It all started with the smell.
There is a specific and wonderful scent that envelops you as you cycle through the revolving door at the citizenM hotel in Times Square. It’s their ‘signature scent,’ and no matter how many people I’ve asked, no one will tell me exactly what it is.
It’s one of the many things that keeps me coming back.
When I first started the podcast project, I looked at a few different hotels in the Times Square area and found them not only expensive but not all that FUN. (And fun is something I value as a traveler!)
Part of the citizenM mission is to inspire a new generation of modern travelers in the big cities of the world, by offering an affordable luxury lifestyle, and they’ve disrupted the hotel industry to give us modern travelers just that. And it seems to be working, because not only are they opening up more of their boutique hotels all over the world, but I keep going back. I’ve gone past the point of brand enthusiast to brand advocate, and there’s a big lesson for all businesses in the experience they’ve created.
During my first visit to citizenM Times Square, I was surprised in a lot of ways, most notably the minute I walked into my room.
Efficient & Easy
As soon as you walk in, you cozy on up to the check-in kiosk, where a very friendly staff member is there to help should you need it. There are several computer screens around the kiosk, enter your name into the system, and your reservation pops up (so easy, no waiting!). Insert your credit card, place one of the room keys (which doubles as a luggage tag) on the screen to activate, and voila! You’re all set.
They also make it super easy to check in online, up to 24 hours before you even get there.
Modern & Fun
The common areas are a work of art in and of themselves. Big, bold, and cheeky, the art makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into the MOMA, yet still evokes a feeling of playfulness, and strikes the right chord of not taking itself too seriously. The common areas are designed to encourage hanging out and talking with a wonderful mix of sofas, fluffy chairs, and long tables to sit together and eat.
That brings me to their philosophy on food and beverage. You can eat and drink 24/7. Whaaat? Yup, it’s true. They have a small cafÃ© and bar downstairs open all the time. And, they have a rooftop bar available just for guests “ so you can take in the sights above the crowd. It’s a nod to the modern traveler whose needs have evolved. And especially important in New York City, when you get the urge for something more than a vending machine bag of chips at 2 a.m. because you might have just gotten back from a glorious night out (not me, of course. I’m all business ð).
They have also mastered the game of social engagement. I love to post about my trips on social media, and since they love their customers, it’s a match made in heaven. One night I had checked into a hotel in Greenville, South Carolina, and was really underwhelmed. I tweeted at citizenM that I missed them and here’s their reply just minutes later:
Quick and on-brand, citizenM does social media right. And you better believe this was one of the decision points in my customer journey that kept me coming back and turned me into a brand advocate.
Upon opening the door and taking a few short steps inside, I became equally aware of two things:
- It was small.
- It was luxurious and FUN!
You get over the surprise of the size of the room as soon as you notice how smart the design is, not to mention the cool gadgets. You get two closets, a place to store your suitcase (in a drawer under the bed!) a built-in fridge, and a BIG fluffy bed built into the walls with a huge picture window above it.
The entire room is controlled by an iPad mini, from the temperature to the blinds, to the color of lights you want in your bathroom (purple is my favorite!). You can even set the “mood” in your room which controls the lights, the colors, and the music so you can party, relax, get romantic, or get down to business.
The piece de resistance, after a long day of work or sightseeing, is the two FREE bottles of water the magical water fairy leaves for you in the cool see-thru mini-fridge in your room. Now, I realize this sounds like a little thing. But KNOWING you have fresh cool (Evian!) water in your room, that you don’t have to pay $7 a pop for? Priceless.
3 Key Takeaways
So, what are the takeaways? How can you use this example to create the kind of experience that will not only make your customers loyal, but turn them into advocates for YOUR business?
1. Efficient & Easy
Go through your version of the check-in process. What’s your customer’s experience when they start to do business with you? Do they have to fill out a bunch of online or physical forms? Do they have to wait in line for more than a minute or so? Look at your business processes and make changes so the customer wants to tell everyone how easy it is to do business with YOU.
2. Modern & Fun
Look at your business in terms of how modern it looks and feels. Would a potential customer who’s never seen your business before think they’re stuck in a bad 90’s sitcom if they did business with you? Now, I’m not saying you should have Warhol paintings on your walls or that your website has to have every tech bell and whistle. But you have to be REAL with yourself. Sometimes the hardest things to see are the ones in front of us every day. Start with the most visible parts of your business: your website, social media accounts, any ads you’re running, and ask yourself how you can modernize the look and feel.
And as for social media, you can post the most wonderful content every day, but if you’re not ENGAGING with your current and ideal clients, you’re NOT “doing” social media right. We’ve moved way past going for maximum likes on a business Facebook page, guys. Today’s consumer EXPECTS more. They expect you to respond and engage with them. It’s no longer a “nice to do,” it’s now the ticket to entry. And the bonus for you when you do it? Not only does it create super fans, but it FEELS great for you, too!
If you’re not changing, you’re dying. I get it, innovation and change can feel scary. But today’s consumer wants and expects the next, new cool “thing.’ The businesses that innovate stay ahead of their competitors and stand out in the sea of commoditization. What can YOU do to push the boundaries a bit, to think creatively, and showcase how YOUR business is on the cutting-edge? Talk to your team and staff, I bet they have some great ideas!