One of the occupational hazards of being a Customer Experience Specialist is that I have to travel a lot. Both in the UK and abroad, I am no stranger to the odd hotel. Sometimes selected by a client, sometimes selected by myself, the range of hostelries I have frequented over the years is extremely broad. This is the first time I have conducted a Customer Experience Review of a hotel using my new review format. If you have not read one of my reviews before, it is important to clarify that they are intended to act as a completely independent qualitative assessment of the organisations I interact with. They are based on my opinion as a Customer Experience Specialist, and will hopefully help the companies being reviewed, as well as others, understand what can positively and negatively affect customer experiences. You can read all of my reviews here.
|Date Review Conducted
|23rd May 2014
|Wotton House, Guildford Road, Dorking, Surrey – a Principal Hayley Hotel
|CX Review Total Score
Wotton House is part of the Principal Hayley hotel group. The following paragraph is proudly displayed on the Principal Hayley website:
At PH Hotels, we are proud to present a collection of 22 truly individual hotels and conference and event venues across the UK and Europe; from city centre Victorian grandeur to country estates to modern purpose-built conference and training venues. Truly inspirational spaces located just where you need them to be and with the transport links to get you there. Though gloriously eclectic, there are three things that mark each as quintessentially PH Hotels: the quality, the service and the attention to every last detail.
Please allow me to draw your attention to the last sentence – ‘quality, service and attention to every last detail’. In the world of Customer Experience, something publicly stated like this comprises a promise – the question is, did Wotton House live up to the promise? If you want to find out, please read on!
Accessibility – CX Review Score 3/10
In my review process, the definition of accessibility is ‘how easy was it for me to do what I wanted to do’ with the organisation I have chosen to transact with. I have awarded Wotton House 3 out of 10 for this category – There are many reasons to describe why this is so.
Before I describe why, I must make it clear that the decision to stay at Wotton House was not mine. Along with 40 other delegates, the hotel was selected by the company I am working with. I therefore did not personally experience the reservation process. However, having investigated the Wotton House website, the process and experience seems to be relatively intuitive and easy to find/use – the process is common for all Principal Hayley hotels.
Wotton House is located in Dorking, not too far from London or the M25 by car, and just over an hour on the train. It is not the most accessible of locations, but if you are looking for a conference venue, or a country location to have a weekend away, or indeed a beautiful setting to stage your wedding in the Surrey area, it is ideal.
On arriving at the hotel, you would be forgiven for thinking you had been transported onto the set of Downton Abbey. To say that the Hotel and setting are stunning would be an understatement. It is simply beautiful. As you drive down the half mile long driveway, it feels as though you are visiting a National Trust property rather than a hotel.
If you are looking for the 10 out of 10 first impression, then you cannot beat it. So why have I only awarded a score of 3 out of 10 for Wotton House? Walking through the front door of the hotel, I was full of optimism about my two night stay. But within seconds this optimism started to erode.
As I approached reception, I noticed that the receptionist was on the phone. We were the only two people in the reception area. Without making eye contact, she continued her telephone conversation for three minutes – I know because I timed it. The conversation she was having (making no attempt to hide it), was with a colleague. They were discussing why they were continually booking customers staying for more than one night into different rooms for each night of their stay. From the tone of the conversation, they both found this rather amusing.
To keep a customer waiting for three minutes is not great. To do so whilst having an ‘internal’ conversation with a colleague borders on rude. To have a conversation highlighting how your hotel ‘get’s things wrong’ is remarkably unprofessional. To make matters worse, when the phone call was brought to a conclusion, I did not even receive an apology for being kept waiting. Stand still for three minutes and tell me if it does not seem like a very long time!!
The issues do not stop here. Having been checked in, the receptionist pointed me in the direction of my room. What she failed to tell me was that I would be walking through a building site to get to it. As I rounded a corner, I was met with dust sheets, rubble and workmen. I thought I had gone the wrong way. Surely I should have been advised of this at check in?
Having finally found my bedroom (which took a few minutes due to poor signage), my feeling of disappointment continued to grow. The room was by no means the worst I have ever stayed in, but it was a million miles away from the expectation set by the grandeur of the building and the publicly stated promise of quality. The room was very dated – in decor, furniture and equipment. I have not seen a television like this since 1995!
My bathroom had a flickering light – I could not summon up the will to contact my friend on reception to report it. The room was largely clean, but it was clear that the room had not been introduced to a vacuum cleaner for a while. For a hotel group that claims it pays ‘attention to every last detail’, more flaws quickly became apparent. As a hotel largely used by business people during the week, it is very likely that most if not all of them will need to use the desk to work. Work in 2014 means using a laptop that will need to be powered by electricity. This detail is obviously not factored into to the thinking at Wotton House, as the only plugs by the desk are already in use!!
