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The human factor

Di Emilio De Risi, 13 Marzo 2014

The incredible luxury of a phone in every room. This is what The Ritz of Madrid advertised in 1928. Every time I read this sentence in The Leading Hotels of the World guidebook I have at home, it makes me smile. Nowadays, hotels might as well remove the phones from every room and just leave an intercom to call the reception.
This ad came to my mind again recently, during a conversation about how hotels are changing.
Indeed, I believe it is not hotels facilities that change, but people. It is a simple and underrated detail. In the past, it was easier to impress a guest – with a telephone, a TV set, a wake-up call in the morning. Now, even in luxury hotels, the most commonly used buzzword is “service”. Luxury lies in customised service, they say. True, but the devil is in the details.
Might it be that what hotels mean by “service” is in fact not what their guests would like?
There are remarkable hotels, featuring good service quality, which, however, obtain less positive reviews than some clearly less interesting competitors. What is happening, then? Let’s leave aside fake reviews and poor online reputation management. The point is that there is no longer a focus on the human factor. We are aware of all this in theory but, in practice, we are not managing change.
Let me give you an example. Many hotel guests have Sky and other pay TVs at home; by comparison, a hotel smart TV is perceived as unfriendly, confusing, and having fewer channels than a normal digital terrestrial device. Is it going to elicit a “wow!” from the customer? No, because it is less than what he or she expects, and because it won’t allow to watch some outlandish formats customers may like, such as Dmax or Real Time.
Another example: a few days ago I had coffee with a friend at Caffè Gucci in the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery. The coffee was served first to me, then to the lady. I was dumbfounded (considering the type of coffee shop), but the commis was solicitous and attentive. Possibly, what used to be a “red ink” mistake in the past has now become a pardonable error, or is even no longer noticed by customers?
Maybe yes, maybe no. The point is, we need to tune into changes in the human factor, both in the physical designing of hotel facilities and in the provision of services. Let me close by proposing a quick test: how many have a power socket always active, allowing to recharge a cell phone even when the electronic key card is removed?

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