Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hotel Nikko Asks: What Could We Do to Get You to Stay?

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the Social Media Marketing 2010 Conference in San Francisco which happened to be held at the Hotel Nikko. If you haven't visited/stayed at the Nikko before, it's a nice hotel. Centrally located (just a few blocks off of Market), bright and clean with all the charm of a boutique hotel. The rooms are well-laid out with large flat panel televisions, wet bars and bathrooms that offer separate bathtubs and showers.

Of course I enjoyed my experience at the Hotel Nikko (in fact, this was my second time staying there) but my main criteria for choosing it had more to do with location (it's where the conference was being held) and price (about $200/night all in) than anything else. While I was there, however, an interesting thing happened that led to the eventual writing of this blog post...

I was riding up in the elevator when a young woman who was interning at the hotel asked me if I was attending the conference. I said that I was which prompted her to ask me why I thought more of the attendees weren't staying at the hotel. This was a fairly easy question to answer given the fact that I knew a lot of the speakers/attendees lived locally and thus didn't need a hotel that night. It was her next question, though, that really piqued my interest. The intern asked, "what could we do to get you to stay here next time?"

At this point in the conversation, I started thinking to myself, either this is a very clever young lady who will go far some day OR Hotel Nikko may be taking an innovative approach to their customer research. Either way, I told her I had exactly the answer she was looking for... but she would need to do a little homework. I gave her three names that I told her to write down: The Roger Smith Hotel in NYC,  Brian Simpson aka @bsimi (their director of social hospitality) and Brian's sidekick, Adam Wallace aka @adwal (new media director at the Roger Smith).

[NOTE: if you don't know the story of the Roger Smith and how unbelievably successful they've been through their customer-centric AND social media efforts, be sure to listen to my colleague, Joseph Jaffe's interview or read Chris Brogan's glowing post about their efforts]

Being as diligent as she was curious, the intern took out her notepad and wrote all this information down, obviously intrigued by what a hotel in NYC and two guys with hip hop sounding Twitter handles could have to do with getting me to stay at her hotel. At this point, she thanked me for the information and we parted ways. Upon our separating, I got thinking more about the question she had asked me and decided to write a prescriptive post about five things I liked about my experience at the Nikko along with five ways they could improve.

The good:
  1. I arrived at the hotel at 8:30 AM and asked if I could check in. While many hotels are strict about their early checkin policy, the woman behind the desk was very polite and let me check in early without even batting an eyelash.
  2. This may not be a big deal for most people but as someone that travels a fair amount AND is married to his laptop, the fact that the electrical outlets were easily accessible and that they had reliable wifi was much appreciated.
  3. Anyone that follows me on Twitter will understand how happy I was that there was a Starbucks in the lobby.
  4. There was a bottle of water on my bedside stand.
  5. I'd like to think that the Nikko was the impetus behind their inquisitive interns line of questioning, even if they didn't explicitly tell her to chat up guests in the elevator. If that wasn't the case, they were still smart enough to hire a smart and motivated intern.
The "could use improvement":
  1. When I arrived to checkin, I was as little surprised that they didn't acknowledge the fact that I had stayed there before (level of difficulty from a CRM perspective is about a 2 on a scale of 1-10). This also required NO knowledge of social media whatsoever.
  2. The "reliable" in-room wifi was $15/night. And while it was provided by AT&T (a network that usually allows roaming via my Boingo account), I wasn't provided with a "roaming" option in spite of the fact that the FAQs on the site said that I could.
  3. Corollary to number four in the "good" column above... while there was in fact A bottle of water on my bedside table, the aforementioned bottle was not a FREE bottle of water. I am of the strong belief that every hotel should offer at least A free bottle of water, even if it's the cheap, no name kind.
  4. While I don't expect that many businesses will make an attempt to use or even experiment with location-based services like FourSquare, Gowalla and Whrrl, restaurants and hotels are foolish for not tapping into this capability now. To that end, I was disappointed that the Nikko did not acknowledge of my FourSquare checkin given the fact that I cross-posted it on Twitter for all to see.
  5. They weren't the Roger Smith
All in all, you'll notice that my "could use improvement" column isn't too scathing. While I travel a lot, I have simple needs. And maybe I've been spoiled by my stays at the Roger Smith but I am really surprised that more hotels -- boutiques AND chains -- haven't done a better job at embracing social media.

How about you? Have you had a good or bad experience at a hotel that you'd like to mention? Please include it in the comments below.


  1. I had a very good stay there in I think it was 2003 went with a bunch of friends for the first SF Love Festival Party. At the time I was a high level Hilton Honors member. So I was treated similar to you.

    I must say from being a past heavy traveler who sometimes had to deviate from the Hilton family, I was very surprised that all hotels did not ask me when staying on business how much I traveled or even a survey to find out. I had frequent stay numbers with all the chains.

    That said I also noticed that Hilton did things for me that they did not do for their random guests. These extras (like the water) was meant to incentivize travelers. But you could only find out if you read the Hilton Honors Program info. Its not really an incentive unless you know about it. And simply asking 'are you a member?' inferring sign up if I am not is not enough.

  2. Guess where I'm writing this comment from? :)

    There's a lot to it, the whole service excellence thing. If I weren't already writing a few books, I'd write one about that. Thank goodness, Marsha Collier has a book that will serve that need. : )

  3. @Brogan: I'm betting you're no fan of that ridiculously overpriced bottle of water, huh?

    I've never stayed at the Nikko, Aaron, but I'll at least consider it for next time! Especially like that they allow early check-ins!

  4. Howie - good point on using things like bottled water as part of an incentive program. I have no problem with that.

    Mr. Brogan - what a pleasant surprise to have you swing by my blog (probably didn't hurt that I gave your post RE the Roger Smith a little love). And I'm guessing that you are prolly staying in the Roger Smith (or were) as we speak! ;)

    Bryan - it's definitely worth a go.

  5. Aaron but as to my point if people don't know the incentives they aren't LOL That said for freaking water I agree with your point I mean for $200/night they can toss you a $0.33 no-name brand.

  6. Aaron - Love this post and that intern should get a raise! Whoever checked you in MAY have had the information you'd stayed there before, but it often depends on the person creating the experience. Much of that is tied to training.AND I also am a big believer in free water. And free water each day you're staying seems reasonable to me, especially when the tap water tastes yucky. I know, I'm a diva. :)
    Good post. Thanks!