A Mosquito Interrupted My Guest Experience
By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | October 12, 2014
Late afternoon, lazing in our cabana chairs outside our room, next to the pool, overlooking the beach, waiting for our first cocktail as sunset approached. Our guest experience so far was dreamy and our boutique hotel setting exquisite. We loved our room, the ambiance and the feelings we were having. We were comfortable, relaxed and happy with our hotel choice. Then, a high pitched buzzing noise, the sense of something flying nearby, the disturbing sight of a black insect landing on my leg, the stinging slap to end its life, a small squish of blood, a new bump and the realization that the itching would soon begin. A MOSQUITO had interrupted my Guest Experience! And, he brought friends.
Soon, we could think of nothing else and exquisite turned to annoying as more mosquitoes showed up. Our cocktails and sunset toast were neglected as we began a series of calls to solve a problem we would not have expected to have in this luxury setting. We were now uncomfortable, stressed and unhappy with the hotel for not taking care of this before our sunset experience began. Our call to the manager led to an explanation that their elaborate mosquito prevention system was broken. He sent a housekeeper to our room to "spray" but she did not speak English, did not understand the problem, thought it was inside, and not outside and simply offered to vacuum and spray air freshener. We declined her offer, left our cozy patio ambiance and headed to the bar. We told the bartender about our frustrations and that we were quite surprised the hotel did not proactively manage this insect intrusion nor know how to handle the intruders after they arrived. She jumped right in with her own frustrations noting the tiny monsters also bit her and her fellow employees regularly and that the hotel did not seem to care or help. She said the mosquitoes were often a distraction to her job and that she was less focused on the guest while she was battling the icky itches. She finally starting coming to work with her own mosquito prevention equipment and offered to share her can of bug spray. We eagerly accepted and started spraying up a storm.
Tiny annoyances like these can turn into gigantic upsets and leave guests with experiences they want to forget instead of remember.
What's interesting is how hoteliers and hospitality leaders may or may not be responding to these interruptions and how they are preparing their staff and teams to handle them if and when they happen.
In the case of the invading mosquitoes, the hotel team knew that this time of year was more mosquito intensive but did not have a plan in place to address it or alert the guests. The housekeeper who was sent to our room had no idea that she played a role in the guest experience and simply had a job to do. She had not been oriented to approach the situation from the guest's point of view and to what would make that guest more comfortable. She did not connect to the situation or the guests and simply went about the tasks she was assigned. She was there for at least 15 minutes, more time than we spent with any other employee in the hotel. She was not empowered nor in tune with the experience underway and did not even want to speak to the guests. She simply wanted to get her job done. This caused the feeling of "interruption" to be even stronger with the guests when a "connection", empathy and a positive outcome were what were needed.
Then, when the employee at the bar shared a similar experience and frustration, we knew the interruption continued far beyond the mosquito. The interruption was actually a disconnect between the hotel employees and the guest experience. While great moments had been scripted for guests in this beautiful boutique hotel setting, those moments did not flow together into one seamless experience and had not been coordinated nor managed from an overall experience perspective. The employees were trying to do a good job but they were individually focused and not linked together as a chain in experience and seamless service delivery. The employees were interrupted from delivering a good experience, which in turn interrupted the guests from receiving a good experience.