It's the little things that matter in the customer experience. Why? Because the big advantages in business have already pretty much been carved out by people smarter, or luckier, than most of us. Odds are good you're not going to Uberize, let alone Amazonize, your corner of the world.
But you might Carolize it.
Carol is my housekeeper here at my hotel in San Francisco. The hotel, part of The Luxury Collection, is called The Palace, and it does live up to the boldness of its name. It's a landmark space, dating back to 1909, just after the San Francisco earthquake, that is infused with many touches of grandeur. But if anyone here is making me feel like royalty, it's Carol.
hat is infused with many touches of grandeur. But if anyone here is making me feel like royalty, it's Carol.
Even though she does her work invisibly. I only see the results.
My charging cables are lovingly rolled; they have that skilled twist to them that I thought only professional audio engineers and IT folks know how to do, but Carol has mastered it as well.
My shirts, which I threw haphazardly on the ottoman as I rushed to leave for my meeting this morning are now not quite so haphazard.
At turndown, the retro bedside Tivoli radio is set to San Francisco's great jazz station, KCSM, tuned perfectly but not too loud. (Is this in my profile, as a Berklee College of Music alum? I have my suspicions that it might be!)
Maybe you think housekeeping is housekeeping, but as someone who travels quite a bit, I beg to differ. These little touches add warmth, and a feeling of being cared for, to my experience. And Carol, and the enlightened people who trained her and who employ her, understand this as well.
(Appropriately, I'm staying here, rather than at a nondescript no-frills business hotel due to another little touch experienced here-last year, when I wasn't even staying at The Palace as a guest. My son and I, full and happy from a gourmand experience at the Ghiradhelli ice cream parlor on the corner, wandered tentatively through the grand, double-width hallway here on that earlier stay in town, in search of a restroom. A manager, whose name now escapes me, greeted us, showed us both the necessity and later showed us around, briefly and graciously. Mental note made: Next time, I'm staying here!)
It's instructive that the little things are what make the difference here, because The Palace is known for the big things that distinguish it from other urban hotels:
• Its stupendous open space, The Garden Court, covered by a glass ceiling so large and ornate that it's made up of 72,000 pieces of glass. This space, which is original to the hotel, is now inventively divided into a restaurant on one side and a business-traveler-and-millennial-friendly plug-in space and casual lounge on the other.
• Chandeliers in its public spaces that weigh in at 750 pounds or more. (They look particularly sparkly to my eye; they're dusted weekly, I was told, on an inviolable schedule.)
• A locally beloved Maxfield Parrish painting, 16 feet long and 6 feet long that gives the Pied Piper bar and restaurant their name.
• A kitchen that is ready, willing, and often called on to do as many as 6,000 meals a day. 45,000 square feet of meeting space, extensively configured into a variety of larger and more intimate conference and event environments.
• A lavish indoor pool (one of the only true pools offered by a hotel, in any price range, in San Francisco's tight real estate market).
• A presidential suite on the hotel's top floor that's complete with Knabe baby grand piano, antique but in tune (no, I didn't stay there, but they let me try it out on my tour).
So, can little things make a true business difference? I would argue not that they're the only thing that make a difference, but perhaps the most controllable "only thing" that makes a difference. A difference that you, and the Carols of the world, whether you are Carol or you employ Carol, can choose to make for your customers, and the success of your business.
Let's all get to it.