Be Careful, It’s Their Heart

I was shopping on Amazon.com the other day when I noticed that 476 people had written opinions about one particular pair of socks. Another sock style had 557 reviews. Most were animated: “Fits tight and I have a small foot!” “I’ve just bought 60 pairs of these; I know that’s a lot but I never want to run out again!” “I bought these socks for my wife and she threw them away.” “They go on smoothly but oddly, after awhile, my ankles start to itch.”

Why are we so anxious to share our opinions with strangers when we’re all so direly strapped for time? Is it a desire to help each other through life’s foibles or a need to set the record straight on the good and the bad in this world? With this in mind, I went to TripAdvisor to check out Barcelona hotel reviews. An independent hotel popped up first that, although under my radar, had extremely high ratings, with 800 readers ranking it as “excellent” and a mere 36 judging it as only “average.”

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The excellent reviews praised the hotel’s location, warm and friendly staff, the layout of the immaculately cleaned rooms and the comfortable beds. Some of the delight came from travelers who were simply expecting an adequate hotel. The “average” reviews complained of expectations not being met. A guest celebrating a big birthday felt the hotel did nothing to recognize the occasion. Another came with high expectations of visiting the hotel’s garden, but they were declined access to it because a private function was being held there. It got worse when they instead went to a rooftop bar but couldn’t sit down because seats were reserved for VIPs. One guest was irked because there was only one bar of soap in the room even though there were two sinks, a shower and a bath. He felt, on principle, that one bar of soap was not adequate for this scenario and was even more annoyed because housekeeping didn’t seem to agree with him. He reported all of these emotions on TripAdvisor.

My Takeaway: People delight in not being disappointed, when their expectations are met and surpassed. When something good happens at the outset of a trip—and by good, I don’t mean amazing, I mean being greeted in an engaging manner at the front desk and delivered to a guest room that’s a decent size, clean and comfortable. A barrier-free travel experience apparently sets the stage for them to go to a website and upload all of these positive thoughts and opinions even if they have a million other things they should be doing.

They complain bitterly over a lack of access, of something they had great anticipation for not being up to snuff; they emote a sense of betrayal when they feel they’re not listened to. When something bad happens, the poison becomes insidious, creeping into every other interaction with the establishment. It could be that aloof employee who gives the guest wrong directions to a restaurant or the doorman who seemingly ignores your arrival at a hotel, leaving your heart to sink as you wander into a buzzing lobby that everyone seems to belong in but you.

Operating a luxury travel business is a lot like running a hotel when you consider the touchpoints of the trip planning process. Be careful you’re not losing the love of the client who is desperate to feel excited about their trip, whose goal is simply not to be disappointed by this big idea of a vacation they had even though they’re spending lots and lots of lovely money and deserve only the best experience. Examine all of your interactions, and those of your team, to be sure you’re not making that vulnerable client feel like an outsider in the world they so anxiously want to enter.

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