User Experience Matters-- a guest post by Jon DiPietro

User Experience Matters

A breakfast buffet that would underwhelm the local street wino costs $29. Internet access is $30 for a mere 24 hours (and slow).  A bottle of warm water in the room costs $5.  We’ve become largely accustomed to these sorts of fees as captives in the modern day prisons known as airport hotels.  But the final straw that prompted this post was the surprise $2 charge for a three minute shuttle to the departures gate.  This on top of a more than $250 bill for one night.  It’s the last thing I’ll experience at this hotel and it is a nasty little splinter in the heel of my memory that will stay stuck there for a good while.

This is not a rant about the high cost of staying at hotels – this is a cautionary tale about shortsightedness with regard to user experience and how it shapes emotional perceptions of products and services.  I can understand how these pricing policies are put in place.  In a hyper-competitive landscape, the hotels want to be able to advertise the cheapest possible rates and then add on as many charges as possible during the stay to fortify profitability.  I get that.  My question is whether or not the $2 this hotel collected from me is worth the venomous attitude I now have toward them and the greatly reduced likelihood that I will stay there again (after six years of regular patronage).

I can’t help but contrast this against a stay at the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel for last year's ISA leader meetings.  I arrived after midnight due to typical flight delays and difficulties.  I was tired and starving (due to a lousy user experience with the airline), but since I had to get up in about five hours I wasn’t about to go scavenging for food.  To my surprise, the receptionist handed me a bag with a bag of chips, a cookie, and a bottle of water – free of charge and without asking – because I was probably tired and hungry.  It probably cost them about $2 but you can’t put a price on the experience and gratitude that these small gestures conjure.

So the next time an operator complains about too many mouse clicks, or a customer comments that your control panel is confusing to understand, don’t just think about your cost to make the change.  Think about the residual effect on the operator who will have to take that aggravating $2 shuttle ride every single day.