I was first exposed to the wit and wisdom of Tom Peters on 9th December 1994 (I know that because I just found the signed copy of his book The Pursuit of WOW! which I purchased that day). In a full day seminar, he treated a business audience to a blistering assault on companies and organisations that are incapable of getting customer service right. He was funny, incisive and lethal in his delivery, and everyone in the conference hall cringed at his wonderful and startling anecdotes of crazy customer service – particularly in hotels.
Yet today, many hotels still can’t get it right. Goodness knows we all try our best at customer service and don't always succeed. But hotels have a business model that you'd think they would have got right by now, but all too often their attempts at great customer service simply don’t feel ‘natural’, and so often seems artificial and forced.
I just returned from speaking in India at a conference on Social Media in Travel, and at the hotels I stayed in, each made me feel incredibly welcome, with tiny touches that made their customer service stand out from the crowd. What’s more they did it naturally and effortlessly.
Hotels that make you pay for WiFi for example – have you any idea just how much you annoy travellers?
You don’t really get it do you. Yes it’s an easy way to make money off travellers, tourists and business people, but have you stopped to think how frustrating it is for your customers?
What you don’t seem to understand is that we would rather spend more money on coffee and drinks in your lobby than pay for WiFi. What’s more, if your WiFi was free we’ll invariably come back on several other occasions and spend yet more on refreshments.
Just as people buying houses will now often decide not to make a purchase simply because the Internet speed isn’t fast enough, travellers and business people will increasingly avoid hotels that don’t provide free WiFi.
WiFi in hotels should now be available as freely as water comes out of the tap. You should provide WiFi just as you provide soap, shampoo, shower caps and chocolates on the pillow. Build the cost of the WiFi into the price of the rooms if you have to, but don’t make the process of getting online hard for us. I know of so many people now who won’t log onto your WiFi, simply on principle because you make them pay for it. A friend of mine recently said to me “Hotels that make you pay for WiFi so don’t get it. They are completely out of touch.”
I like to walk into a hotel, turn on my laptop or mobile device and there it is. No fuss, no complicated sign up, no capturing my email address, no special offers, no maximum period (and who came up with the 45 minutes maximum idea?) and no payment.
We are living in a connected world now; travellers expect to be able to connect – please stop making it hard for us to do so. And you never know, the more you help us to get online quickly and easily, the more likely it is that we'll post photos, blogs and positive tweets about you…
By Philip Calvert