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Friday, Nov. 2, 2007 at 1:18 pm

“No, but I did sleep at a Staybridge Suites last night… “

By John Quarto-vonTivadar
November 2nd, 2007

Often we relate stories here on Grok about conversion missteps or persuasion challenges facing companies on- and off-line. Today, I’d like to relate a success story!

An Open Letter to Andrew Cosslett, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group:

Dear Mr. Cosslett,

As a business traveler, my needs are simple and predictable: I just want some restful sleep, power outlets numbering more than one, and an internet connection that works. Now, in the last 90 days, I’ve spent more than a third of those nights in a hotel room, so I’m waaaayyyy too familiar with lumpy pillows, concave mattresses, and TV remotes where the previous guest felt entitled to liberate the “free” AA batteries inside.

On a recent trip out to the Googleplex in the San Francisco Bay area, I found myself searching about for a quality place to stay. The usual spots had no vacancies, so I chose one of your less commonly known properties, Staybridge Suites. (I happen to love staying at “suites” hotels; the visual separation of a living area from the sleeping area, and an actual kitchen, creates the feel of a condo that a human lives in rather than just a hotel room.)

I check in, no problems. It’s actually *half* the price of regular hotels in the area. I’m pleasantly greeted by staff and quickly finding my room. But once inside, I’m delighted to see this:

 

That’s right, a hand-written note from the general manager, Ms. Lisa DeLorean. Not a computer-written-in-handwriting-font note, but a real, live, ink-on-quality-stock note. I wasn’t even terribly concerned about the words themselves — the note’s pleasant enough — but this fine business manager took the time to write that note herself, and addressed to me personally, so I know it’s not just the boilerplate greetings that tells you the name of the cleaning staff.

It actually took me awhile to read the note, as most of the “wow” effect came from just receiving it! Of course, she thanks me for choosing her hotel, but she also thanks me for all the other visits I’ve made to the affiliated chain members (Crowne, InterContinental, etc., none of which I suspect factored into her bonus those past years), and then she finished with a bang [emphasis mine]: “We want you to be very satisfied with your stay.”

Not just satisfied, but very satisfied.

And I was. The place was indeed restful, power outlets everywhere and free internet. And, yes, fresh batteries in the remotes.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the stat that a dissatisfied customer tells, on average, 12 others about their bad experience. (Well, Lisa DeLorean, I just told 85,000+ GrokDotCom readers about you, your fine hotel, and the classy way you treat your customers. Keep up the good work!)

Mr. Cosslett, as CEO of Lisa’s parent company, if this handwriting of thank-you notes is corporate policy, congrats to you too! If Lisa did this on her own initiative, you just found your next regional manager. Cuz if you don’t, I’m sure another hotelier will snatch up talent like Lisa’s — and fast.

Sincerely,

John Quarto-vonTivadar, delighted customer

P.S. — At the end of my stay, I tracked down Lisa DeLorean in the manager’s area and thanked her for the note. Curiously, she was taken by surprise, and expressed that no one’s ever thanked her before for writing these notes and (get this!) she was beginning to doubt if they made a difference. Chin up, Lisa, they most certainly do.

If any readers would like to stay at Lisa’s facility, here’s the 411: Lisa DeLorean, general manager, (650) 588-0770 — Staybridge Suites, at the San Francisco Airport, 1350 Huntington Ave, San Bruno, California

[Oh, and by the way, I have no financial interest in InterContinental Hotels Group or its affiliates, nor do I know Andrew Cosslett, and I never met Lisa DeLorean until the events related in this story.]

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Comments (19)

  1. Awesome…there ARE still people out there trying, making the effort, for customers.

    Very cool.

    Best always,
    - Peter

  2. In cursive no less! Rock on Lisa.

  3. There is no amount of marketing or advertising dollars that can replace genuine hospitality. My husband and I are planning a trip to San Francisco next year – it’s where we went on our honeymoon so we try to get out there once a year. Thank you for posting this. I know where we will be staying! Lisa DeLorean: You go girl!!!

  4. Gotta love real human-to-human contact where real people can make an authentic difference.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. I hope Intercontinental Hotels makes her give at least one lecture at their management school!

    Way to go, Lisa!

    Lucky Balaraman

    //////////////////

  6. Although SendOutCards does use the computer generated handwriting font (actually its your own handwriting.), the premise is the same, hearftfelt personal notes “make it through to your customers that you care”

    Way to go Lisa!

  7. What, I wonder, is the readership of this blog? Because I can only guess how much it would have cost in advertising to reach the same amount of people — and with only a fraction of the impact, because Mr. Quarto-von Tivadar’s real-life testimonial knocks the socks off of any other promotional message I can think of. There are just not enough Lisa DeLoreans in this world to go around. Her stellar performance also emphasizes a much-neglected yet salient point: Marketing is not just the realm of the Marketing Department. Booyah!

  8. [...] communications. I suggest they talk to Staybridge Suites (John Quarto-von Tivadar of GrokDotCom raving about their WOW! factor to 85,000 GrokDotCom readers) or Zappo’s. (Seth Godin talking about I Heart Zappos. Then [...]

