Wanted: New ideas for old world businesses

By Matthew Mister

I often wonder about the decision-making that goes into all things service related. As a consumer I find myself questioning the level of consideration that is applied to the customer. Service orientated businesses should place us at the forefront of their decision-making. More often than not I find most businesses just regurgitate the same tired old formulas or practices and let their products do the talking simply because it’s the way it’s always been.

Businesses like Uber and Netflix thrive because they combine a great product or service with ease of use at reasonably fair prices. They’ve also thrived because they use their initiative to do something better… broke away from the status quo… and smashed the competition out of the water. Existing businesses can do this too. Changing up the format doesn’t have to come in the form of another start-up. Every business can enhance their offering by doing things differently for the benefit of all involved.

(Warning: The following contains elements that may be construed as a rant. It probably is a rant.)

Let’s look at the hotel industry for starters. I don’t know about you but there are two things that I loathe about hotels. Number one. I hate expensive mini bars. Why, why, why? Who pays $40 for a bottle of Savy B that’s $16 at the bottle shop down the road? I don’t … (yep definitely ranting). Surely they would be better off charging $22 or even $26 for that bottle and getting a higher sell through rate? I know I would happily pay that. I’d also be more inclined to order room service and enjoy all the other amenities the hotel has to offer, recommend the hotel to friends and perhaps frequent their partner hotels too.

Secondly… 10am check outs! Seriously? Come on man. There is no better way to unravel a lovely escape by making people sweat themselves out the door by 10 am. I get it, cleaning all those rooms takes a good 4-5 hours and staff are expensive.… but, when hotels happily charge a fee for late check out I just see a missed opportunity to create a better experience for the customer. For instance, if a hotel knows that no one is checking into your room after you, wouldn’t it be amazing if they sent up a little note saying, “Don’t go. Relax. Stay a while. We’ve extended your check out to 2pm. Why don’t you drop by our restaurant for some breakfast or better yet, order in and have some breakfast in bed.” Sounds amazing right? I’d go back to that.

I remember a holiday my wife and I took to Bangkok and after a fairly average flight we arrived at the hotel quite late in the evening. We wearily trudged into the lobby towards what we took to be the check-in desk. As we approached, a staff member took our bags and asked our name and after about a minute or two of hushed discussions by the staff, one of their team grabbed an iPad and took us straight up to our room to check in. A truly stand out experience for us. We got to sit in the comfort of our room and chat with our host in a relaxed environment while we sorted out the check-in.

These are relatively small things but they form part of a bigger picture for consumers and are a business Best Practice that creates an all round positive experience. More importantly, an experience that you and I will be more inclined to share. To maintain the status quo just because that’s how it’s been done in the past isn’t just bad business … it’s just plain lazy.

Tell us your tips on how businesses can create better customer service.