Wowing jaded customers… what IT can learn from hotels

I just spent a very pleasant four evenings at the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, MA.  As someone that travels for business at least a couple of times each month, I’ve had the occasion to stay with most major hotel chains and a myriad of independents.  After three years of being a road warrior, it is a challenge to find something unique in a 3 or 4 star hotel that will “wow” me – I’m pretty much as jaded as they come!

As such, I was very pleasantly surprised by some of the amenities at the Hotel Marlowe – sure, Boston has a number of great hotels so they have to step up their game to remain competitive, but kudos to the Kimpton chain for thinking outside the box.

Here are a few examples:

1. The hotel is very pet friendly – this started off at the front door where there were a variety of doggy treats and continued through all the common areas.

2. The chain has a “raid the mini-bar” concept for participants in their InTouch loyalty program – you get two items from the mini-bar over your stay for free (up to a maximum value of $10).

3. They’ve spent the money on some good quality fitness equipment – most of their cardio machines have personal TVs.

4. Without fail, every hotel employee smiled, greeted me and was pleasant to deal with.

5. The decor of the common areas and rooms is very unique – my entire room was done in a leopard-print motif (it sounds tackier than it was).  The room colors were very warm and inviting – certainly not the typical cookie-cutter approach used by some of the larger chains.

Taken individually, none of these are memorable, but as a package they are – especially from a mid-sized hotel chain.

It got me thinking – why do IT departments not take a page from this hotel.  Just think what a difference it would make if every single IT resource treated their internal customers with the same pleasant manner that I received or tried to add a bit of originality or flair to the service they delivered?  Think about the last time one of your clients received assistance from one of your staff – do you feel that they would give as glowing a review of the service they got?

Categories: IT Operations | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Wowing jaded customers… what IT can learn from hotels

  1. One of the big problems that IT has from internal customers, is that their budget is increased when they wow their customers. Nor is their budget perceptibly decreased when they don’t.

    When you leave Hotel Marlowe and you share your experience with others, they have the opportunity gain more customers. 4 of the 5 things you mentioned incur direct costs to provide.

    Pet friendly? To some, this is a “good thing”, but to me, I now fear finding weird stinky pet hairs in unexpected places. Will I need to delint my suit to remove these unexpected hairs before my big meeting? Do you really want to provide mixed-messages to your internal clients?

    The wow-factors of “Raid the mini-bar” for loyalty members, good fitness equipment, and unique decor are all fair things for a hotel to provide, and fairly easy to lateralize for business models where customers come from outside sources, but I simply can’t think of another lateral application of these concepts for an internal IT department, Maybe this is my limitation, but it seems like most of these are unique to companies who want to increase the life-time value of their customers who have a great deal of choice in the marketplace. These things don’t exist in an internal IT department.

    If your model is set up in a matrix or functional fashion, finance generally sees IT as a cost center. This means, they’re constantly having their budget slashed, slashed, slashed. “Do more with less” is the constant battlecry. How would an organization which barely has the funds to do the job at hand go out of their way to create similar “wow” factors? If they HAD the money for such extravagances, finance would quickly identify that they obviously have excess budget, and cut it by whatever amount was deemed excessive.

    If your organizational model is projectized, there’s little possibility that a sponsor would identify value in these niceties. If they managed to squeeze in a little funding for these types of things, some quid-pro-quo exchanges are likely to happen as scope increases for the projects (as they usually do), and the budget for these niceties is sacrificed for some of the increased scope.

    In conclusion, “smile”, it would seem, is all we’re left with. When customers wander through IT, greet them kindly and smile. Be polite and pleasant to the people who pay for your job.

    I used to think I was relatively visionary… at least until THIS particular exercise left me completely stumped.

    I would love to hear your ideas about how an internal IT department might apply these lessons to improve the perceptions within the company. Some specific, practical examples would really help.


    • kbondale

      Hi David –

      Good feedback and I believe the two core messages I was striving for in the article were:

      1. Treat the internal clients like paying customers and strive for helping them achieve a pleasant experience with every interaction.

      2. Try to differentiate the services provided by IT OR be occasionally spontaneous – for example, once in a while, complete a task or request ahead of schedule to “wow” the customer.

      IT services will eventually become as commodity as hotel choices in large cities – how does an IT department differentiate itself sufficiently (beyond cost of operations) to stave off significant or total outsourcing?



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