Hotel Wifi; a charge fiasco

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 23.04.00In the last 10 days or so I’ve stayed at 5 different establishments each with a different wifi service.

I needed internet to access email messages, research plans for each day, and my current writing projects. My mobile phone would let me do all that, but it’s not a comfortable tool for writing and there is a daily data limit when roaming under my current contract.

Boutique Hotel

The first was a boutique hotel in central London. Wifi was free throughout the hotel, but password protected. The room rate was high, and every luxury is included so it’s not surprising that wifi was also included.

Central London

I then moved to a more budget friendly option, still in central London – walking distance from the district line. Wifi was considered an additional service and charged at 10 pounds per day. And that’s 24 hours of availability, not 24 hours of use. Plus it was for a single device – I was carrying three devices that could use a wifi network. But the staff are obviously sick of discussing the wifi charges, the concierge gave me an extra login when I needed to send a quick email related to my booking.

Tourist City, Business Hotel

I left London and went to a tourist city, staying in a hotel geared to business people. The charge there was 15 pounds per day. But free in the public areas – for one hour.

It made me regret my booking. I’ve done some research and come up with half a dozen hotels in the town with free wifi for a range of room rates – often lower than I paid.  I complained via twitter and was told “it’s hotel policy”.
Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 19.21.37Fair enough, now that I know I won’t book there on my next trip.

Airbnb

I stayed at an airbnb place for two nights, where wifi was free. I’ve stayed at Airbnb places in several cities now, wifi has been included for no extra charge at all places. I realise there is a different level of complexity providing wifi to 100 rooms rather than one, but it does show that there is an expectation for wifi that airbnb hosts are meeting.

Yotel

For my last night in the UK I stayed at the Yotel at Gatwick airport; wifi free. The room rate is less than half that of the Central London or Tourist City hotels. The room is very basic, in fact they call them cabins. There’s another hotel, a more upmarket version of the same concept called Bloc Hotel at Gatwick, which also provides free wifi – and boasts of its speed.

So the places at the top and bottom ends of the price range include wifi; they know their guests need it and they’ve responded to that demand. Two and a half years ago I predicted that there would be a growing demand, for wifi, in that I was right. I wouldn’t have guessed that the customer demand would take so long to shift the policies of mid-level hotels.

There are of course plenty of other options for wifi; cafes, bookshops -even McDonalds in London provides free wifi. I used it even though I wasn’t a customer (probably not their intention!).

But if McDonald’s will provide free wifi for the price of a hamburger what is the issue for those mid-level hotels? Given the growth and growth and growth of internet access via mobile relative to desktop why aren’t hotels changing their policies? Why am I asked to pay a 10% surcharge for what should be a standard feature? After all they don’t charge me based on water used or TV watched.

It’s going to be a selection criteria from now on. I bet that decision saves me money.

What’s your take on wifi in hotels?

 

Image; Wifi / themaninblue / CC BY-ND 2.0

Pinterest Torture

Pinterest is the latest-greatest-fastest-growing social media platform, with a high conversion rate. Meaning that users are likely to buy something they’ve pinned, according to a small survey done Harvard Business Review 12% of pinterest users have gone on to make an online purchase of something they’ve pinned, and 16 % go on to make an offline purchase of something they’ve pinned.

Great news for businesses.

So why then do businesses pin a great image of their latest trendy product and then…

when I click on it give me this;

Requiring me to create an account in order to see the product price.

Guess what – I don’t. And I’m not alone.

Amazon, surely the standard-setter in online retail, lets you browse as long as you want, and offers you deals and discounts before asking you to log-in or create an account. Everything we know about transactions online says that the customer will only give you information when they’ve made a decision to buy – and that you shouldn’t put anything in the way of that decision. Once that decision is made then the customer is very task oriented, they’ll create accounts and do what they need to complete their purchase.

In the mean time; let me browse – who knows I may find a second pair of sunnies for the weekend.

Why no Wifi?

I took an overnight trip to London last month, I stayed in a nice hotel, not far from Trafalgar Square. A hotel that uses “classic luxury” as a descriptor. They wanted to charge me to use their wifi, in fact on check out they tried to charge me for 3 minutes internet time.

Opposite the hotel was a Costa Cafe, with good coffee, nice staff and free wifi. So I wandered across the road, ordered a large latte and used wifi there.

