On a recent business trip to Montreal, I stayed at a small, independent hotel where I knew the GM rather well. This hotel wasn’t my first choice, as it was far from where I normally like to stay, but it was the only place where I was able to secure a room for that period.
The check-in was rather impersonal and the front desk clerk had to make a genuine effort to deliver a fake smile. After checking in, I went up to my room and was pleasantly surprised to find a well appointed room that was clean and nicely done. I thought to myself – “Must compliment the General Manager – Philippe (name changed to save my rear from being sued) on a job well done.”
But the thought pattern changed when I lay down to sleep at night. The mattresses were really bad. They weren’t lumpy or anything, but just… bad! I tried every combination (even put my head on the other side of the bed, but couldn’t find one spot that was comfy.
Fast forward to 9:00am and with just about 2 hrs of sleep, I groggily stepped into the lobby to be greeted by Philippe. He escorted me to his office and after the usual small talk, he popped the question. “So how do you like the hotel?” As I wrestled to find the best words to give an honest feedback, I realized that the man sitting opposite me could take it two ways:
- Thank me for the honest feedback and look into it.
- Glare at me as if I just called his kid ugly. People don’t like it if someone calls their kid ugly.
Here’s roughly how the conversation went.
“I love the rooms… great job done there”. I began.
“Thanks” he beamed.
“But have you stayed in one of your rooms lately”
He had a puzzled look on his face. “No, why?”
“The mattresses look like they might be due for retirement”
“Really? They look fine to me”
“Looking is one thing, sleeping on them is another”, I briefly related my experience to him.
“I’ll look into it” came the terse reply.
I know what you’re thinking… How did he react?
Well, I’m happy to report that he did take my advice and stayed in one of the rooms to test the mattress for himself. He called me the next week and thanked me for the feedback. Have they changed the mattresses? I don’t know. And frankly, from the perspective of this post, it doesn’t matter.
As hoteliers, one can learn a lot about the guest experience simply by being the guest at the property. Simply reversing roles allows you to see things that you might take for granted otherwise. Alternatively, ask a friend (with a reputation for brutal honesty) to do it for you. In this case, he might suggest a training session for the front-desk staff as well. Admittedly, small to medium independent hotels have more to gain from this advice compared to established flag properties, but you get the idea.
Sometimes, putting your own feet to the fire can be a good thing.
Host – Hotel Marketing Podcast