Flaky hotel internet access drains my personal productivity. Aside from whining, hotel connectivity illustrates interesting economic issues for law firms. 

In one of about every four hotel stays, I have to call tech support to get the net connection working properly. I waste a lot of time doing this. I can’t be the only one. Instead of going into gory detail, let’s look at some potentially interesting lessons for law firms:

  • If you outsource a customer or client facing service, do NOT disown responsibility for it. I am a big outsourcing fan. Done right, it means improving service, not making it worse. To me, it feels hotels have outsourced AND disowned. This hurts their brand and repeat business.
  • Both hotels and law firms provide a complex set of services. How do you decide what to bundle in the basic rate? Low-end hotels often bundle net access in the room rate; I’m not sure why high-end ones don’t. I occasionally choose a hotel based on free net access. Are law firms losing clients or prospects because they have unbundled too many services? I really don’t know, but it’s worth making a conscious choice.
  • Metering a service is generally a prerequisite to charge for it. The fact that it’s possible to meter a service does not mean you should. Let’s not forget Skaddenomics (a famous 1991 American Lawyer cover story on Skadden Arps charging clients for coffee service).
  • Everything I just wrote notwithstanding, the purchase decision is complex. With net connection problems pretty universal, loyalty programs and location still drives my hotel decisions. Since the core service offering drives decisions, improvements to extras may not be good investments.

All this leaves me concerned that in both hospitality and law, service problems will persist for a long time.