This post is about hospitality. Not the at home type, I think we’ve covered that before; but rather, the industry type. As trial consultants, we are road warriors. I don’t know how many nights we spend away from home, but I once calculated that Melissa, Melissa and I, or I, by myself, spent 75 nights on the road one year recently – and it was not a particularly busy year! We’ve traveled internationally as well as around the USA and especially, within Florida. We have stayed at many chain hotels, including properties under brands by Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, and more. We have the loyalty points to boot. We’ve stayed at speciality properties too, some affiliated with these chains, others not. And, we occasionally find a local, “mom & pop” place that fits our needs. The customer service ranges dramatically across these many experiences. Unfortunately, all too often, the service is cold, impersonal, and fails to recognize any customer loyalty. Recent experiences in Hilton related properties stand out as examples, bad ones. Other times, the experience is best described as “neutral” – nothing bad, but certainly nothing memorably positive. A recent example of outstanding customer service occurred recently at one of the few small hotels which are large enough for us to conduct mock jury research. The Legacy Harbour Marina and Suites in Ft. Myers, Florida has limited, but often adequate, meeting space and we’ve used their facilities for the better part of 30 years whenever we’re in Ft. Myers for a case. They have always been willing to accommodate our requests and all of the staff are warm and friendly. The view of the marina, yachts, and Caloosahatchee (Caloosa River in the Caloosa Indian language) is pretty fine too! But, recently, the manager went out of his way in offering us two small things which were most meaningful. First, upon our arrival, Melissa and I told him that we were planning to sit on the deck and eat a pizza while enjoying the beautiful river view. He offered us a bottle of wine – and went off to get it while we unloaded the car. Then, when I needed to find a place to work throughout the next day while Melissa was attending mediations, he offered to let me check out very late, at no charge. I don’t think the room was reserved for a new arrival, but still, he didn’t have to do that, for free. But, he did. No, they don’t have a customer loyalty points program, so maybe this kind of thing is a tradeoff for the thousands of dollars we’ve spent there. Yet, as simple as these acts were, they were much more personal and sincere than when we were given extra Hilton points for their numerous mistakes. So, keep up the good work Kerry, Loreal and team! Thank you! You are proof that a little kindness makes a big impression.
Because my personal and work lives lack routine and involve many unknowns, I find it comforting to stay in the same hotels when I travel to certain cities. In my hometown of Fort Myers, Florida, my “hotel” used to be my childhood home until 2010, when it was sold after my mother’s passing in 2009. Since then, I have stayed with friends from time to time during my visits to Fort Myers, but mostly, I have had the pleasure of staying at the Legacy Harbour Marina and Suites. Some long time residents of Fort Myers, when they ask me where I am staying, indicate that they don’t know where this small, family owned and operated hotel is located. When I inform them of its prime location on the banks of the Caloosahatchee, they usually smile and say, “Oh, the old Travel Lodge!”. Believe me, the Legacy Harbour has come a long way from its humble beginning as a budget hotel. Not only does it offer one of the best sunset views over my favorite river I have ever seen, its owners/managers are, as David points out, more hospitable than most people I know. I have always received “service with a smile,” regardless of whether I am conducting mock juries in their conference rooms or just enjoying time in the neighborhood where I grew up. Rarely do I enjoy staying in hotels; I have trouble sleeping and the unfamiliarity of my surroundings is unsettling to me. When I stay at the Legacy Harbour, on the other hand, it’s as if I am staying in my home away from home. Kudos to Loreal, Kerry, Sheila, and of course, Mark, for welcoming me to your hotel time and time again. Until next time!