Nov 17, 2007

Delivering what the customer wants, at the right time, for the right price

Kevin Meyer reflected on his experience at the Chicago Hilton at the recent AME conference there. He said:

Being a customer of the hotel, one gets the chance to see the rubber-hitting-the-road outcomes (if you look) such as how all services are provided. While they were impeccably delivered everywhere, what I found most impressive was cheerful, honestly helpful, self-confident people who made direct eye contact with you as they expressed a cheerful Good Morning or other acknowledgement. And they did it 24 hours a day – and it came from people at all stations in this complex. All you had to do is appear as though you were unsure and they were upon you to provide help.

My comment turned out to be pretty long, so I decided to appropriate it for "Lean Reflections."

During the AME conference in Chicago, my husband and I stayed at the Best Western, three blocks south on Michigan Ave. At $140 per night, we had similar customer service. When I realized the week before that my reservation was a day short, I called the hotel and Carissa was able to retrieve the reservation I had made online. Naturally that meant that she couldn't change it, but she went ahead and added a reservation, guaranteed I wouldn't have to change rooms, and honored the original price I'd gotten even though she was adding a Friday night.

Kevin found this guide for Hilton's staff. I think the Best Western folks lived up to it too:



When I arrived, Carissa was at the desk and remembered talking to me on the phone. There was no fancy entrance or doorman, but it was easy to grab a bellcart and take it the short distance to our car and bring it in. We were offered assistance, but like doing things ourselves. Carissa explained the parking situation (expensive, but normal in Chicago at $25 per day - how much was the Hilton?) and was perfectly happy that we had left the car with lights flashing on 11th St. where the entrance to the hotel was located. We could get the car whenever we needed it by calling the desk.

Actually when I arrived, I had to wait a few minutes to check in, bacause Carissa was giving careful instructions about taking the bus to two other guests who wanted to get to North Mich Ave.

The carpet wasn't as nice, but the room was pretty good for the price. I've paid more in Chicago for less. The towels weren't as fluffy, but we had plenty of them. The linens were higher quality than in most places.

When I had trouble accessing the wireless network, the guy at the desk talked me through a couple of troubleshooting attempts. When they didn't work, he had someone at our door with a cable almost immediately. Of course, by then I'd tried the microsoft fix of turning everything off and rebooting. The hotel's wireless service was fine. And free.

After a night with a spouse who likes to sleep in a chilly room, I asked for a second blanket around 11pm the next night. I had it at my door in less than 10 minutes.

Kevin also complimented the Hilton for its..

...cheerful, honestly helpful, self-confident people who made direct eye contact with you as they expressed a cheerful Good Morning or other acknowledgement. And they did it 24 hours a day – and it came from people at all stations in this complex. All you had to do is appear as though you were unsure and they were upon you to provide help.

When I called the Best Western desk each time, the phone was answered promptly and courteously. Whenever we came in or went out, we were treated like honored guests. Everyone was friendly and smiling. The day we left, one of the staff at the desk was calling other hotels to find a room for a woman who had arrived without a reservation. It was Saturday and the hotel was all booked up.

This in contrast to the day before when I was in the Hilton lobby talking to another conference attendee and a hotel employee literally pushed me out of the way to allow a group of obvously more important people to pass through to the elevator.

Did you get lost? The hotel was very confusing and the signage not much better. One sign read "Alternative Women's Restroom." I'm afraid to ask about the alternative women. (The sign was there because there were many more men's rooms than women's rooms. Huh?) Another read "Door is Alarmed." Maybe by the behaviour of the alternative women? Or the men looking for alternative women?

Actually, the people at the Hilton serving meals and in the 8th street lobby were all attentive and courteous. The carpets were amazing, and having a pianist at the grand piano in one of the lobbies was a touch of elegance.

This post isn't about whether I was smarter than the folks who stayed at the Hilton. It's all about value in the eyes of the customer. I wasn't looking for luxury, and I got better service than I expected for my $140. If I'd wanted more cushy surroundings and wasn't paying my own expenses, the Hilton at $250 or thereabouts would have made sense.

As for Hiltons in different cities, maybe it's Chicago that is the factor. It's a great city. Except for Nieman Marcus, but that's a different story.

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