Lessons for customer service – from hotels

Written by on December 11, 2015 in Guest Blog with 4 Comments

hotelsI wish the people who design and run hotels were forced to stay in them once in a while. If they did, they’d soon learn a few lessons.

Now – I’m not saying that I’m a world expert on hotels, but I probably have more experience of hotels in different places than most people and I think my observations should count for something…. so here goes:

Check-in 

If you’re running a hotel, you’ll soon know when the busy times are. If it’s a business hotel, it’ll probably be early evening with stragglers arriving well into late evening. An airport hotel will be all day long… a holiday hotel, probably midday/late afternoon etc.  Staff up for it. I’ve seen one harassed girl try to deal with a half-mile queue in Las Vegas on her own. Similarly, I’ve been at the back of a half-mile queue and seen check-in staff standing around playing on their phones. Get the right number of staff there at the right time and get them working.

Porters and bellboys

Some people need them and some want them. I’m in neither group – yet. I can carry my own bag. Porters – please don’t hurl yourself at me as soon as I get out of the taxi and try to wrestle my easyJet-sized roll-along from me. It has wheels and it weighs 5 kg – and you’re not getting a tip anyway!

Bathrooms (This is a big one so I might have to break it up.)

Showers

Don’t  think you have to get some fancy Italian designer to reinvent the wheel. A simple but effective shower is all I need. Simple controls. One lever to turn it on and mix the water. If it’s a shower-in-a-bath, then another lever to point the water up (shower) or down (bath). No need for multiple heads, sliders, massage sprays, pulse jets etc.

And I need somewhere to put the soap – preferably about elbow height. (Some people might also need somewhere to put a shampoo bottle!)

And can we do something about shower curtains? I want a shower screen or a door. Simple physics…. convection. Hot air rises. Hot shower = warm air goes up = shower curtain pulled inwards, wrapping itself round me. No thanks!

Bath/basin plugs. Give me a bath-plug-on-a-chain or one of those lever-plunger things. I don’t want the “push-to-close/push-to-open” plug type.  I’ve washed and dried my hands and now I have to stick my hand back in the dirty water, open the plug and then wash and dry them again.

Toiletries

Give me a piece of soap. If it’s a shower, I don’t want bath-gel.

And remember – I’m in the shower. I haven’t got a Swiss army knife or a stanley knife or an angle-grinder with me, so don’t heat-shrink the soap in three layers of military-grade polyethylene developed by NASA to contain nuclear and biological contaminants. I want to be able to get it open before the hot water runs out.

Make sure there’s enough hot water.

If the soap is still big enough for another couple of uses, tell the chambermaid to leave it. It took me ten minutes to unwrap the soap today and I don’t want to be doing it again tomorrow. Leave it. Replace it when it gets thinner than an old half crown.

On the shampoo, conditioner, bath-gel and body lotion bottles, write the name in decent-sized typefaces. Nobody can read them, dammit, if it’s in 6-point white. Have you ever used body lotion in the shower, thinking it was bath-gel? (Don’t get me started!)

And remember that most people aren’t wearing glasses in the shower, so definitely minimum 12-point bold in black. Also, don’t forget – people shower and THEN put in contact lenses – right?  

Alternatively all agree an international colour code for the bottles: White for body lotion, yellow for shampoo, pink for conditioner and green for bath-gel and we’re all set!

Towels

Don’t fold my towels up like swans on the bed. I don’t want swans on the bed. I’ve had a busy day and I’d rather the towels were in the bathroom where I need them. And you can save time and money by not paying failed origamists to fold towels. Same goes for rose-petals on the bed. No thanks.

Environment

Don’t insult me with silly cards about reusing towels to save the environment. Just assume I’m happy to reuse my towel – unless I’ve been sick over it in which case I’ll ask for a new one. If you want to save the environment, switch off the bloody lights! When I arrived in my room, all the lights and the TV were on and the air-conditioning was ten degrees above/below what is humanly tolerable. Same goes for the sheets. At home we use them more than once. Sheets and towels are good for a couple of days.

