Image for  "Troubling customers with nonsense is not a good idea."

Troubling customers with nonsense is not a good idea.

– Welcome to us, and here is your room key You are in room 216, which is the second floor with stairs on the right. And we want you to choose one of our breakfast cards here.

– I said, looking at three different cards to choose from. One brown, one white and one gray.

I took the white card because it said 06:30-07:30, said thank you and went up to my room. That’s when I started thinking about breakfast cards. I’ve never seen a card like this before, so I was a bit curious about what would happen in the breakfast room the next morning.

The morning came and I went downstairs with excitement to see what role my chosen card played.

There I found that the card I chose did not matter….at all. I was confused as to why the person at the reception was so keen for me to choose a card that turns out not to matter. No one asked for it.

I have stayed in the same hotel several times since then. It’s the same every time; “And we want you to choose a breakfast card”. I have done what I was asked to do.


At one point I asked why I need to choose a card. The answer was that they want to know how many people come down for breakfast at certain times, and that it is controlled by the breakfast staff. All so that I as a customer can have the freshest possible breakfast.

Hmm, I thought. It was a good reason and something that creates value for me as a customer. Fresh breakfast, who doesn’t want it?

But it’s just that no one at breakfast cares.

And theoretically, if there are only, say, 50 cards of each color, what happens if everyone before me has taken a white card.

  • Can I have breakfast between 06:30 and 07:30?
  • Do I have to wait for the next ‘serving’?
  • What happens if I still come down at that time?

Well, we already know the answer to that, since no one checks the card, it can’t matter.

Controlling the customer is difficult, so that they like it

Controlling guests’ breakfast times does not work in a hotel with business travelers. Perhaps not otherwise either. Everyone goes down to the breakfast room when they need to, in order to have breakfast before leaving for the day’s meetings or whatever they are going to.

To fix this, which other hotels manage to do quite well, the hotel will have to measure and monitor the guests’ patterns and adapt itself and its service accordingly.

In addition, the reception asks guests to take a card when checking in. What happens to everyone who stays several nights, you might ask?

Well, you guessed it: nothing. No one asks me when I want to have breakfast on day two, three and so on. This makes it even more strange, because how are they supposed to know when people want to have breakfast based on their card system, when they have guests staying with them for several nights?

From my perspective as a guest, I need to take an action that for me does not give me any reasonable explanation. Very peculiar.

To quote my colleague Steve Tower, “they are so good at doing the dumb stuff”.

What is the situation in your business?

With this little observation, I want to ask you a question. One that I think you should take a few minutes, at least, to think about and answer.

My question is, what do you do in your business that requires your customers to act in some way?

Think about these things further:

  • Whether customer behaviour really matters in the end?
  • Does the customer understand why they need to take this or those activities?
  • If what you expose the customer to is based on your needs or to add value to the customer?

It is worth going through and reviewing your business and understanding what these things are, why they are happening, and how we can get rid of them, or if they are necessary, explain to the customer why.

Mapping and understanding

The Shaper of Business Excellence method contains five phases. The second phase is called Mapping and understanding. It is in this phase that you do just that: map out how the business looks and behaves, and what customers think about it.

If you want to learn more about how such work is done, then I think you should apply for the Certified Improvement Leader or Certified Business Designer training. These parallel trainings go through all the phases that take an organization from wanting to improve to having new processes up and running in the organization.

Contact me for details of the next training session.