WOW Systems.

In four-i 263, I made the case to be more ordinary, to stop attempting to deliver WOW moments and instead focus on making sure your standard service is impeccably delivered.

I’m going to contradict myself here, or at least offer a different slant – it is possible to deliver WOW but it should be systemised, as the 20 delegates at BlueSky Seattle experienced two weeks ago with quite exceptional service at the Four Seasons Hotel. But, as my subsequent hotel experience reminded me all too quickly, WOW should only be pursued once the basics are delivered superbly well.

It started on arrival at the Four Seasons, Seattle. I was acknowledged when checking in with the greeting, “Mr Knight, we’ve been expecting you and very much look forward to your staying with us for six nights.”

The next morning at breakfast, Millie introduced herself: “It’s great to have so many of you from the UK and Australia staying with us, we’re really pleased you chose our hotel.”

The next day at breakfast, (Millie again), “Good Morning Mr Knight, did you sleep well? Would you like the avocado toast with eggs again and a black americano?”

On returning to my room, all my toiletries were laid out in the bathroom perfectly (shaving items in one line, toothpaste, floss and mouthwash on another, etc.)

I had two chargers plus a laptop all with cables that I’d hastily put in place to charge up. Each had been neatly coiled up with a special clip.

The next day I found a spectacles cleaning cloth next to my reading glasses.

On the day prior to departure I found a clear bag with a sealing mechanism for taking toiletries through the airport.

Kevin Ellis of the Land & New Homes Network popped a button on a shirt (nothing to do with USA sized portions, just one of those unfortunate things that can happen!). He left it on his bed having changed into another one. On returning that evening the button had been replaced, (without any request to do so).

Spencer Lawrence of Paramount knocked his last but one pair of underpants into a bath full of water (that’s his story) and he wrung them out to dry on the heated towel rail. When he returned they had been laundered and wrapped in tissue paper.

There were many more examples but you get the picture.

Here’s the insight – these things didn’t happen by chance. The front desk review who’s expected to check in that day and prepare a personalised greeting. The restaurant team are trained to remember guests and their preferences (they were all great but Millie was fantastic). The housekeeping staff are encouraged to find ways they can be helpful. Checking in with all our delegates, I found that everyone had similar stories, (actually that’s not true, only Spencer had wet pants!) – these moments of WOW were clearly systemised and the Four Seasons in Seattle cannot be praised highly enough.

Unfortunately the next hotel I stayed in didn’t match up. They tried to do some WOW things but all of these were as a consequence of systems failure.

Check in was at 4pm but the room wasn’t ready – their remedy, free drinks at the bar but after a 3 hour flight and 2 hour drive all I wanted was to shower and freshen up.
COST $50

Room service breakfast starts at 7am – I called on the dot of 7 to be told, before I’d even placed my order, “we have several guests ahead of you and there’s a 40 minute wait.” It took an hour (they called to advise that the waffle iron wasn’t heated and did I wish to have the service split – which I declined).
COST $10 (No tip)

The outside shower floor was filthy as was the deck. The hotel apologised and sent a cleaning team in to rectify.
COST $50 (bottle of wine and plate of macaroons as compensation)

Room not serviced one evening. Interruptions continuously despite DND. Unable to book dinner in hotel restaurant. I could go on, there were more than a dozen failures.
COST $1,400 deducted from final bill for all the shortcomings.

In the second hotel the “management” seemed to be in permanent meetings. Every time I asked for something to be rectified I subsequently received a call from the various people in charge – but here’s the insight, not once were these “leaders” ever visible around the hotel, they were always hidden away in a meeting room.

The Four Seasons isn’t cheap but nor was the second hotel either, (which we won’t be using for BlueSky next year). The second hotel had bigger rooms, special features like indoor/outdoor shower, a lovely outside space and the most incredible setting. But as is so often the case, it’s the people, their attitude, behaviours and realisation that “little details make a big difference” which are the main factors behind a WOW or indeed a FAIL. Ultimately, it’s down to having the right systems, WOW systems.

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