Man, my blog has been a ghost town the last few weeks. I haven’t posted in nearly five weeks? I do have some good reasons though. Between work being a bear due to the Holiday shopping season – I do work in retail after all – and some matters outside of work that have taken up a lot of my free time the last few weeks, it’s been hard to turn my attention back to this. But after a recent business trip I came back with a topic that will help me get back in swing of things.
San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the U.S. and a couple weeks back my manager and I flew out there for a meeting with the folks at Twitter’s HQ. The only downside to the trip was that we were in town for nearly 24 hours. Less than a day in San Francisco? That is just plain cruel.
While on the trip I had a couple things happen that made me want to write about them. One of which is very old school and one is very new school but both had me thinking.
We stayed at the Hotel Palomar which is a part of the Kimpton hotel chain. If you’re not familiar with Kimpton then you should give them a look. Their properties are typically boutique hotels in major cities with cool personalities to them. They also have a great loyalty club and most importantly they are pet friendly. As an owner of a large, fluffy collie that has a hard time finding lodging on the road when hauling my pup, I find that endearing.
After returning to my hotel room following an afternoon of meetings, I saw that there was a small care package waiting for me on the desk: an envelope along with a gourmet chocolate bar. Inside the envelope was a handwritten note from the hotel staff welcoming me to the Palomar and wishing me well as a first time guest of their hotel. There was something about this gesture that made me smile. In a day in age when it is easy for brands to communicate with customers in generic and automated fashions, like mass email for example, it was refreshing to receive a note like the one pictured above. It may have only taken the person writing it a few minutes to do so, but it felt more meaningful than something that was pushed to my email inbox. I’m always a sucker when a brand tries to make a one-to-one connection with a customer and this was the case here.
If that was my analog example from my trip then the other is very much driven by digital technology. In the evening after our meetings, we were scheduled to have dinner with the gang from Twitter at Bar Agricole. The restaurant wasn’t that far from our hotel but it wasn’t a short walk either so we decided to catch a ride. Instead of hailing a cab, Alex from Twitter whipped out his iPhone and fired up the app for Uber. Alex has been talking up Uber to me after they recently opened a presence in Minnepolis. Uber is essentially an on demand car service that tries to fill a void between taxis and higher end car services. It caters to consumers in major metropolitan markets – think New York, Chicago or San Francisco – that can’t afford a car service on a regular basis but don’t like taking taxi cabs.
No less than five minutes after Alex put in the order for the vehicle on the app, an SUV pulled up to the front of the hotel and the five of us piled it. Even though the vehicle arrived in a timely manner that really isn’t what caught my eye. Here’s the slick part of using Uber: while you’re waiting for you car to arrive, you can follow your vehicle’s location on their app via a live geo-tracking feature. You basically watch a map that follows your car’s location in real time as it makes its way to you. The other cool part of the service is that you automatically link your Uber account with a credit card so the payment part is super easy. You hop in and out of the car without having to hand over some cash or signing a credit card slip. You even can handle the gratuity all from your phone.
While Uber may not be the most revolutionary thing to come around I love how it uses technology to solve a problem for a certain group of people in a new and different way. Plus I think there is a bit of the cool factor to it – you feel like you are a bit ahead of the curve when you say that you’ve used a new service like Uber.
(San Francisco photo courtesy of Boyce Duprey via Creative Commons license.)