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B2B customer experience, customer-centric, customer-first, Hospitality & Leisure

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Ever stayed at a hub by Premier Inn hotel?  Whilst in London for business the other week, we tried it out for the first time and wanted to share our thoughts – both in terms of the concept itself, and whether its innovative design meets the needs of its target customers…

…So, what’s the concept all about?

Described as, ‘…The new urban hotel where location matters and size doesn’t,’ the brand promises customers a central location at a lower price point – or, as hub by Premier Inn says, ‘A stay at the heart of the action for less’.  For this lower price point, customers need to be willing to trade-off the size of the room on the basis that they will get ‘all the comfort, half the size’ in ‘cleverly crafted rooms.’  On top of this, customers are also promised ‘the latest tech. to keep you connected.’  So far, so good – the positioning is clear and lets customers know what to expect before booking.

Who’s it for?

hub by Premier Inn says that its rooms (‘standard’ or ‘bigger’) have been designed around ‘you’ – but who is ‘you’?  On the basis of its design and positioning, and after reading a bit more on the Whitbread website, it seems sensible to assume that it has been designed with two main types of target customer in mind – 1) the business traveller and 2) singles/ couples on a short city break.  As many of our clients are based in London, one of two locations where hub hotels are currently located, we very much fit into ‘Group 1.’

What were/ are our specific needs as business travellers?

On this particular trip, we were in London to conduct some customer research on the evening of our stay, with a client debrief session the following day.  Therefore, our top three needs were:

  • A good, central location – i.e. close to our client’s offices and public transport links
  • A competitive price – as with any small start-up business, we’re keen to manage costs efficiently and were looking at price per room versus other budget hotel chains
  • Somewhere we could work together – with an imminent client meeting to prepare for, we needed a quiet and well-equipped space where we could work…preferably with decent coffee on tap!

Our top three needs formed our decision-making criteria, leading us to choose a hub hotel in the first place – we had a choice of a hub hotel, a standard Premier Inn, and a Travelodge (all a short distance from our client’s offices).  Though collaborative work spaces are not promoted as a key selling point of the hub concept, our expectations were that a) a hub hotel would offer better collaborative working space than a Travelodge and b) given the focus on business, the hub hotel’s work space would be at least equal to (if not better than) a standard Premier Inn.  Our high expectations, coupled with the lower price point, led us to take a ‘risk’ and book a hub hotel.

Over and above this, when travelling for business, we’re also particularly looking for:

  • Clean rooms, with comfortable beds and desks where we can work if needed
  • A strong, reliable Wi-Fi connection (preferably free)
  • Basic facilities that mean we can ‘travel light’ – e.g. toiletries, a hairdryer, etc.
  • Enough space to hang our clothes (and an iron available if needed)
  • ‘Fuel for the day’ – i.e. a decent breakfast and ample tea & coffee

And, unlike when travelling for leisure, we’re far less bothered about having a massive room, extra facilities/ ‘frills’ (e.g. a pool/ gym), and being close to tourist attractions, etc.

How well did the experience deliver against our needs?

For those of you who are familiar with the Channel 4 TV programme, Four in a Bed, you’ll know that, on the show, four sets of B&B owners take turns to host with a view to decide who offers overall value for money.  They evaluate each other’s B&Bs based on four main criteria – 1) their hosts 2) cleanliness 3) the facilities and 4) the breakfast.  Now, we’re not for a minute suggesting that this is the criteria that all customer experiences should be evaluated by – as we all know, it’s about much more than just these rational/ functional factors!  However, given that the criteria broadly relate to our needs and are focused on the Hospitality & Leisure sector – and in the spirit of having a little fun with our blog – we’ve decided to review our experience in the same way…

a




















b




As you avid Four in a Bed viewers will know, contestants are also asked two additional important questions…
c


We did feel that the hub by Premier Inn offered value for money overall and, all things considered, that the £179 per room was competitive for a one-night stay in central London.  In our view, the compromise in terms of size of room is not an issue for a short business trip – especially when you’re currently guaranteed a new, modern room (as the hub hotels have only been around for around 2 years).

The impact?

The hub by Premier Inn is an example of great customer experience (CX) design – the concept:

  • Sets, manages, and delivers on customer expectations
  • Is based on the needs of target customers – and is focused on the things that matter most (particularly in terms of the design of the rooms)
  • ‘Mirrors’ the modern business world with the use of the latest tech.
  • Feels new, ‘cool’ and different – a bit of a novelty…but also feels very relevant/ ‘for you’ and creates a sense that you’re ‘on business’ (so connects with customers emotionally)

Yes, we’d absolutely stay again when travelling for business.  However, the real question is, ‘Would we stay at hub by Premier Inn again over and above other budget/ value hotel brands?’  The answer…

  • …If the price was equal to/ only slightly higher than some competitor brands (e.g. Travelodge or ibis) then yes, based on a) the current guarantee of new, modern rooms with (in our opinion) superior facilities and b) the fact that hub hotels are specifically for business
    …If the price was equal to/ or only slightly less than a ‘standard’ Premier Inn or a brand with a comparable offering (e.g. Holiday Inn, in our opinion), then our choice would not be as clear cut – yes, the hub experience is different but, all things considered, we wouldn’t necessarily say it is ‘superior’

Our closing thoughts/ questions…

Let’s remind ourselves of the key selling points of the hub concept:

  • A central location at a lower price point (with the compromise of a smaller room)
  • Carefully crafted rooms – guaranteed to be new and modern (given the age of the hubs)
  • The latest tech. to keep you connected

With these points in mind…

  • …Are the hub hotels really/ always in a better location than other budget hotels?
  • …As owners of a small start-up, we’re still price conscious…but many individuals booking business travel will work for large corporates/ won’t be directly affected by cost – so is/ will the lower price point be enough to encourage customers to trade-off size of room?
  • …What happens when the ‘novelty’ of the concept wears off – and the rooms are no longer as new/ modern (presumably Whitbread will need to keep refurbing them)?
  • …The tech. is innovative and mirrors the world of business – but is it all necessary? Is it compelling enough to influence purchase decisions?
  • …What does the current experience feel like for singles/ couples on a short city break?
  • …How will Whitbread continue to develop the hub hotels based on customer feedback / evolving customer needs? For example, will they introduce business areas for collaborative working/ meeting rooms in the future?  (There is a clear role for customer journey mapping (CJM) and experience design in this context – e.g. CJM to identify opportunities to improve comms. around the QR code; experience design to co-create the ideal collaborative working space with customers)

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the hub by Premier Inn concept and on our comments in this blog – please do share your thoughts/ experiences with us below…

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