I was up in Preston last week.
I don’t generally venture that far up north, but I was asked to give a talk at a GCMA meeting up there, so it was well worth the trip.
And here’s an admission: one of the reasons I love my trips away is that I get to choose the hotel I want, spending hours poring over beautiful rooms and working out the very best value I can get my hands on.
Plus, because it’s just me staying I tend to book somewhere nicer than if I had the kids in tow!
Anyway, I found a lovely boutique hotel in Preston city centre, only 12 minutes from the club where I was giving the talk.
Each room was decorated differently, with ornate four poster beds – I plumped for “Fairytale” and didn’t feel oversold by the name; it really was beautiful, with sparkly lights, separate areas for lounge and dining, and clean, crisp and tastefully designed.
So far, so good, but if you’ve ever read one of my emails before, you’ll know how quickly things can change, and it was the “surprises” at check-in that transformed this experience from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Firstly, it turns out that you can’t actually eat breakfast in the hotel – you’ve got to schlep 50m down the road to their partner restaurant, and secondly, the car park is a further five minutes away from the hotel.
No big deal, right? Except for the fact that it started pouring down with rain during the evening, with the forecast assuring me that the deluge would continue into the next day.
Being the soft southerner I am, I’d not really prepared myself for this hardy, Northern weather, and nor had I considered the fact that I may need to walk for a total of seven minutes in the pouring rain; first to the partner restaurant for breakfast, and then to my car to head to the club.
Which meant I had no raincoat. No umbrella. No poncho.
Which meant that if I wanted to enjoy breakfast before my talk, I was going to have to risk my outfit getting soaked, my mascara getting streaked and the always looming threat of a car driving past and giving you a puddle’s worth of water.
Anyway, as I stood at reception on that Sunday night being given complicated instructions to the hotel car park several streets away and about where to go for breakfast the next day, knowing that I’d be battling the elements at an hour I don’t usually like to speak, let alone open my eyes, I resolved that I wouldn’t be staying here again.
And here’s the thing – it was easily avoidable, with a heads up from the hotel along the lines of:
“Please be aware that the parking is a 5 minute walk away, breakfast a 2 minute walk, so if the weather looks like it could turn bad, we recommend a rain coat or umbrella.”
But with no heads up, the experience took me sufficiently out of my comfort zone to the extent that if I am there to give a talk again, I will make sure I find a hotel that is maybe less luxurious, but has everything in house. Less thinking for me to do before an important presentation.
It just goes to show that you can get so much right, but it’s the detail that counts. How smooth is your customer journey, not just from contact to transaction, but in the delivery of your product too?