Can’t Touch This

The following post was first published in April 2012.

Recently, I had the pleasure of staying in one of the nicer properties of a high-end hotel chain.  As usual, the first impressions were excellent:  polite greetings from the staff, a beautiful fireplace in the foyer, a fresh aroma in the air.  My room was no less impressive:  spacious, modern styling, and all the conveniences for a business traveler.

In-room revenue enhancement is a strategic focus of most hotel chains, but in this case, something in this hotel’s strategy struck me as ‘off-brand’.  On the shelf above the mini-bar was a range of items for my consideration:  a jar of peanuts, a jar of chocolates, etc.  The jars were on what can best be described as an electric hotplate, above which was a sign saying:  “Lifting an item from the shelf will automatically charge to your account”.  In other words, don’t touch it (not to think about it, not to read the ingredients, nothing) or you will be charged.  It felt strangely punitive, particularly in the context of the otherwise perfect experience this hotel offers.

I was not interested in a snack and I certainly went out of my way to steer clear of that ‘gotcha’ shelf as I made my way to and from the bathroom, lest I bump it and get charged $11.95 per item.  I checked out of the hotel using their Expess service, since my bill was simple:  room, taxes, parking.   Later that day, I received an email saying “Here is your folio for your hotel stay”.  I opened the pdf file only to find (you guessed it) not one, but three charges for the honor bar (total $33.33).  Unless I am now sleep-walking, I can’t imagine how those charges came to be.  Fortunately, the hotel corrected the error, but in its ambition to automate an ‘honor’ system in the name of profit-per-visit, it failed to live up to its brand image and risks alienating its customers. 

The Bottom Line

New technologies are being introduced almost daily, offering companies the opportunity to streamline and automate manual processes.  For all their benefits, however, putting the customer at the center of the experience is crucial.   While the days of so-called ‘honor’ systems may be passing, there is still something special about the respect for the customer in that.  There must be a way where old world values and new world technologies can be aligned in purpose.  If you’d like to explore revenue growth solutions that put your customer first, give us a call today