Customer Service… do YOU get it? Wake Up!

I spend far too many nights in hotels. One of the services I rely on is the wake-up call, and this week I was reminded of the episode of Seinfeld by that name… I got to the hotel, left my 6:30am wake-up call, and went to sleep with the peace of mind that I would sleep until the phone rang.

It didn’t ring.

At 7:35 I opened my eyes, and as my instincts have me trained to do I looked for the clock, and as the reality of the situation registered I bolted out of bed and got out of the room within about 9 minutes to grab a cab.

I hate being late.

On my way out the door I told the front desk what happenned, and asked to have the manager contact me. When I returned later in the evening there was a very apologetic message from the General Manager telling me that he and his engineer had tested it and made sure it worked, but just in case I should call the front desk to register my wake-up for the next day, which I did… 6:30am, in person.

At 7:23 my eyes opened, and my first thought was ‘Not Again!’ Yes again though. Fortunately my class started at 9:00am so I had time.

I got downstairs and asked to speak with the manager, who was extremely embarassed by the first incident, but mortified to hear it happenned again. Fortunately he appreciated the gravity of the issue, and offerred me (read: offerred my wife) a free week-end to make it up to me. In a word (three) he got it.

He got the fact that his staff, equipment, systems, procedure, whatever screwed up, and while he may have speculated about it, he made no attempt to pass the buck. He got the fact that the screw-up likely could have cost me money. He got the fact that it was his responsibility, and most importantly he got the fact that whatever it would cost him to comp my wife and I for a week-end is nothing compared to what it would cost for me to never return to his hotel, and worse – if I started telling my colleagues (and you the reader) about it.

In the hotel industry Customer Service is hugely important. It is important that our reputations match our image because if it doesn’t then our clientele will be fleeting. Of the several hundred hotel nights I have spent over the past few years I can only think of a handful that I would speak bad of due to service, but those hotels will never see me back. I can also think of a couple that were bad but that the managers made good for them. I don’t speak badly about those hotels because every business is entitled to a second chance. You will notice the hotel in question is not named herein, but if someone would ask me about it I would mention the comfortable room, polite staff, and convenient location and not of the unfortunate incident with the wake-up call. See the difference? It cost the hotel a week-end, sure… It will earn them much more going forward.

All businesses make mistakes… even serious ones, including yours.  How will you handle it the next time… acknowledge guilt and try to find a way to make things right, or will you try to pass the buck, and hope that there are enough new customers to make up for the one you are about to lose?  The choice is yours… but more likely than not there is no third option.

Thanks Kevin.  Theresa and I will see you soon!

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