In this age, service delivery and user experience drive customer choice. Products and services must work: easy and pleasant to use. How many large law firms think about all the details of their clients’ experiences and achieve that standard?

I wonder if even the ones that regularly survey clients dive deeply into the details of the client experience. Why my wonder? Because of my experience this week staying at the Hilton Palmer House Chicago for two nights. It’s amazing how many bad experiences and poor design I encountered in a 36 hour stay. Details below.

In-house counsel have told me that they have time and bandwidth to fight only so many battles with law firms. I wonder, if they stepped back and reflected on their service experience with large firms, if they would come up with a comparably long list of service failures. For clients that do, do they eventually just switch?

In some ways, hotels are like large law firms. Both are big, complex operations, that rely on many different people to deliver the complete bundle of service. Coordinating that bundle and getting everything right is hard.

I would love to hear from experts in client surveys to understand if some or many law firms get to granular details of client experience. And if they do, how do firms fix the issues.

Oh, as for me and Hilton… though I have Gold status with Hilton, my preference now is to avoid Hiltons unless the case is compelling – no comparable property near a client. I would rather forego Gold privileges, even at a dollar cost, for an experience that works.

Are your firm’s clients having a reaction similar to mine? Would you even know if they were? Or might they just be walking away?

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  • On entering the room I noticed I had a message. Not a sentence I can say very often anymore. It was a VERY long message explaining that locks were being changed that week. My lock had already been changed. So why couldn’t someone figure that out and not subject me to said message?
  • One of two windows in my room had a broken latch so did not seal properly. The wind was howling that night so it was noisy and drafty. I called guest services to report this and request the engineer bring duct tape as a temporary fix. It should not take an hour for the engineer to arrive.
  • I sat at the desk and noticed a hotel-provided tablet device with hotel information. It was my first time seeing one. As best as I could tell, this was the tablet version of the usual loose leaf binder of hotel information. Always curious about new toys and design, I tried using it. I quickly noticed that the fitness center had a long description – but did not list the floor, arguably the most important factoid. After a bit more inspection, I came to view the device as irritating, flashing advertising. Turning it off was not easy and it came back on at seemingly random times. I sat there thinking, this can’t have been cheap to supply and why bother when it does so little useful? And why distract me and take up space, other than in an obvious use of MY desk space for YOUR advertising.
  • With the outdoor temperature in the 40s (F), I turned the thermostat up. As soon as I did, the blower stopped. As best as I could tell, only the air conditioning was on. The thermostat had no obvious way to select heat instead of AC. So forget about warming up. So morning temperatures are in the 30s and only AC is available. And that’s because?
  • Although I have apps for all my airlines and have tried digital boarding passes, I have concluded paper is more reliable, faster, and less subject to breakage. So I went to print my boarding pass. The printer for the computer I chose was in a fault mode. So I went to a separate bank with a separate printer. The computer I use there froze. I had to interrupt a front desk clerk for help (no one else around). The requested call to let me know it was fixed came 45 minutes later. (In the mean time, I found my boarding pass sitting by the printer – someone had apparently fixed the fault.)
  • Then came check-out. Surely, I thought, the dedicated in-room tablet would allow that. Silly me. So I call Zip CheckOut. (I established on a prior visit that the HIlton app does not support checking out.) The Zip recording references reviewing my Folio, which I had not received. So I could not just press the confirmation key. So I talked to an agent. She said, “oh we send folios by email around check out time.”. Well, this is my second stay and neither time did I receive the folio prior to checking out. The email did come shortly after that, but only because I asked for it. Another systemic failure.