  9. Absolutely brilliant! Congratulations to Lisa and the remaining too few like her. FYI – This is the first time I have felt driven to respond to anything online. Her person to person dialogue without any direct (although
    inevitable) profit driven intent is something the world is lacking. Imagine the power of a pen and a few minutes of someones time having such a remarkable impact. Where have the rest of us gone wrong?
    Way to go! Your fifteen minutes of well deserved fame! Keep up the brilliant effort – I expect you’re not looking for it but – you’re being rewarded! Brightness in your day! (Mine as well.)

  10. Great Story! Great Marketing Lesson, and
    Somebody, give that girl a promotion!

  11. Funny. I read this post the other day, and the very next day saw a Staybridge Suites in New Orleans while I was visiting the city.

    I have to admit having never heard of the hotel prior…now, twice in two days. Hmmm…I think I’ll give them a try!

  12. John,
    Thank you for taking the time to write this wonderful, uplifting letter about Lisa DeLorean. You are right that these little personal things can change a perseption, view, feeling, thought or moment. As an employee of a Staybridge Suites I thank you for allowing us all to be a part of your great experience in San Francisco at the Staybridge Suites-Lisa’s Staybridge!. She does embody the feeling and service what we want our guests to feel and be a part of.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you John and thanks for giving all of us a view of what it takes to take care of our guests!

    Sincerely,
    Kalei LaFave
    Staybridge Suites-Vancouver, WA.

  13. Hi Everyone,

    just wanted to follow up a bit, as I do appreciate all the comments back both on here and in private email. One thing that I did forget in my original post is that I am strongly introverted — anyone at Future Now can confirm *that* ! — so at a hotel the last thing I usually ever want to do is interact more with people, I just want to be left alone to chill out and I would never be one to go to the social happy-hour event hotels often offer in the lobby, for example. I think it speaks even more highly of the impact of efforts such as Staybridge’s Lisa DeLorean’s that she managed to prod an Introvert so positively as to blog about it!

  14. We’ve received a response from Staybridge’s parent company, InterContinental Hotels Group, as follows:

    ===============
    Thank you for contacting Guest Relations regarding the Staybridge Suites San Francisco Airport, CA. We realize you have many choices when it comes to lodging, and we sincerely appreciate your business.

    We are always very happy when a guest contacts us about the wonderful service they have received. As soon as I received your comments, I immediately forwarded them to the management and ownership of the hotel. They will ensure Ms. Lisa Delorean knows what a great job she has done and also ensure she is recognized for her efforts.

    I have also forwarded this information to the appropriate parties to ensure Mr. Andrew Coslett”s office gets this compliment. Thank you again for your kind words. We hope to have you as a guest in one of our hotels again soon.

    Sincerely,

    Amanda Hopfensperger, Guest Relations, IHG

    ================

    So to all who say big companies don’t listen to small customers, I’d say we just found a wonderful exception. In fact, I’d argue that a company listening to its small customers is precisely how it gets big in the first place. The question is, “do they remember to listen to small customers *after* becoming big?” Try getting service like this from your telecom company.

    I’d also like to make a follow-up comment to Kalei from Vancouver, who works at a Staybridge there: Our business travels to Vancouver several times a year, so you just gave us a wonderful tip on where to stay the next trip.

    I didn’t even know there was a Staybridge there. So now Lisa’s handwritten note is helping not only her own San Fran hotel but based on comments in this thread she’s also having a positive effect on Staybridge properties in New Orleans and Vancouver as well! This *is* the essential goal of relationship-centric brand loyalty.

  15. john.sorry its not hand written but wanted to acknowledge your letter about Lisa and your stay at Staybridge Suites..fantastic to hear how her thoughtfulness made your day..We are a big company but we like to try and keep the personal touch where we can..and we rely on our people to feel confident to do the right thing..clearly Lisa feels that way and I will thanks her personally. Hope you continue to enjoy our hotels. Best and happy Thanksgiving. andy

  16. I’m not headed to San Francisco any time soon … but if I were, you can bet I’d take this as a BIG heads up.

    I used to manage for the RPM franchise of Dominos Pizza.

    I speak as a manager who qualified for the company’s second highest award in my first full accounting period (of one month).

    There is NO facet of your business, including complaint resolution, that you can not use to ‘wow’ a customer.

    If you hit that mark, the customer will often literally say ‘wow’ … and you have just bought a level of customer loyalty that will generate sales for years — or longer! Now, go “wow” another one. And another. And another.

    Good on Ms DeLorean … and good on you for recognizing her ‘one step further’ customer skills. Perhaps if their was more praise when such service was rendered, there would be more occasions for that praise to ring out!

  17. Lisa, great to see human kindness being related one on one to a quest. I send the same handwritten thank you notes to clients, took me back when they sent me a thank you gift for the handwritten thank you note.

    Sue

  18. [...] second step is to have a few Nordstram-type stories up your sleeve in order to capture the emotional essence of great customer service, allowing your website visitors to experience some of your “door opening” vicariously. [...]

  19. Agreed! Recently an out of town VIP from one of our top accts contacted me to set up an appt and discuss his acct – he was coming into town. When I asked if he had stayed with us before, he answered: “yes, and I know who you are because you are the gal who leaves handwritten personal notes for all our guests” Lisa, you are right, sometimes you do things because you just know its right but it sure is nice to know it DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Keep up the great work!

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John is the co-author of the best-selling Always Be Testing and 3 other books. You can friend him on Facebook, though beware his wacky swing dancer friends, or contact him directly at john@johnquarto.com

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