Standing Out from The Competition: Being Different

Competition is part of business. One way of standing out from the competition and catching the customer’s interest is to be or do something different. This is done by defining a unique selling proposition (USP): The one thing that makes your business better or different from the competition.

This is the story about a group of surgeons in the UK that use a unique business model and using this USP to stand out. The story was carried in the Guardian

Not many hotels have 26,000 potential mystery shoppers who can check everything is up to scratch. But then, Ten Hill Place in the heart of Edinburgh isn’t your average hotel. Run by Surgeons Quarter, which is owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the hotel provides accommodation to visiting members from 102 countries worldwide – alongside non-medic guests. All the hotel’s profits are poured back into the college to support its charitable aims, which largely centre on improving surgical standards worldwide. The college does this through training, pushing for advancements in surgery and backing the work of the Global Surgery Foundation, which it founded in 2015 to tackle inequality in care across the globe.

It means that members who stay at Ten Hill Place have a very personal stake in the hotel’s fortunes. “Having so many members staying here certainly keeps us on our toes,” says Scott Mitchell, the managing director. “Through our interactions with the surgeons, we’ve become more aware of guests’ comfort – not just in terms of things like putting plush chairs in the lounge but by being more mindful of their hidden needs. It’s an empathic approach that runs throughout the business.”

You don’t need to be a surgeon to experience all this thoughtfulness. Guests at Ten Hill Place benefit from a raft of extras such as the option of a mattress that is hard on one half and soft on the other, which allows guests to tailor their booking to their needs (a particular boon for anyone with back issues). Then there are hypoallergenic duvets and three types of pillow – a prescription for the perfect night’s sleep.

Consideration has been made for guests with hidden disabilities, such as shelves in bathrooms designed for stoma-bag users (where they can place the kit they need to change their bags). On a similar theme, accessible bedrooms have curtains that can be closed electronically. “These are simple adaptations that aren’t costly, but might not be considered by other hoteliers,” Mitchell says. “We operate on the principle that if a little change can make your stay more enjoyable, we’ll supply it – and if we can do it free of charge, then great.”

The hotel is proud, too, of its eco credentials, which are being boosted through a partnership with Bowel Cancer UK. Under the Choose to Be Green scheme, if guests decide not to have housekeeping in their room, the hotel makes a £5 donation to the charity in recognition of the reduction in water use and cleaning products. Among the hotel’s other sustainable initiatives are cutting single-use plastics by only supplying toiletries on request and no longer putting plastic bottles of water in rooms (in their place you’ll find a packet of Scottish wildflower seeds).

Open for business after lockdown, the hotel learned how to adapt to the coronavirus crisis without cutting down on comfort – with the help of the members, of course. “It was hugely helpful to us as we started operating under the ‘new normal’ to have surgeons and medics staying with us, telling us what they’d expect to see in a hotel to help keep our customers and staff even safer,” Mitchell says. During lockdown, while the hotel closed to paying guests it became a home-from-home for key workers. Medical staff were supported with free breakfast, dinner and accommodation, and those who caught Covid-19 were able to self-isolate safely. In all, the hotel accommodated some 500 key workers for a total of 2,137 nights free of charge.

“The mother of one nurse called to book her daughter a room, and when she found out it would be free, she broke down in tears,” Mitchell says. “You can imagine the emotion and relief in that situation. What we offered made a big difference to some of our guests, and it was a pleasure to be able to help. “Tables in the dining room were socially distanced, so guests could eat at the same time, share experiences, and sometimes even cry together. We also worked up protocols for catering to guests who had the virus and needed to stay in their rooms.”

Despite the hardships of lockdown, the camaraderie in the hotel resulted in new friendships being forged. “Because some people were with us for quite some time, they got to know our staff,” Mitchell says. “Some have been out for dinner or drinks together when they’ve come back as paying guests to support us as a business.” For Mitchell, moments like these sum up what Ten Hill Place is all about: attention to detail and customer comfort. “The lasting legacy of those friendships demonstrates the ethos and culture of what we do here,” he says. “We just want to make someone’s life that bit easier and more pleasurable.”

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