Dear “Hampton Inn and Suites:”

Hotel Sign on a White Facade
I’ve been traveling for the last couple of weeks. In Maryland, I chose to stay at the “Hampton Inn and Suites.” It’s a hotel I was prepared to like. I would call it upper middle class; rooms run at about $170 a night.

The service underwhelmed me with each interaction: Staff members were bored, inattentive and impersonal, going through scripted motions in their conversations. They also fell short on the few services I asked: A toilet that kept flushing every 3 minutes never saw a handy man in 4 days. (I ended up disabling it myself by strapping up the float valve with the cord of the (complementary!) hair dryer.) A door key that kept locking me out of my room, room service that made one attempt at cleaning and then never came back, a laundry service I needed to be returned slightly sooner than their standard 1½ days declined with a shrug…

On the road the next day, we passed a series of massive billboard ads on the freeway for… the “Hampton Inn and Suites”. Promising, you guessed it, heaven and earth. And the moon.

Here is the thing about Marketing: It does not stop once you get people in your door. That’s when it STARTS. That‘s when you have your opportunity to show off: Overwhelm people with your greatness, delight them, enchant them. Make them life-long, enthusiastic customers who go out of their way to stay at your place. And bring their friends.

If you already have the infrastructure of a hotel chain empire in place, the difference between underwhelming and awesome comes down to your people. The effort is minimal compared to what you have already invested:

Hire outstanding human beings and pay them outstanding money. Find a way to make them fall in love with their job. Make sure they are happy about the way they are treated. Make sure they are being heard, and their needs are being met. THEN ask them to pass that level of care on to your guests, and give them the guidance and education how to do it. Make sure they know how you want your guests to FEEL instead of giving them a soul-less script of what to say and do. Give them authority to do the right thing. Trust them to know what the right thing is. Allow them to be human beings.

Give them a way to communicate. Let them share their experiences with one-another, so they can share their pride and learn from each other. Take part in that conversation so they can learn from you. Take that opportunity to instill your culture. Social enterprise platforms make it so easy.

If you need additional funding to do it, here’s a tip: Skip the billboards. Make fewer promises, keep more.