Chocolate

Don’t put chocolate on my pillow. Chocolate…. table, thank you very much. I once woke up in the middle of the night and thought my brain was oozing out of my ear… Bloody chocolate on the pillow had melted and it was everywhere – pillow, sheets, blankets, me… and on the wall and phone as I desperately tried to find the light-switch to call an ambulance….

As above – same goes for rose-petals on the bed. No thanks!

Turn-downs

If I want my duvet turned down I’ll do it myself. I don’t want to come back and find someone’s been in my room turning down the bed, scattering rose-petals and putting chocolate on my pillow – and I can pull the curtains myself!

Curtains

One set of curtains please. I stayed in a hotel recently where there were three…  nets, sound-proof curtains and the actual curtains themselves. Got in a real tangle with those plastic curtain-pulling sticks and broke two.  If it’s noisy, get heavy, dark curtains that fulfill two roles. 

Nobody needs net curtains – they trap dead flies and make the room dark – unless you’re on the ground floor…but then they’re more for the benefit of passers-by!

Windows

If you can’t give me an air-conditioning control unit that doesn’t require a double PhD in electronic engineering to operate, let me open the window…just a little bit…  I don’t expect it to open wide – especially on the higher floors in Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, but I’d like to be able to BREATHE just a little bit!

Air-conditioning controls

See above re PhD…  More importantly, remember that most of them have an LCD display, so put them somewhere where I can actually read that display – i.e. not in the lobby where it’s so dark I can hardly see the wall, let alone the A/C control on it.  And make sure that the display is big enough to be legible – see comment on shampoo bottles above! Keep it simple – on/off…. fan: high/low… temperature up/down. I don’t need to be able to programme it to come on at 4.17pm on Thursday week and go off 19 minutes later.

Bathrobes

I like ’em. In hotels, I even use them…  but don’t tie them up with the sleeves knotted and stuck in the pockets with the belt doubled round the middle and tied in a quadruple reef-knot and all sealed in a plastic bag and needing that stanley knife again. By the time I get it opened it’s time to check out. Environment? Lose the plastic bag!

TV remote

Too complicated – keep them simple. On/off…  channels up/down… volume up/down. And give me a card with a list of channels available – preferably left with the remote near the TV itself.  

In UK, BBC1 as number 1. The rest are pretty well irrelevant – now that Top Gear’s going to be done by ginger-prat Evans. 

Abroad – BBC World Service as number 1. You can then bunch them as follows: 

Other English language news channels: Sky, Fox, CNN etc: 2-10….

Other English language channels; 11-20….  

Sport channels: 21-30

Local TV: 31-40

Children’s TV/cartoons: 41-80

Mad Max films: 81-250

No need for porn channels – it’s all free on the internet. Ditto films.

Internet

In hotels, it should be free. It’s a service. You don’t charge me for the lift, for water, electricity, TV, towels etc, so don’t charge me for internet. But make sure it works. Remember – one third of the people (women) will be watching Strictly Come Dancing catch-up on their iPads, one third (men) will be watching porn and the rest of us will be trying to do some work, so make sure you are on more than a basic cheap-charlie domestic broadband service for 350+ rooms (plus the wifi that the check-in staff are using on their mobiles while they ignore the queue of people wanting to check in).

Lifts

You know how many rooms there are so make sure there are enough lifts. But no point counting just rooms – factor in some oversize people, mostly with oversize bags, all checking in or out at the same time. One lift is not enough – especially if it’s always breaking down because it was designed for 10 normal-sized people but it’s constantly carrying 10 heavweights with ther various heavyweight bags full of food and heavyweight clothes and big shoes!

Light switches

Keep it simple. Make them obvious. One switch at the door for everything and another by the bed for everything. You’ve got into bed… finally found the dark-coloured switches on the dark-coloured wall and tried to switch off everything: main… lobby… desk…wall up-lighters… downlighters… floor-lights… bedside lamps… make-up mirror lights… strip-lights behind the curtains, but there’s still that standard lamp in the corner that you can only switch off using the floor-switch – so you get out of bed and switch it off and then trip over your case in the dark on the way back. 

