Redefine the Little Things


Focusing on the little things. Paying attention to the details. These aren’t exactly new concepts. But to most this simply means just making sure you do them properly. If you want to really make an impact, try instead to redefine the little things.

Yesterday I checked in to The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida for a few days. I’m here to attend the 11th Global Wellness Summit. In less than 24 hours, I’ve experienced multiple examples of a hotel that has redefined the little things.

Personalisation & Appreciation

The first redefining moment came at check in. When I got my room key card, it had my name printed on it! Everyone loves the sound – and the sight – of their own name. Obviously, they’ve needed to invest in a bit of technology to make this possible. They’ve also added a bit of a cost because once the card is printed with my name, they can’t reuse it for another guest. But in return for these costs, they’ve made me feel a bit more special. Well done.

Next, I was walking down the hallway when I saw a housekeeping team leader helping out a guest who was trying to find her room. She’d half-jokingly made a comment that her room is always so far from the elevator. With that, the staff member immediately moved to help her with the luggage and walk the guest to her room. But that’s not the moment. As they walked past one of the room attendants who had just finished what must have been her last room for the day, our man thanked her for her hard work and gave her a High Five! It was genuine. And not what you would see in a lot of 5 star hotels, at least not in the presence of a guest. It would be seen as unprofessional.

Now this may not have been a structured or systematically redefined moment, but clearly this is a hotel whose culture allows it and probably encourages it. Instant, genuine appreciation in action.

Please Hold

And then my favourite redefined moment. I called room service for dinner. Two rings and the phone was answered. ‘Good evening Mr. Munday, I’m just serving another guest at the moment, can I ask you to hold for a moment please?’. WOW! This was awesome. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve dialled room service in a 5 star hotels and waited for many, many rings, or sometimes even had the phone just ring out. Just a few days earlier, I was in a 5 star hotel in Miami and most calls to reception or concierge or room service were handled by an automated system first to put you on hold.

Like most callers, I said I was happy to wait on hold. But while I waited I wondered what do they do if someone says no, they don’t want to be put on hold. So, when the order taker came back on the phone, I asked her. She told me that the vast majority of guests are happy to hold for a few minutes. But if they’re not, then the order taker will go ahead and take the order immediately. What about the other guest they have put on hold? Well, if you think about it, they have already accepted being put on hold. They don’t know if the order taker in putting three more calls on hold or actually taking someone else’s order before theirs. As long as they’re not left on hold too long, they should be fine. Genius! Love it!

What’s in a name?

The final little tweak to operational standards that happened was when I called the operator this morning. Hotels train their staff to use the guest name whenever they can. It helps personalise the experience and as we’ve already mentioned, people like to hear their own name. The telephone system will tell the operator that it’s Mr. & Mrs. Munday calling. But they have no way of knowing which one is calling. Is it Mr. or Mrs.? So how can they possibly use my name without the risk of saying hello to the wrong person? Most smart hotels would train their staff to answer with a generic greeting first and then once they hear the voice, they know to use Mr. or Mrs. Not at this hotel. The operator’s immediate answer was ‘How can we help the Munday party this morning.’ Smart.

None of these little moments were massive. But each of them was noticed. With the possible exception of the personalized room key card, they also don’t require any big investment in terms of dollars. The investment is in time. Time to embed a culture of Surprise and Delight and time to train the teams who interact with the guests.

What I really love about what all of this shows, is an effort to rethink and redefine the little things. All the little steps along the guest journey. Each touch point is considered and reimagined in a way to make a difference. And it did.

Kudos to The Breakers.

Any company in the service business – and let’s face it, who is not in the service business these days? – could learn lessons from what has been done here.

What steps and processes could you change today if you simply redefined the little things?