It’s the small things

It’s always the small things that make a big difference, but often that’s what we forget.

A few months ago I took a family trip to Rochester, New York – home of the Strong National Museum of Play; one of the most underrated tourist attractions in the US, but that’s another story. In looking for a hotel I had a few simple criteria: near the city centre, reasonably priced, clean with a pool. I did some research and on Expedia and TripAdvisor and came up with a few options, but one stood out for me: the Country Inn & Suites.

The main reason it stood out for me was through the customer reviews. Not because the reviews were so much better than their competition; they were good, but others were, too. The reason the hotel stood out was because someone had responded to each and every review on TripAdvisor. When a complaint was registered, he or she addressed it directly. When someone made a positive comment, the hotel employee thanked them. Nothing more, a simple thank you and well wishes. This set something off in my brain. I figured if a hotel understood social media like this, maybe they understood some other things about customer experience.

My gamble paid off. Let me preface this, though. This hotel is not a five-star. Not the Hilton. It was a middle-of-the-pack, moderately-priced hotel. But they paid attention to the small things. When we got there, after a long drive, the front desk staff was incredibly friendly. We felt really welcomed. Okay, friendly staff, ‘big deal’ you say. But I think it is, and it’s a simple thing a lot of companies get wrong. Then, I turn to my right and there’s a display of cookies; three flavours, still warm. I ask tentatively if I can take one. “Sure, help yourself.” We all do. What a way to introduce you to the hotel. Five minutes and already I’ve been surprised by a small touch. There are oranges and apples in a bowl next to the cookies, but let’s be serious.

We continue on to the elevator and pass a stand of three coffee urns that I later find out is kept fresh until late at night.  I grab one. Hey, it’s free!  The next day we venture down to sample the “included breakfast”. Expectations are low. I’m thinking continental, which is hotel-speak for muffins and coffee. Maybe there will be more cookies and an orange if nothing else, I think. To my surprise, a full buffet breakfast awaits. Nothing fancy, but more than expected. Another simple thing.

Waiting in the lobby later that day, I peruse the book shelves to discover they have a book loan program that lets you take any book and return it to any other hotel in the chain, or mail it back if you take it with you. Do they expect to get the books back? Maybe, maybe not. But even if I don’t borrow one, I’m impressed.

None of these things are big, expensive frills. They are small things. Simple surprises that hit you just a bit above your expectations. Paying attention to those small things makes me think you value my business. I’ll go back to this hotel. I’ll recommend it on TripAdvisor. I’ll blog about it. For the cost of a few cookies.

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