Last week, I stayed at the newly-opened W Hotel in Austin. All in all, it was a first-rate experience. But what struck me most — natch — were two of the hotel’s signs.

The first I encountered when I entered my room and walked into the bathroom. There, affixed to the mirror, was this:

In most hotels, you’d see a serious, sturdy, and largely forgettable sign declaring “No Smoking.” But the Post-it delivers a surprise and the wording a sense of urgency. As the Heath brothers would say, this is a sticky idea. Truly.

Later, I walked through the hallway and passed by a locked door next to which the hotel would typically affix an “Employees Only” sign. Instead, I saw this:

Whoa. The folks here aren’t employees. They’re talent. That subtly changes guest encounters and probably gives the staff a sense that they’re being taken seriously.

Small touches, of course. But both are, er, signs that this was a hotel that didn’t do business as usual.

14 Responses to “Emotionally intelligent signage in a Texas hotel”

  1. Michele says:

    I love what the W hotels call their concierge desk – it’s called “Whatever, Whenever”… whatever you need, whenever you need it… brilliant and VERY welcoming! “Concierge” can sound very intimidating and snobbish!

  2. I love the No Smoking note, but something about “Talent Only” doesn’t seem right to me. Maybe because it implies that the guest isn’t talented?

  3. laurie says:

    haha! The smoking one is so great. Very clever. Is that purple ink?

  4. Roy Tennant says:

    This reminds me of Disney calling everyone who works at the theme parks “Cast Members”, meaning that everyone from those who sweep up litter to the people who play characters are “on stage” whenever they exit the back alleys. It sets a certain tone that can both challenge and inspire staff.

  5. rhonda page says:

    Some nice out of the box thinking – definitely a differentiator. People make the emotional connection and remember this kind of thing.

  6. Brahm Memone says:

    The no smoking sign is surely a great message and humorous too, much better than the dry “No Smoking” signs with a picture of a cigarette and a cross across it.
    “Talent only” – that shows the staff is very valued and as a guest I would find it very humorous and good for laugh, but also appreciate the staff even more.

    Thanks for the share Dan.

  7. Elle says:

    I like the cleaver no smoking sine. I just whish those lessins about conntrackshuns had stuck.

  8. Anthony Dina says:

    Welcome to Austin, Dan. Had I known you were coming I would have baked a cake! Both signs worked because they surprised Broca’s Area, the gatekeeper to your prefrontal cortex located in the left hemisphere of your brain. This is what creative people unconsciously and experts do precisely. My wife and I love the W Hotel chain since we landed in Times Square in 2000. Who else but wizards of the customer experience could re-invent, then run-down, small sized hotel rooms into a hotel empire? The question I have for you is what took you to Austin?

  9. As previously noted, the talent is a knock-off of the Disney “Cast members.”

    But where Disney cast members match their titles with attitude and aplomb, I generally find the W staff to act like hourly-wage help.

    I wonder if (and how) Starwood instills a talent mindset in their staff as it doesn’t seem to be permeating the culture in my experience at W properties. That’s why I tend to give them a pass in most cities.

  10. JimKaighin says:

    Perhaps the “talent only” sign is in reference to the talent that plays at the new Austin City Limits studios which are housed in the hotel…?

  11. Dan B says:

    Great article. Little things like those go a really long way. There are plenty of nice hotels out there, but it’s the ones that do the little bit extra that really stand out. I’ve never been to Austin, but if I do, I’ll certainly remeber this article. What’s the old saying, You’ll tell 10 people, then those 10 people will 10 more each and so on…

  12. dave says:

    love the ‘talent only’. if your employees are valued and happy then your customers will be taken care of. think the zappos approach.

  13. I use another great photo from a hotel stay of a door leading to the “Termination Room”….I’m not sure what happens in there, but I’m guessing it isn’t good! Thanks for the pics, Dan!

  14. erika says:

    Has anyone seen an emotionally intelligent “no soliciting” sign? Something evoking empathy for the wish for peace/undisturbed home time? No soliciting signs certainly convey the point but are oppositional and unkind. Or maybe a way for people to leave written materials?

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