The power of five

We opened the first of our new rooms and suites nearly five years ago on July 1, 2008. If we are to follow the general rule of thumb for a soft refurbishment cycle, which is every five years, more or less, we need to quickly plan some soft changes to the look, feel and functionality of our rooms and suites if we are to make them in time for our annual rate increases, which kick off on the first day of our fiscal year, which is also July 1.   

As I began to put my first thoughts on paper — yes, I still like to write occasionally with a pencil and a notepad instead of my iPad — I also realized that last year my wife had traded in her much loved Honda CRV for a newer model, after five years of perfect service and some 100,000 km.

I also realized I had just ordered a new laptop after five years of faithful service from my Toshiba laptop, which has been used for an estimated and trouble-free 15,000 hours.

Then it occurred to me that our Bangkok house would be painted in March, before the Songkran rains arrive, again after five years and some 43,800 hours of blistering heat and monsoon rains since the last makeover in 2008.  

And finally, I remembered that my wife had promised to buy me the latest Blackberry for my birthday in April, after five years of mostly uninterrupted connectivity from my beloved Blackberry Bold, which I must admit is looking a little worse for wear, although it’s still my favorite device (except when it vibrates in my pocket during a meeting, which can be mildly distracting to say the least).

Taking these five numerical coincidences into consideration, I decided to have five members of my sales team ask five of their own top accounts what five improvements they might like to suggest for improvements to our rooms and suites, which most happily agreed to do.

Here are the top five answers, ranked according to the number of responses, which may surprise some readers but not me or my team, as we were already planning most of them, having asked all of our departing guests the same question for the past several months.

1. Install bedside docking stations for powering up and recharging multiple mobile devices.

2. Improve the quality and the number of gym equipment units, which is in fact a capital project in progress as we continue to see greater numbers of our local and foreign male and female business travelers work out around the clock in our rather dated, well-used gym.

3. Get rid of the giant bed pillows — most of which are thrown on the floor by guests keen to slip under the covers quickly — and instead offer two soft and two firmer pillows on the bed, and a bolster, eliminating pillow menu delivery delays.

4. Offer professional in-room male and female massage, especially for arriving long-haul travelers. 

5. Improve the in-room coffee experience by installing high-quality coffee makers in all rooms instead of only Business Class rooms and suites.

While it was interesting and gratifying to learn that the focus group did not mention any recommendation to improve our Wi-Fi, our service, our security, our cleanliness, our staff-guest interaction or any of our other GSTS (guest satisfaction tracking system) key indicators, it was even more interesting to learn that not one of them mentioned the need to lower our room rates or our prices in the restaurants, which means, I guess, we are on the right track — even taking into account the small size of the group, which comprised 25 local and foreign respondents, most of whom had spent more than 100 nights with us over the past two or three years.  

It could, of course, also mean quite the opposite, in that we may not yet have reached the all-important pricing threshold, and therefore can actually afford to raise the bar a little higher, a matter that I will be discussing during my next meeting with my REVDEV team, which comprises — yes, you guessed it — five members: the director of revenue development, the director of guest services, the director of sales, the director of marketing and me.

Well, it’s now five o’clock, so time for me to go on my rounds with my 5@5 room inspection team.