Have you stayed with us before, sir?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/02/04 18:01 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2006/02/04/524972.aspx

Steve Clayton talked about how the fact that hotels have moved to the common phrase Have you stayed with us before, sir?

When I first read his post I was swept into all of the information that they could have which they could use to customize the experience for regular customers.

And I was like him annoyed at the fact that they even bothered to ask if they are not going to really do what they could be doing for customers.

Luckily, at that point Steve took the argument off the rails, at least from my ludditian point of view. :-)

He started talking about CRM and Media Center, which stopped me for a moment. And I started thinking about alternate reasons why they might be asking the post title question that don't relate to the service experience....

Now I know I am not the only person who was chilled to see Tom Cruise walk into stores and have computers greet him and ask about clothing he had bought previously. And I am sure that there are people who feel uneasy about the full profiles that search engines and EBay and Amaxon.com keep on what people have done on the site in the past.

So one good reason to ask us how we are doing would be that it is a nice way to be polite without seeming like stalkers and freaking out their patrons. When you meet strangers who somehow know things about you, it can be upsetting. So why take the risk?

On a similar vein, hotel maids will almost without fail shift things around a bit in the bathroom when they clean the room. Even if everything was already straightened up. Even to the point of moving where they put things if no one else moved them.

It used to upset me and seem very like busybody type stuff, until once when this did not happen, and my first thought was that maybe they had not cleaned up in there!

It made me realize there is a good reason to move stuff around -- because i you think they do not take care of the room, you may not complain -- but you may also not come back. It is a little ping so that they know you get the signal if you are listening for it.

Then another hypothesis came to me -- I thought about how servers in restaurants do the same thing. And I know the a bit about some of the reasons for them to do this sort of thing -- so that they know whether they need to give you the shpiel for the signature dishes or not.

Asking whether you have been there before is how you get an easy way to not hear about all the stuff that you may not care about, even if you have never been there before. It is your chance to opt out of the shpiel.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I actually DO say I have been to the hotel even if I have not. Mainly to avoid a lengthy conversation when I just want to get to my room and lie down (travelling can be tiring!).

It makes me appreciate the fact that the hotel staff gives me this feature -- and more importantly it makes me dread the day that all of these "service opportunities" come to fruition and I no longer even get the chance to pretend that every person I buy something from does does not have my life story at their fingertips.

Any way you look at it, enough people are excited at the opprtunities that those with less noble and more economic motives will likely want to get involved. And it is short distance from there to misuse of such "opportunities."

Paranoid? Well, as Randy Quaid mentioned in The Paper, he only got so paranoid when they started plotting against him.

And it looks like those who are plotting have started gaining momentum....

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