Blogging, Brand Management, Customer Experience, Marketing Automation, Stories

What a recent stay in Thailand taught me about service automation, customer experience, and my wife

Welcome board

Not the actual board, but ours was very much like this one – you get it.

In the reception of the place we were staying at in southern Thailand, they’d put up a board in the morning. On this board they’d publish the names of new guests arriving that day. Every day a new list of names from all over the world. About 20 names on average. First names and last names.

Then at check-in, you’d get these small, handwritten notes – the breakfast passes. One per day, per family member, stitched together. In beautiful small, curly writing, each note states the cabin number, the date, your family name, your arrival date and your departure date. You spend 7 days with a family of 4, you get 28 of these notes. 28 handwritten notes for a single guest family.

Just 2 examples.

I never gave any of it much thought until I passed a small office one night. In there, I saw a guy building the arrivals board for the next day. It was on his desk. To the left of it was a printout of the new arrivals list. To the right, a shoebox filled with letters. He was studying the names, going through the box to find the right letters, slowly copying the listed names – Australian, Japanese, Israeli, Swedish, Russian, American, Dutch names. First and last. Poor Thai guy.

So I ask my wife: “Why aren’t they investing just a small amount of money into automating this stuff – it’s so easy. You display the names straight from your reservation system (which you have the guests happily populate themselves as they book a cabin online), and print out the breakfast vouchers from the same system – or even better give them one voucher for their entire stay with a QR code which you scan every morning at the entrance of the breakfast room. Data goes straight into your invoicing system. Or what about a small bracelet with an RFID chip, which they can then also use in the bar and restaurant? You’d free up at least 1 FTE in headcount at a fairly small cost, wouldn’t you? And the poor guy and the voucher-writing girl could maybe do more enjoyable work!”

I admit, I got a bit carried away there.

My wife: “Well yeah, but you just wouldn’t feel as welcome and appreciated as a guest, would you? I mean, they spend a lot of time making you feel quite special here – not just with the board and the breakfast vouchers, but in general. It fits right in there. And wouldn’t those guys be fired, anyway?” She is always right.

When I asked the resort’s manager the same question the next day, she smiled at me and said I shouldn’t worry about it and enjoy my stay. She’s probably always right, as well.

So firstly, think twice before taking any European reason to other parts of the world. Secondly, automating service – any service – and introducing self-service means you have to double-down on creating an equally great customer experience. Spend the time.

Lastly, listen to the wife. She’s usually right. (Love you, honey)

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