Never underestimate predictability as an innovative and very attractive brand benefit.
For example, I stay at a particular hotel regularly where I have gold status. Frequently an upgrade’s offered for the stay. Often it’s a “preferred guest” floor room with slightly more plentiful amenities and free in-room bottles of water. As an all-suites property, there’s a microwave, a small fridge, and two place settings – all great for fixing a 5 a.m. breakfast.
During slow periods, I’ve been upgraded to a multi-level room on the top floor with a wonderful view, meeting space, and a full kitchen. Many times though, even with gold status, I’m in a regular room with few amenities and $4 bottled water.
Rather than gold status, I feel as if I have “Forrest Gump” status in their rewards program because I never know what I’m going to get.
While the preferred guest rooms have better amenities, the hotel remodeled those rooms last. So for nearly two years, the non-preferred rooms were much nicer, with better work space and lighting. The large multi-level room (considered the upgrade pinnacle) was the worst in the property, with water stains, peeling wallpaper, and a full flight of stairs to drag your luggage up once in the room. And invariably, when the room has great meeting space, I’m not traveling with a co-worker where our project would benefit from a place to work after hours.
During one stay the upgrade was to a lower floor multi-level room. This alleviated hauling luggage up the stairs. The meeting space was great with a huge TV, but it went completely unused. The water was still $4 and for the first time, there were no plates, silverware, or napkins. So eating an early breakfast required going outside to buy plastic utensils and paper towels!
Thus while appreciating the upgrade effort, the impact generally creates more challenges or wasted benefits than positives. If they ever asked about my brand experience, I’d say it’s “nice but unpredictable,” since there’s no opportunity to plan ahead to take advantage of a potential upgrade.
What could they do? Three simple steps:
1. Ask upfront about my particular situation and what would be of greatest benefit.
More room? Better work space? A nicer view? A particular room location? All of these are available, but depending on the trip, which upgrade provides real benefit changes.
2. Realize that an upgrade can be about the experience and not the actual room.
Why not be creative and have upgrade kits with amenities and free water no matter what room I’m offered.
3. Ask specifically at the end of the stay about how things were and consider the comments.
This is something they never do.
Three simple steps. If they did them, they’d discover an opportunity to do less for me (either in actual expense or opportunity cost) and get credit for greater value, simply by asking first and delivering a predictable experience that reflects an understanding of my needs.