Hotel Innovation: Hacking the Do Not Disturb

The hotel industry is one that I would probably never want to be in.  With the intense competition today, just one upset person on Yelp can deter potential guests.  This means that if a hotel is doing something differently than other hotels, it can be perceived as being a problem.  For this reason, it seems that most hotels operate in a very similar manner.  Best practices and customer services are often safer than hotel innovation.  

Great customer service and certain industry best practices are expected by guests, so these best practices often become the norm for most hotels: free wifi, a continental breakfast, flat screen TV’s, loyalty rewards, and consistent housekeeping.  But every now and then a hotel is able to hack this model - they provide a hotel innovation that stands out.

As a traveling consultant and speaker, hotel stays come with the territory.  For me, I typically stay at one main chain for logistical reasons, but as a speaker, the event host often chooses the venue.

I recently spoke in Whitefish, Montana and stayed at the Grouse Mountain Lodge.  To my surprise, they hacked a standard hotel best practice that really made my day.  

I usually leave my “do not disturb” sign on my door during the day and forego housekeeping because I don't like people getting into my stuff.  What I have found is that the hotel often appears to assume that I left the sign on my door by accident.

Because of this, I have received messages under my door addressing my decision.  The following is one that I received this week:

Dear Guest,

We were unable to service your room today due to the Do Not Disturb sign on your door.  Our Housekeeping Staff has left for the day, however we are more than happy to bring you additional supplies needed for your stay.  Please call the Front Desk for towels, or any needed amenities and we will deliver them Right Away.

Thank you for choosing the NEW Comfort Suites for your Stay, and we hope that you will return soon.


Housekeeping Management

Besides the obvious typos and extra capitalization, this letter really doesn’t make me feel good about my choice.  The whole thing feels as if my choice was negative; “unable to service…due to,” "left for the day,” and so forth.  

I have always found it interesting that they make such a fuss about not cleaning the room when there are signs all over the hotel room telling me to reuse my sheets and towels, turn off my lights and TV, and not use too much water, all in the name of conservation and the environment.

Plus, it is my understanding that it costs roughly $25 per room to clean it.  So why wouldn’t they be celebrating my choice?

At the Grouse Mount Lodge, however, they get this.  They have successfully implemented a hotel innovation I had not seen before.  To my surprise, I received the following letter under my door after choosing to forego housekeeping services:


You have made the choice to decline housekeeping services for the day.  For helping us conserve natural resources, please enjoy:

$5 credit for use in Logan's Bar and Grill.

What I loved about this hack is that it first assumes that the lack of housekeeping was positive.  Of course I chose this and, frankly, if someone had accidentally left their do not disturb sign on the door, it would probably be to late to clean the room anyway.  For this reason, putting a positive spin on this is much more rewarding for the customer than the language that says “unable to service…due to…left for the day.”  Negative language is just asking for complaints and poor Yelp reviews.

The second great thing about this is that this hack actually benefits both the customer and the hotel.  While the customer has gained a $5 value, the actual cost to the business is less than this, probably close to $2.50 - the product cost before any profit margins.  

In addition, the hotel has saved the expense of cleaning the room which could cost ten times the amount the food voucher cost them.  Furthermore, the $5 gift certificate is actually likely to result in additional sales - talk about developing a sales strategy.  For example, my bill with tip cost me about $10 dollars after the discount had been applied.  I spent money in the restaurant that I wouldn’t have spent if I had not not received the $5 voucher.

How many times does a business do something negative that could easily be hacked into a positive thing?  This hotel innovation is a perfect example of how a negative best practice can be hacked into a positive, mutually beneficial outcome. 

What examples have you seen where a business could easily put a positive spin on something?