US Airways and Kimpton Hotels both compete in very crowded market spaces where price can make the difference in a consumer’s final selection. But one of them knows how to move beyond price to compete on experience and the other doesn’t.
On a recent trip to NYC, I flew on US Air because it contributes to my United frequent flyer status, and stayed at Kimpton’s 70 Park Hotel, because I belong to the loyalty program for this chain of boutique hotels. But with Delta miles and Hilton points, I could easily have made other choices or decided that loyalty points were not worth paying a price premium.
Arriving very late at Kimpton’s 70 Park Hotel, the night staff greeted me the way a hostess would greet a dinner guest she was excited to entertain. Hungry after my too-small airplane meal, I discovered a $15 free mini-bar credit for Loyalty Members, which almost covered the cost of a large bag of almonds and a DosEquis beer. But the beer in the mini-bar fridge was warm. A call to the front desk resulted in a cold beer (with a lime wedge no less) arriving within 5 minutes – free of charge. When I awoke to a rainy NYC day, I discovered a golf umbrella in the closet… plus a NYT at my door, wonderful coffee in the lobby, and an invitation for my daughter and me to join other guests for wine at 4 PM.
In other words, at every touch point Kimpton delighted me as its guest, a delight I will remember.
The night before my flight home I connected (free of charge – thanks again, Kimpton) to the US Air website. The seat map showed rows of open seats at the front of the plane, but I was further back, in a middle seat with passengers on either side. I called US Air asking if my Premium status on United would enable me to have an aisle seat in the front as I had a lot of work to do on the plane. “That will be $45.” Arriving at the airport I discovered flight delays and asked if I could get onto an earlier flight which had a lot of empty seats. “That will be $75.” Again, my “status” card offered no value.
At every touch point, US Air angered. And it angered in ways I will remember, especially next time I fly. If its employees had had access to a database, they would have realized that I am the kind of flyer they should try to delight: I fly a lot and pick planes based mostly on schedule and loyalty club (for me, price is only a factor where options differ by more than $50).
With my next visit to Kimpton 70 Park, they will easily recover the cost of the beer, umbrella, paper, etc. I’ve vowed to avoid US Air because it failed to delight, even in ways that would have cost them nothing, since seats that would have delighted me were available.
Leaders design business models but the outcome depends upon employees. Whether employees delight or anger customers depends upon the stated value promise of the business model, its communication to employees, and the culture that leaders create.
Kimpton’s 70 Park is priced to compete in a crowded NYC 3 Star hotel market. It’s value promise is “a delightful NYC hotel experience” and their culture gives staff the freedom (and likely the working environment) to deliver on this promise at every turn. Kimpton is an authentic brand in my mind as it delivered on its website’s promise.
US Air is also priced to compete on cost. Frankly, I don’t know what its value promise is – or if they even have one. But I am sure its employees would tell me that short-term profit is all that matters and that the culture is one in which employees abide by the rules or are fired.
What customer experience is your company creating?