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There are so many hotels to choose from today, how do we differentiate the overall experience? Is it the customer service, esthetics of the environment, amenities and services, or all of the above? What makes a 5-star hotel worth its rating?


I recently spent four nights at the Mandarin Oriental in DC at the AMA Nonprofit Conference. It's rated as a 5-star property. If not for the conference rate, the average room rate is over $400 a night, with the most expensive weighing in at $1400. I had expectations that this would be a positive experience. Yet, here's what happened.
First touchpoint: the Washington DC microsite is far from the elegance of the parent company's main site. The font, the colors and the feel are totally different. Its Web site's first copy entry is:
"Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC has been ranked number one in Institutional Investor magazine's 'Top 100 Hotels of the World' survey."
Second touchpoint: Check-in. Pleasant. Room is lovely; bathrobes, nice amenities and view. Downside: nothing to eat or shop within walking distance - very isolated.
The rest: The integrated TV/radio/AV equipment malfunctions. They respond immediately. I check inside one of the drawers where equipment is stored and there's two years worth of dust in there. I point it out to the technician. Nothing inside was cleaned during my stay.
Breakfast in the cafe: Nice environment, lousy service. Coffee costs $5. 5 stars = $5 coffee.
Conference meals and presentation = very nice.
Fitness facility excellent. Wireless Internet very slow.
Piece de resistance: I forgot some toiletry articles in my room. I called the very next morning and was patched through to security. They said they'd check. No call-back. I called again and this time someone calls back. No one turned them in. I ask, "Is that the end of it? Surely a 5-star hotel knows which housekeeper cleaned my room the day before and can ask if she saw my things." Security lady calls back to advise that she asked the housekeeper and she threw my articles in the trash!
I call the GM's office and when he isn't available, I speak to his assistant. I tell her the story and she says she's sorry - that's not their policy or protocol. They are usually proactive and call guests when they leave things behind. Too bad, that wasn't the case for me.
Four days later, I receive an apology letter from the GM. No offers, no nothing, just an apology. But not a 5-star apology. It took $120 to replace what I forgot in my room.
So, what's a 5-star experience supposed to be like? I don't think this was it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Elaine Fogel

Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel

Twitter: @Elaine_Fogel