Sticky or Schticky? How an attempt to impress goes down in flames…and how to fix it.

Hotel wars are comically brutal attempts to (somehow) earn a visitor’s loyalty, or at least impress her with a novel convenience.  I’ve seen hotels leave small rubber ducks in the bathrooms, chocolate on the pillows (still?  really?), bottles of iced water on warm days, gourmet coffee on cold winter mornings.  Bath robes, eye masks, beauty kits, complimentary laundry and dry cleaning services, free breakfasts, and, my personal favorite, a washcloth folded into an origami flower.  Hotels…you have to love ’em.  But it was this sticky note, attached to my headboard, that highlights one of the basic challenges of capturing a customer’s emotional dedication: Great theater includes surprise and delight.

Surprising your customers with an emotionally positive experience on any scale is a surefire way to elevate their connection and response to your service.  That my duvet and sheets are “clean” is neither a surprise nor a delight.  To the contrary, I’m left wondering about the alternative.  What are the implications?  Is it unusual to clean the sheets?  Are they typically left stained or dirty?  You can see where I’m going.  Drawing one’s attention to something that would otherwise be considered a standard cleanliness policy does nothing to advance an Experience-positive agenda.  

Surprise is best suited for public consumption.  People want to participate in the surprise, or at least witness it.  Especially in terms of amazing service.  Clean sheets just don’t cut it.  However, were a person to visit the room, conduct a visual inspection, perhaps spray a nice scent above the bed or in the room, maybe light an aromatherapy candle…THAT would be a surprise.  THAT would mean something more than a pre-printed sticky note.  Best of all it would be participatory!  

The Experience Economy is causing smart businesses to evaluate the ways in which they can create a highly personalized emotional connection with their clients.  The opportunity for authenticity is tremendous.  The pitfalls of inadvertent corner-cutting are equally obvious.  Smart leaders will capitalize on the surprise and delight that occurs when a member of their audience participates in the drama, laughs out loud, nods approvingly, and says to herself “I can’t wait to see what happens next.”


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