Sunday, 19 March 2006

Good going on bad

Why are expensive hotels so dissatisfied? Thanks mostly to my job, I have had the opportunity to stay in a variety of not-cheap hotels around the world, and overall, the experience is much worse than staying in budget places. The problem is they promise so much: in a cheap hotel, you are grateful for a comfortable bed, a quiet room, hot water in the morning and neither boiling nor freezing during the night. It is not difficult to meet these rather basic needs.

An expensive hotel, on the other hand, promises fine dining, attentive service in every detail, a delightful experience. But these hotels are staffed by people, and people are often not very good at considering others. In the Ritz, a snooty waiter ruins the experience. At the Georges V, a small room leaves you vowing never to return. The pervasive smell of boiled cabbage in the Ritz Carlton's meeting room is intolerable. A maid who cannot read the 'Do Not Disturb' sign at the Park Hyatt infuriates. Hotels at this level have set up the game so that they are likely to fail: anything less than fantastic is unacceptable, because you have been promised fantastic.

One motto for anyone delivering a good or a service should be `meet customer expectations'. If you can't, change their expectations. Sadly, most luxury hotels are competing to raise expectations, not to surpass them. Perhaps a new business model is needed?


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