Travel is an interesting and complex industry, particularly when you contrast air and lodging. The various US flag air carriers offer a virtually indistinguishable service offering, and are all seemingly racing to the bottom. Most airline news seems to be about an additional fee being tacked onto the ticket, a service being stripped from the offering, or a passenger, security agent, or employee becoming enraged by the process and doing something uncouth. My favorite quip from a flight attendant nicely sums up the whole experience: “We’re here for your safety and not your comfort.”
Contrast that with hotels, where there are a variety of product offerings at different price points and with different and diverse services. Even medium-sized cities offer everything from a $30/night basic room, to suites with butler service and Tiffany crystal chandeliers. I’m a frequent consumer of both air and hotel services, and the latter always seem happy to work with me, from telephone agents, to high-quality websites, to the housekeeper that’s quick with a “good morning” and a smile. Contrast that with the airlines where even decent customer service is an exception, and front-line employees treat customers as an inconvenience rather than their raison d’être.
My brand of choice, Starwood Hotels, even called me earlier this month to award me with lifetime membership in their elite club (all for the somewhat dubious distinction of having spent approximately three years of the last ten in their hotels), which entailed several new benefits, without action or prompting on my part. When designing your customer interaction points and service offerings, do you have a variety of levels of interaction? Do you offer new and exciting products, some of which are completely unbidden by the customer? In short, are you there for your customers’ comfort and safety?