There is more!! The mattress on my bed was akin to lying on a soggy sponge – I hate to think how old it was. I am a gym user. When visiting a hotel, I will always investigate the facilities that may be available. I actually did not realise Wotton House had a gym – it is not that easy to find this information on the website. Having discovered that there was, I was disappointed to learn that it was only open between 7am and 10pm. These hours do not suit my requirements – I like to go to the gym early – i.e. at 6am. Another detail that this hotel failed to address during my visit was a broken down elevator. In the three days I was present in the hotel, there was no evidence that it was ever going to be repaired.
As with all my reviews, I am simply stating the facts. This hotel – a hotel with a most amazing asset – its building – is radically failing to get the details right. There are so many things that are obviously wrong, I have to question whether the general manager, and/or Principal Hayley management have ever stayed a night in it.
I actually consider a score of 3 out of 1o to be generous. The cockroach I found in the hallway on my way to dinner sums up the experience I was having…
Range/Choice – CX Review Score 5/10
Wotton House has six categories of room available to guests. Standard Double and Twin rooms are quoted as being:
Charming and cosy, our Standard Rooms are thoughtfully furnished to create a relaxing environment after a long day of work or exploration. Stay productive with our working desk or make use of the free WiFi on offer. Whether you’re travelling on business or for pleasure, our Standard Room is an ideal choice with its exceptional value and luxury.
If you have read the description of my ‘accessibility’ category, you will realise that the person who wrote this has never stayed a night in a Standard room at Wotton House – luxury it is most certainly not.
Maybe if I had stayed in a Double Superior room, my experience would have been different – but I did not. Wotton House do provide rooms that can accommodate families of 4. My family contains five human beings – the only way Wotton House would be able to accommodate us is in two rooms. Adapted double rooms are on offer for guests that require easier access – the website states that these rooms are located ‘conveniently near the lift’ – I guess the author banked on said lift actually being operational.
So whilst there is choice on offer, I am awarding a score of 5 out of 10 for this category.
People – CX Review Score 5/10
The people category also scores 5 out of 10. I have already described my unacceptable welcome to the hotel – the lack of engagement between guest and receptionist was sadly consistent in all my observations of staff at the hotel. In my three days at Wotton House, not one member of staff offered me a ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’, or even a ‘hello’. Staff were more keen to avoid eye contact altogether than ‘connect’ with the customer. I visited the restaurant twice for breakfast – on both occasions I received no welcome at all.
This morning at breakfast I waited twenty minutes – I repeat – twenty minutes – before a member of staff got close enough to my table for me to ask for a cup of tea. On asking for the cup of tea, I was met with ‘ok’ as a response. I do not, and never will, blame employees when I am met with behaviours like this. Every member of staff I came in contact with seemed to have a ‘slumped shoulders’ expression. I did not see anyone who looked like a manager – in reception, the restaurant, the conference rooms – my observations suggest that a lack of leadership is having a clear detrimental affect on the behaviour of staff.
One of our party left his wash bag in his room the previous evening. He returned to the hotel today to retrieve it. My friend on reception told him that no wash bag had been found. Another of our party left her cardigan in the restaurant. She too was told that nothing had been found. Either someone is not telling the truth, or ‘lost property’ is being disposed of. This is yet another sad reflection of a hotel that is not putting its customers interests first.
Value – CX Review Score 7/10
Wotton House scores 7 out of 10 for value. The ‘cost’ of accommodation is very good considering the location and its proximity to London. The reason that this score is not higher is because the meaning of ‘value’ is more than just the cost. The litany of issues that I have described in this review mean that the relatively low-cost is only reasonable value for the experience received – in my opinion.
How did it make me feel? CX Review Score 5/10
I can sum this category up in one word – disappointed. An experience that promises so much left me feeling deflated – from the minute I walked through the front door. The promise of quality, service and attention to detail was not kept – they were not even close. One of our party said to me that when they saw the hotel, they immediately thought they should bring their partner for a weekend. Having stayed in the hotel, he no longer has that intention. I also feel sad after my experience – sad that such an amazing building is being so badly treated. Sad that the people working in this building seem so disengaged from their customers. These are not the feelings any organisation wants its customers to have.
Would I use them again? No
You would have probably been able to forecast my answer – I have no intention of visiting this hotel again – unless it is chosen for me by a client. If it is, I will suggest we find alternative accommodation. Not only that – I will think twice before I stay in any Principal Hayley hotel. This is not the first time I have experienced issues like this in one of their properties. Lightning has struck twice for me – I am unlikely to let it do so a third time.
I hope that the management of Wotton House and Principal Hayley read this review. If they are serious about their brand promise to customers, I strongly suggest they spend time experiencing the delivery of the promise as customers themselves. I would suggest they have a long way to go before their promise becomes a reality.