Updated: May 7
My wife and I went away to celebrate a milestone birthday with my mother and our first wedding anniversary. We were looking to have a great experience from start to finish. With this in mind, the plans were booked well in advance (8-9 months early) and were reconfirmed to ensure accuracy leading up to the trip. We don't believe it's unreasonable to have high expectations of a 4 Star/4 Diamond Hotel, which advertises as a premier collection of a highly reputable hospitality leader. However, we're also not perfectionists and know mistakes do happen.
Customer Service isn't always about avoiding mistakes. You can make or break your personal and brand reputation with how you recover from a problem. To that end, I decided to share a few lessons taken from this company's absolute failure in Customer Experience.
PREVENT COMPLAINTS BY STAYING AHEAD OF THEM We encountered our first problem before getting to the building. A festival occupying the city blocks around our hotel caused road closures, and yet we received not one email letting us know to expect delays. In researching the festival, it appears it was announced at least four months before our arrival. There is no reason an email or call to us couldn't have happened explaining how to maneuver the detours. Better yet, they could have capitalized on the festival by promoting it as an activity we could experience to enhance our overall stay.
Instead, we spent 30-40 minutes trying to navigate to the valet just to check-in.
TRAIN, THEN HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR STANDARDS Multiple times during our stay, we encountered people who lacked training, or at least consistency. Pre-arrival requests were not accurate, our room was dirty (mold/dust), some employees were rude, and others misinformed us. On the other hand, others were shining stars that exemplified how great the hotel could have been; I suspect they didn't learn this at this property. When you accept the responsibility of being the leader in charge, you're expected to train everyone to deliver exceptional service and deliver accurate information.
ENSURE SAFETY AS IF IT WERE YOUR LOVED ONE We concluded our stay with a Front Office Manager who didn't even look at us to help when we were struggling with suitcases while trying to navigate flights of steps during a fire alarm. Luckily it was a false alarm or who knows what might have happened! When you take a role in leadership, you're required to ensure your guests and employees are safe. Failure to do this can cost your company lots of money in litigation or worse yet, someone could die. If the Front Office Manager already knew it wasn't an emergency, he could have taken a moment to inform us of this so we could react accordingly.
VALUE CUSTOMERS & THEIR VIEWPOINTS When you receive a concern, it is an opportunity to avoid the problem from happening for others. If it keeps happening, you'll either need to keep spending money to appease customers, or you'll lose money when they walk away, and you won't even know why. Instead of looking at the concern as a nuisance, look at it as an opportunity. If you sincerely thank the customer for bringing the issues to your attention and recover the problem, and then, in turn, prevent the problem from happening to others, you're off to a good start. In turn, you'll not only create possibly one of your strongest advocates but also save potential losses in the future. If you don't fix the problem promptly, if you don't treat the customer with respect, or you fail to value the complaint as an opportunity to improve your business, you're quite likely to insult the customer and make them feel as if they wasted their time.
BE AVAILABLE, LISTEN, & RESPOND If you take nothing else away from these lessons, I hope that you learn the importance of "being available" for your guests/customers/clients. As I have shared, we had numerous problems. After returning home, I wrote a letter to inform the General Manager. The email address was his business email, not a general mailbox. Not only did I not get a response from this email, but several other attempts to reach him, including trying to reach out to him on LinkedIn went ignored entirely. My wife only got the courtesy of a call back after filling out a negative corporate survey and still then could only talk to a Front Office Manager. The GM refused to get on the phone or respond to an email. We weren't ranting and raving or making a scene in his lobby, so I guess we didn't matter to him. We were trying to provide him with honest feedback and proof of problems so we could improve his business and his reputation, and he could care less. This point and this point alone cemented the fact that we will never return to their property, and not that I would ever have the opportunity to hire him, but it also ensured that GM would never work with me! If your customers are trying to give you feedback, take it!
Despite a long list of concerns with photos, names, and details, we were ultimately offered a canned response and told the points added to our loyalty card "should" cover a night stay at any of the brand name's properties. How this seemed close to a proper service recovery is beyond me, but if nothing else, I hope our experience helps someone else not make the same mistakes. That alone will have to be the value gained out of all of this.
Until Next Time, Be Great Today, and Better Tomorrow!