like Andaz Napa Hyatt (formerly the Avia) welcomes me back because they hold an iPad in their hand as they greet me that correlates my name with previous stays. I like it when a hotel knows the type of room I prefer or gives me a little perk because I’m a return customer.
2. Tiny gestures are huge – I’m immediately impressed when a front desk clerk offers me a bottle of water as I’m registering. Small thing, but so helpful because chances are I’m dehydrated from the road. Or the Marriott front desk clerk who stepped out from behind the front desk to hand me my room bill. That gesture made a huge impression and told me they really cared and paid attention.
3. The extra mile is memorable and shareable – I remember when my co-author Danielle Smith and I stayed at the Affinia Liaison Capitol Hill during a book tour, the guy behind the front desk asked “Red or White?” We opted for red and the next thing we knew, a bottle of red was delivered to our room, compliments of the hotel. We immediately took photos and shared it in our social networks.
Another time at a Marriott in San Diego, I ordered room service for breakfast and the coffee was delivered without cream. I called down to mention it but said I was on my way out the door. They had someone meet me at the elevators and as soon as I stepped out, they handed me a big Starbucks coffee with cream. Wow!
4. Safety is paramount – I am traveling alone. I take steps to be safe. But hotels need to take extra steps to insure the safety of female guests. One hotel I stayed at once provided a portable door alarm that I could choose to set to prevent someone from getting into my room. Well lit halls, phones or buzzers in hallways, secure windows and sliding doors. I appreciate that.
Free wifi, free bottled water in the room. DARK CHOCOLATE. Aromatherapy. Organic bath products. Yes!
And responding to me when I tweet about them. Even after all these years using social media, no matter how often I hear back from any business including hotels when I tweet out a comment, it never fails to be exciting and gratifying.
What’s an example of a business – any business – going out of their way for you, and how did that make you feel?