Friday 15 July 2016

Get the basics right

I have a theory that in every industry there is a single test of whether a particular outlet is doing a good job.

For instance, I think the test of a bar should be that if beer is cold. If they can’t get that right, then they probably can’t get anything else right.

So what should the test be with a hotel?

It’s simple. They should give you somewhere to sleep. That’s what any hotel does, whether it’s a basic guesthouse or the fanciest 5-star place, it’s all about having somewhere to sleep at night.

Ok, before you comment, I know there are hotels that cater for what we might call the non-nocturnal customer-base, those customers who have a need for a very short-stay during daylight hours, accompanied but a recently acquired good friend. But that’s a completely different market. They should just supply free condoms.

We heard from a reader last week who encountered a hotel that managed to fail the basic rule of providing somewhere to sleep. She’d been working in Palapye and had been staying quite happily in a hotel for a few days. However, one morning the housekeeping staff asked for room key as she left so they could clean the room. Why didn’t they have their own key? You’ll find that out later.

It was later that evening when things started to go wrong. When she got back from work the reception desk was empty and the only person present was a security guard. He told her he had room keys but hers wasn’t there, presumably it was still with the housekeeping staff.

So there she was, locked out of the room that contained her clothes, toiletries and personal belongings. No other member of staff could be found.

Luckily she had a friend who was staying in another hotel in Palapye so she had a roof for the night but what if she’d been in Palapye alone? It would have been a night spent in her car.

The next morning things weren’t any better. First thing in the morning she went back to the hotel only to find there was still no manager to be found and the other staff were no more able to help her than the poor security guard had been the previous night. No other key to her room could be found.

Don’t forget that this woman was working in Palapye, she had a client to see and every moment wasted was a potential threat to her business.

Eventually the staff identified a solution to her problem. Force.

Brute force eventually removed the lock from the door to her room and by mid-morning she’d had a shower and had been reunited with her clean clothes.

But still no manager. Apparently he “couldn’t come to the site”, presumably because something more important or entertaining was occupying his attention. But that was a mistake. Maybe he was unaware of her profession or didn’t realize that it might be relevant. No, she wasn’t a hotel inspector or a reporter from a tourism magazine. She was something infinitely worse.

She’s a lawyer. In fact, she’s a really pissed-off lawyer. A really pissed-off lawyer who spent the previous night sleeping on a floor, despite paying a hotel P1,200 for a bed. Ouch. Not only does she want a refund of the P1,200 she paid for the bed that night, she also wants compensation. Even though I doubt she’ll get anything more than a refund, she’s going to make him suffer.

Clearly this hotel has to consider a number of things. Firstly, a hotel should always have spare key. These days most hotels have switched to electronic key cards that can be reprogrammed in seconds but even if they still adopt the old-fashioned approach surely they should have backup copies in the safe? It’s also not good enough for the manager to just be absent. If he can’t be there, then he should have a deputy manager on duty at all times. They’re called “Duty Managers”. It’s not a new idea.

None of this is rocket science or brain surgery. A hotel manager who can’t get this sort of thing right shouldn’t be running a hotel.

Photographers. That’s another very simple one. Photographers should supply photographs.

A couple of times a month we get a complaint from someone who hired a photographer for their wedding and months, sometimes even years later, they still don’t have their photos. Two weeks ago a woman contacted us and told us about the photographer she hired for her wedding in 2014. Two years later, she still hasn’t received her photos. The photographer now claims that his laptop crashed and he’s lost everything but when she offered to employ a technical specialist to try and recover the lost data he refuses to hand the laptop over.

Again the solutions are simple. He should hand over the laptop to the expert to see what he or she can recover. He should look through the backups he took from the camera and the laptop. He should examine the other memory card from the camera because all responsible photographers use at least two cameras and two memory cards.

Or maybe he didn’t do any of these things? No laptop? No backups? No other memory cards? Then he shouldn’t call himself a twenty-first-century photographer. He failed the test.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask for some basic standards. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a bank, an insurance company, a bar, a restaurant, a photographer or a hotel. If they can’t get the basics right, then they shouldn’t be in that line of business.

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