What is the most famous hotel in the world, The Beverly Hills Hilton, Savoy, Burj Al Arab, Raffles…?
The list would be long, the discussion even longer.
However, if I was to ask what is the most famous small hotel in the world, the answer would be Fawlty Towers!
I’ve no evidence for that sweeping statement, but it’s definitely the only small hotel that exists in over 100 countries – albeit on screen. I reckon it can also claim a reputation that reaches beyond many larger hotels, largely due to appalling service standards and sustained belittling of guests!
Doubtless your standards are excellent, but are you doing as much as you could and how might design help?
There is relatively new strand of design called Service Design, which, as it says on the tin, is a design process aimed at improving your service.
Generally assumed to be made up of three parts – Props, People and Processes – service design will identify the journey your customers go on and analyse how that could be improved.
Service design is growing too, unsurprisingly perhaps when you consider that it is no longer enough to have a good product, the service that delivers it needs to be just as good too, if not better. This is especially true as consumers move from buying ‘stuff’ to buying ‘experiences’.
The days of ‘giving customers what they want’ have moved on, the days of ‘giving people experiences they remember’ have arrived. Think of Virgin Atlantic, no longer are you a passenger, you are now our guest on board. So, why don’t you run a slide rule over your own experience – put on your guest’s shoes on and check in to your own hotel!
Start with the buying journey. Imagine you want to stay in your local area, with a budget similar (or less) than you charge. Search for yourself without your name – “luxury hotel in Torquay” for example – how far up the Google page did you find yourself, what were your ratings, interrogate your website, is the booking process easy… would you chose you?
Better still ask others to do the same, but in their case actually get them to book and turn up – mystery guests.
It will cost you a free weekend away and possibly dinner too, but that’s a lot cheaper than paying for a creative agency to do the same thing for you.
Chose people you know who go away regularly and who will be openly critical of what you give them… this is a run round a test track, not an affirmation exercise in what’s working well. Crucially, don’t tell your staff or colleagues who these guests are!
Structure the response you want from the guests carefully, what is it you really want to find out? Clear stages in the journey such as booking, communication, check-in and room are important, but also ask the mystery guests to channel their comments under props, people and process… where for example the room service tray is the Prop, the People are those taking the order, delivering and removing the tray, and the Process is the fluidity of the whole interaction (including the bill on check-out).
Importantly, ask your guests for ideas.
These should be impromptu moments as they happen – a quick thought they have, jot it down, however silly it may seem at that point in time.
Imagine too, if you ran three separate and different sets of people through this same process over three different weekends, then brought them back together to discuss and share their experiences amongst each other – you could have an incredibly rich seam of knowledge and ideas.
That’s the starting point, in the February issue I’ll sketch out a larger article on how to refine this exercise and how to put it to good use!
Meanwhile, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!