I’m just getting back from a wonderful beach vacation in Hilton Head (trying to switch gears from palm trees back to palm treos…).
On our way back to Ohio, we stayed in Mooresville, NC, just north of Charlotte. It’s known as “Race City USA” because it’s home base to the majority of the NASCAR race teams and just a few miles to Lowes Speedway. It’s also home to one of the most disappointing hotels I’ve ever stayed at — The Wingate Hotel, part of the Wingate/Wyndham hotel chain.
We booked the hotel because it got a 3-star rating and it had an indoor pool. When you coop 2 small kids in a car all day, you MUST stay in a hotel with a pool…it’s the law. I’d have to say this hotel was really more of a 1.5-star dressed up to look like a 3-star. In fact, when we first arrived we were fairly impressed by the decor, the amenities, and at least one attentive front desk helper (the other one was doing a crossword puzzle while we checked in). All in all, it looked like a decent hotel with a pool and FREE CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST (which they really make sure you know about).
Within minutes, the tuxedo this hotel was wearing began to unravel. The hot tub wasn’t hot. Not a big deal, but when we reported it to the front desk, the crossword puzzle girl rolled her eyes and said, “It’s broken. There’s supposed to be a sign. Is there no sign?” Nope, no sign. No sign of help from her, either. But at least we were going to get free breakfast.
After swimming in the pool (which was ironically warmer than the hot tub), we returned to our room to find no sheets on the pull-out sofa the kids were going to sleep on. If there had been sheets on the mattress, I wouldn’t have seen the gigantic stain on the mattress. This alone would be a great reason for hotels to always make sure there are sheets on every mattress, not to mention the sheer convenience of guests being able to go to bed when they want to instead of waiting for “housekeeping” (i.e., crossword girl) to bring you sheets. Oh, almost forgot…our kids found an empty beer bottle under the couch, too. Nice. But at least we were going to get free breakfast.
Shall I go on?
The air conditioner in my parent’s room shorted out and created a smell so bad my mom got dizzy. We had to wait for — you guessed it — crossword girl to come check it out and tell us that she couldn’t call maintenance, but she could give us another room. But at least we were going to get free breakfast.
Our hallway door had a big gap at the bottom, plus it wasn’t a real solid door to begin with. The result? I overheard an hour’s worth of some guy’s phone conversation as he walked up and down our stretch of hallway. Every word. At 11:30pm. It wasn’t even an interesting conversation. I’m not even going to mention the breakfast thing again here.
Here’s my point: don’t bother trying to elevate my experience with free breakfast when you can’t even get the basics right.
Way too often, companies try to create a WOW by providing some “extra” product, feature, service, etc. when they haven’t perfected the basics.
It could be a gas station that gives out suckers to every car but never empties it’s own overflowing trash cans.
It could be a call center that has a really great way of engaging you on the phone, but then keeps talking when you say you’re not interested.
It could be an IT department that responds to your call or email within 15 minutes, but takes 3 days to actually fix a simple problem.
Have you mastered the basics? Do you ever check to make sure? I recently read a book written by the CEO of Loews Hotels who makes sure he stays in Loews hotels whenever he travels. He books like a normal guest and stays in a normal room, not the presidential suite. It’s how he finds out if his people are performing the basics well. He would have FREAKED OUT in the hotel I stayed in.
Take time this week to think about three things:
1. What are your “basics?” What are the things that you absolutely, positively need to always do as perfectly as possible?
2. Do you have any “extras” that have become more important to you than the basics?
3. What can you do to ensure your basics are “spot on” as they say in England?
There isn’t a free breakfast on the planet that will win you over if the mattress is stained, right? So stop trying to wow your customers until you can deliver basics at their best. Once you can do that, bring on the toaster waffles, baby, ’cause then they’re icing on the cake.
Mark Henson is the chief imagination officer of sparkspace, a company that sparks new thinking with its unique conference space and teambuilding programs. He’s a graduate of Oklahoma Christian College with a degree in Mass Communications. He’s been a radio personality and marketing director for several radio stations. Mark spent nearly a decade at Fitch leading successful brainstorming workshops for world-class companies. He designed and launched sparkspace to help teams and leaders “think out of the box” – literally and figuratively. sparkspace has hosted more than 1000 meetings and has produced dozens of creative workshops.
Thanks for the thoughts Mark!