And what’s the point of those silly floor-lights under the bedside tables? I know where my feet are – they’re at the bottom of my legs…. and the floor’s the big flat thing under the bed. I don’t need bloody floor-lights!

And, if you have wardrobe lights, make sure they work – I mean they switch off! You’ve got into bed, switched off all the lights as above…. got out and switched off the standard lamp, tripped over your case, switched the lights on again to examine your bruised shin, switched them off again and then you see the beam from the slats in the wardrobe door.  Doesn’t matter how hard or gently you close the door, the light stays on… so you try to take out the bulb but you burn your fingers because it’s be on constantly for three years destroying the environment and so you prop the chair up against the wardrobe door and finally go to sleep… but then trip over the chair when you try to go to the loo in the middle of the night.

Loos

Keep it simple. One flush system. Don’t make me feel guilty if I can’t work out which button to press to save the planet. Sort out the towels, sheets, air-conditioning and the lights and then come back to me on that!

And – for heaven’s sake – put the loo-roll holder where it belongs. It belongs on the wall, about knee-height and just in front of the front edge of the loo seat – basically just beside my left knee. It does NOT belong behind my elbow and it certainly does not belong perched on the wall behind me above the cistern – essentially just behind my neck – just because it looked symmetrical on the plans produced by that fancy Italian designer. My body doesn’t twist that way!

And, while we’re about it, make sure the loo-roll isn’t in the line of fire from the shower. I don’t want soggy loo-roll – it isn’t effective!  If you can’t combine knee-location with shower-avoidance, you haven’t designed the bathroom properly!

And please ask the chambermaid to stop messing with the loo-roll – folding the last sheet to make that silly little pointy thing… You should know that it’s not just a waste of time. It’s a waste of paper, too…. because I’m not going to use that sheet – all those bacteria – I know where her hands have been. So – think about it… hundreds of hotel rooms in millions of hotels x one sheet per day each (and SOME bathrooms have TWO loo-roll holders!) and that’s a lot of wasted trees to add to the other ones…. (And airlines, please take note – the flight attendants should also stop folding the last sheet too, for the same reasons!)

Heated loo seats

Who needs heated loo seats? I have survived happily for 40+ years not knowing they existed and another 20 years not wanting them.   

The thing in my hotel bathroom probably uses about a tree an hour 24/7 in energy/environment costs and they have the cheek to put a “please re-use your towels” card beside the basin, barely half an environmentally washed towel’s distance from it!

And I certainly will not be using that squirty thing on it that pops out when you lean back. Yeeeugh!  Pass me the Dettol! 

Finally – those glass-walls between the bedroom and the bathroom might have seemed like a good idea when the Italian suggested them, but you’ve obviously never stayed in a hotel with one (a glass wall, I mean – not an Italian).  I love my wife dearly and COULD watch her in the bath – but I don’t want to see her on the loo… nor she me!  AND remember that twin rooms are often shared by work colleagues, father/son, mother/daughter, brother/sister, buddies from the football team… Get the drift?  And those half-arsed venetian blind things you put on them just don’t work. Bathroom – WALLS, thank you very much!  

I wonder if there’s a trade magazine called “Hotel-room Designer”?  I feel a letter-to-the-editor coming on!

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About the Author

About the Author: Sam has been in the telecoms space for more than fifteen years, as Publisher of Telecommunications International and Total Telecom, and now runs his own media sales company. Sam has probably visited more trade-shows in more countries than any living person. With a passion for languages, Sam likes to see the funny side of things and has amassed a collection of badly translated signs and menus. .

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  1. Rob f says:

    Excellent. But I like swans n chocolate on my bed.

  2. Rob too says:

    Nicely done. Just a few adds:

    1. Give me some decent coffee in the room, no instant. I hate having to get dressed to go get it, or (not) remembering to order it from room service, or being interrupted with delivery when I am half awake/clothed! Of course, if you like BBC1, you may prefer tea…

    2. I always bring my own soap- that way I know I will get something I like.

    3. Finally, be a little grateful; think how strong your immune system has become from handling all those folded loo sheets and napkins. You are an anti-bacterial warrior!

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