Welcome! How May We Gouge You??

It was a rainy morning in Chicago. I had flown in early, taken the train downtown, and gotten pretty well soaked on the walk to the hotel – but, I was here. Ready for a great few days of networking and SOBCon.

I’d booked the conference hotel (Hotel 71) months ago for the duration of SOBCon but needed a place for one night, so I had gone on-line and reserved a room at a relatively nearby place, which will remain unnamed at the moment.

Dripping my way into the lobby at about 10 am local time, I was flabbergasted by the following exchange:

Tom: “We have a room ready for you, Mr Woodruff, but there will be a $35 early check-in fee.”

Me: ???????????????????????

OK, let me get this straight. A room is sitting there ready, I arrive early (terrible sin!) – and now you want to ding me for an extra $35? In 25 years of business travel, I’ve NEVER run into this gouging maneuver (have you? If so, enlighten me – please!)

This, after mentioning that, no, I don’t recall ever staying here before. What a nice welcome for a new guest!

I described this red carpet treatment on Twitter and apparently others agree with me.

I’ll try to communicate my displeasure privately and see where that goes, which is why I’m not mentioning the property by name at this point. But if you’re in the hospitality business, take away this lesson – when your first encounter with the customer is a grab deeper into their pocket – for no good reason – you’re really not likely to build repeat business.

Not. Likely. At. All.

ADDED BONUS: no e-mail address, no electronic message capability on website, and no Twitter! Free Wi-Fi, though….

UPDATE: I confirmed with a second desk person that this is indeed a policy of the small chain (though I think it is presented as a reserved red-eye early check-in on some document I see in the room here – I was a walk-up). That person gave me the name and e-mail address of the Customer Service Manager, whom I e-mailed, and who kindly got right back to me with an offer to waive the charge. That was (in my opinion) the right thing to do – and I respect the two desk personnel who actually did what they had to do – enforce policy (even if it was uncomfortable).

I will continue to leave the name of the hotel unmentioned and simply suggest that they forward this post up the chain of command so that an internal decision can be made about the wisdom of said policy.

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Greetings…done right

Today, I am at a Hyatt hotel in Chicago, which (apparently) has had a major renovation recently. I guess that must have meant big-time improvements, but one very simple thing has impressed me more than anything.

When I arrived to check in, instead of a monolithic counter behind which employees are half-hidden and walled-off from customers, this hotel has little individual counters, and those responsible for check in stand in front. They come out to greet you, find out what you need, and only then go behind the (warmly-decorated) counters to look up the room reservation, etc.

This one little change in the user experience was delightful. I saw something similar at a Westin recently. These hotels latched on to something – a warm personal experience for a FIRST IMPRESSION can outweigh all the other aspects that perhaps cost far more.

How does this relate to your receptionist? Your website or blog? Your business card? The greeters at your house of worship (which reminds me…I’m up this Sunday!)? Think about the first interaction people have with you, or your organization. Are you hiding behind a wall? Or out front with your guests?

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