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hilton brand experience let down over starbucks incident July 21, 2007

Posted by nicholas gill in brand, mobile, thoughts.


Earlier this week, I met a chap who had flown over from the US. He was in town for two days so my two colleagues & I were chuffed that we could be fitted into a hectic schedule. We met him in his hotel, the Hilton in Paddington, London. Location wise, it’s pretty good for his flight to Boston the next day as he’s right next to the Heathrow Express train. That’s where the benefits ended for me and an example of how a bad brand experience will turn you against a brand.

The hotel itself had quite poor signage meaning that we toiled for a bit to find the Executive Lounge where our host had asked us to meet him. The conversation went something like this:

Us: “Hi, we’re here to see Mr X [sorry, bit of non disclosure stuff required for the time being], he asked us to meet him here.”

Them: “Are you staying at the hotel?”

Us: “No, Mr X is, we’re meeting him here.”

Them: “If you want to use the Executive Lounge, you’ll need to pay. Mr X won’t as he’s a guest. Let me see if I can find him.”

Us: “OK, we’ll go and sit in the bar and wait for him.”

So far, we’d already been informed that our casual meeting would cost him/us to sit in the Exec lounge which looked empty and had nothing the bar didn’t – except perhaps for attentive waiting staff (see below). This seems wrong to me. Mr X had already probably spent at least £150 on the room. He would most likely have dinner at the hotel too, which as we all know if over-priced and under-prepared. He has a HHilton loyalty thing (as an aside, the HH thing is weird) and travels a gazillion times a year so is a super customer. And he would have been asked to pay extra to have a 1hr meeting with 3 guests so paying 3 times. Value exchange?

Anyway, we retreated to the bar. And Mr X pitched up. He looked hot and tired. He’d flown in early doors, had a meeting in Newbury and hot-footed it back to London to meet us, then have dinner after us with some colleagues/associates. A little frazzled with jet lag, he had with him a latte to go from Starbucks. Fair enough. The waiter came over:

Him: “Would you like some drinks?”

Us: [after the English pleasantries] “2 pints of lager and a gin and tonic please.”

Him: “Sorry, Sir [to Mr X], you will need to put your coffee into one of our mugs?”

Mr X: “Huh?”

Him: “We can’t allow you to drink that here, you will need to use a mug we provide.”

I could imagine if he was less tired, Mr X would have growled, lept up and attacked the waiter. But, considering he was fucked after his travel, he just shrugged. The mug came, it was tiny. He ended up filling it two or three times during the conversation as far as I recall.

And then our drinks took about 15 mins to come. And the bar wasn’t exactly teeming.

Is this the way to treat your customers? Charge them extra to sit in a slightly more quiet room (by the guest), make them decant their drink into a mug just because of some corporate nonsense and then make your guests wait longer than is acceptable for drinks to arrive?

I left with a bitter taste of Hilton hotels and the total lack of feeling that it is an upmarket, sophisticated, business-oriented hotel group. What do you think?

Separately, the conversation was illuminating and exciting. I can’t tell you much but suffice to say it fired my imagination about some stuff you can do with the thing you always carry about with you to make calls and send texts. I hope to reveal more soon. I also felt sorry for the punishing schedule Mr X has. I hope he finds some nice, boutique hotels.

Image from Google images 



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