So why couldn’t the hotel provide free wifi? I pondered this as I sipped my coffee. To start with I was a bit annoyed and was working up to a good rant, but on reflection it makes sense.

The cafe has a lot of competition, several other cafes in walking distance and a bookstore with wifi. So if providing wifi attract more customers, or encourage customers to stay longer – and order a second cup, it’s well worth the costs. It’s a matter of beating the competition.

Hotels with a large proportion of business travels have customers who are less price sensitive since it’s often their company paying, and not funded from their own pocket. The extra charges for wifi will be picked up by expenses.

I predict a change; free wifi is becoming an expectation in any public space and I know one Asian-based businessman who includes it as criteria in selecting a hotel. No free wifi, no booking.

Customer Service Beats Wow

One of my colleagues ordered a taxi last week using his mobile phone, and was pleasantly surprised – wowed even, to get an SMS confirming his taxi booking.

For the rest of us, used to such a simple service, it doesn’t seem so exciting. We were amused at his enthusiasm, teased him a little.

Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 10.08.48 PMBut it makes a lot of sense to get the basics right. It’s easy to be swayed by consultants and marketing gurus talking about delighting or enchanting your customers, but customers often want much less – particularly of commodity products

Harvard Business Review agrees, ” In fact, most customers just want a simple, quick solution to their problem” according to a recent tip. The taxi example prevents callbacks – your order in confirmed, and you feel confident that if a company can do that they’re probably well organised.

Very often the basic simple service is going to do more for your brand long term than elaborate plans to delight a customer.

Image Packaged With Custom Love / CC BY 2.0

Pay what you think it’s worth

Picture 14Years ago my parents when to a concert to raise money for musicians in Sarejevo, the tickets were free. You had to donate to leave. It was brilliant, everyone there was already ready to show support and by the time they’d heard the music they were in a good and generous mood. I’ve always wondered what the ticket “price” really was. I’ve also wondered if anyone else had tried this model.

Today I read of some other cases that have; a taxi driver, a chiropractor and a law firm.  It is another alternative payment structure like “freemium” – where a free model is available, but you pay a premium to get all the features.

I think it works under two conditions.

(1) when you are providing a personal service where clients and supppliers meet each other during the profession of the service, where both parties trust each other and have learnt to communicate. In other words where there’s an existing relationship.

(2) where it’s easy to compare the market price for the service, in the Concert example the attendees were all regular concert goers so knew roughly the price of a ticket. I’m currently having rather massive dental work done, it’s time consuming and complex. Although I know what a regular treatment costs I would probably underestimate the costs of this work.

I think it’s less likely to work where the service is anonymous, for example a retail relationship where it won’t be necessary to return to that supplier, or a service provided by an anonymous corporation – for example an insurer.

I’d like to be wrong, but I suspect without the relationship our own self interest will take over.

photo from arquera via flickr

Customer Experience

We’ve evolved from speaking about “customer satisfaction” to “customer experience” to “customer delight”.

It’s not an “or” question, you can’t delight your customers if you haven’t already satisfied their needs, but according to a Harvard blog one US bank has been trying to substitute coffee and comfortable chairs for efficient transaction service.

The blog points out that the people with the most banking expertise are now greeting visitors, I’m sure that was well justified in the consultant report. I imagine the logic went something like “you’re in this banking crisis, people don’t trust you, they way to turn that around is come out from behind your desks and talk to the customers”. It’s not necessarily bad advice in the conceptual sense – banks and financial institutions are seen as untrustworthy, and research indicates people don’t ask for advice in part because of a perceived distance issue.

The problem is in the execution. Most customers can do everything online, so if they’ve made the time to come into the bank it’s because they have a more complex transaction, or an problem that can’t be solved online. In short they’ve come into the bank for the bank’s expertise.

Customer satisfaction would be around accurate and efficient delivery of the expected service.

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 5.44.15 PMA positive customer experience would be around short waiting times, professionally friendly staff, comfortable surroundings. At this point you can earn trust, you’re doing the right things in the right way.

If all of that is in order you can then, and only then, delight me with a cup of really excellent coffee.

But you can’t skip the satisfaction and the experience and expect a customer to be happy because you’ve made my long wait for service more pleasant.

I can get coffee at a cafe – that’s not what I’m coming to a bank for.

Image Smiling coffee /Toby Bradbury/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0