Thursday, October 18, 2012

Playing to the pets - for real.

Check this out, proudly displayed in the lobby of The Curtis Hotel in Denver. This is an amazing and fun example of a hotel brand embracing the oft-forgotten four-legged members of the family. They don't just "accept" dogs. They celebrate them.

Even the in-room directory says they take pets and sure, there's a 40 pound limit, but they are flexible.

Judging by the subtle but irreverant cues throughout the hotel and the rooms, someone spent some brain cells envisioning the customer experience they wanted to deliver.

From the sticky note on the bathroom mirror in memo format, offering me a free drink at The Corner Office (the on-site bar and restaurant) after a long day, to the room service menu that includes a hidden page of items under a bold round sticker that claims, "not your average room service menu" with choices like "the hangover" (bloody mary fixings), "show time" (bucket of popcorn, jones sodas and red vines licorice) to the door hanger that offers $5 off food in the restaurant if you hang it to stake your claim you're making a green choice to help the environment, and don't need your bed and towels changed every day - this place is full of memory points.

Hotels are a commodity really. A bed to sleep in. A shower in the morning. And maybe a cup of coffee and quick breakfast to go, or food late at night after a flight delay.

These guys have given me a great experience and reminded me, yet again, that no matter how same same same your industry is - there are a million memory points to be created that will elevate your customer experience clear above the bext guy's. It just means burning a few brain cells to do it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A New Brand Promise in Subtle Change in Job Titles

This morning was week two in a row of east coast travel, on Delta Airlines, and probably the seventh or eighth week this year alone on the same 8am departure from San Diego to Atlanta, to then connect to points east. So I know this was the first time I've heard a subtle difference in how the Delta team working the flight refers to themselves.

"Stewardess" went away at least a couple decades ago, to be replaced by "flight attendant" when referring to the team of safety and hospitality-trained pros who work the flights. Attend to the flights. Attend to the needs of passengers. Passive, responsive, attentive, if you take the meaning of the word at face value.

On our first Delta flight today, the lead "attendant", Marsha, referred to she and her colleagues as "flight servers". Not an unintentional reference for sure. Think about it. Servers are proactive, they ancitipate needs, know your preferences if you travel enough (what kind of sweetener you like in your coffee, ice/no ice), and do what they do with a personal individual touch that goes beyond just attending to needs. Think the famous examples like Ritz-Carlton, or Intrawest.

One word in a job title a company culture doesn't make, but in this case it really sent a message about Delta's focus. And I know everyone has horror stories about Delta or (insert-airline-name-here) but it seemed a legitimate attempt to set themselves apart in an industry that is wringing every last nickel out of customers while actually decreasing service. Even though our departure was delayed by a minor maintenance issue that put us at risk of missing a connection, Marsha made those same standard announcements we can all recite, but with a little more sincerity and appreciation in her voice than most.

Marsha is one of the best in the business and worked hard today to ask the pronounciation and spelling of my last name. She wanted to "add you to my list" which made me feel like there might be some future benefit to me as a traveller for making that list, even if it's just a smile and acknowledgement.

Words are powerful. Think about how you use them in creating and conveying a culture in your business.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You can tell a lot about a city by how it lives at night

When the night is up and the lights are down in the downtown core of any city in the world, its true self shows. Seattle. On a very windy Tuesday night in January. The district between Belltown, and Pike Place Market.

It's well past closing time for the ecclectic retailers - from the Steinway & Sons piano shop, to City Kitchens, to the Columbia Store, to Nordstrom. Funky pubs and eateries are winding down. And there's a good sized crowd hunkered down inside Uptown Espresso, intent on the laptop, smartphone or iPad screen before them, sipping the beverage that helped make the Emerald City famous. This cafe looks to be the living room for the apartment homes in the building next door, just one of a collection of residential buildings from 4-story mid-rises, to reclaimed historic tenements, to concrete and glass modern hi-rises, scraping the sky at 20+ stories.

This city is vibrant and alive, not in a NYC kind of way, but more like a San Francisco or a Vancouver. Walking alone I feel totally at ease. I marvel at the diversity of architecture, lit up by the street lights and the reflection of the signage in the city's core. There's an energy here that says, "we're good with it". It's evident in the design of the experience, and names of one of a kind places like Serious Pie - a pizza spot. You shouldn't need to read the menu to figure it out. Even in the rain, and tonight's fierce wind, Seattle just is. There's a quiet confidence, coupled with a wit and intellect all its own.

A crowd of homeless people gathers to sit on the ledge of the stand-alone Starbucks on 4th and Pine. During the hour I'm out walking, the crowd grows in size. One man among them has dressed his pit bull companion in a torn down vest to provide warmth from the biting wind. They all know each other, and share their own community. Inside the Starbucks, there's a young man dressed in a track suit talking with a man in a business suit. He looks to be applying for a job, or given the young man's height, possibly talking with a college basketball recruiter. Hope is written all over his face.

There are many more like me strolling the streets, mostly young couples, or groups of young people. Some clearly getting off work, or coming up out of the subway to connect on a city bus line. Some appear to be heading home from an evening class at a local college. Like the young man in Starbucks, there's a pulse and an energy here that smells of optimism. Even the mannequins in the window at Nordstrom flash forward in their bold colors, almost daring us to challenge their position that the upcoming Spring season will be better and happier than the last. I'm going with it. And I'm taking a little piece of Seattle's fresh confidence with me.