Sometimes the quality of customer service is revealed by the little things we repeatedly do. Back in January I wrote a blog post here at IowaBiz. I bemoaned the fact that years of being a regular guest at two specific hotel locations had not resulted in being greeted as a regular guest. Instead, I was always asked the "Have you ever stayed with us before?" question which seemed insulting after about the 50th stay.
Shortly after writing that blog post I visited one of the two locations I cited, the @Courtyardhotels by @Marriott on Broadway in San Antonio, TX. To my surprise, the young man who checked me in (as he had multiple times before) welcomed me with a "welcome back!" As a customer service consultant and specialist who had just written a post about this small customer service detail, I was surprised, impressed and optimistic about this positive turn of events.
Sometimes, however, the quality of customer service is revealed by those exceptional situations when things go horribly wrong. That very night, my hotel room was robbed.
I was staying in an interior courtyard room on the first floor. While I was away at dinner a thief or thieves broke the plate glass patio door, absconded with electronics gear and training materials worth in the neighborhood of $5,000 and escaped without ever being seen on the hotel's security cameras. Both my personal and work computers were taken along with iPad, training gear, and an external hard drive with my entire personal photo library. In over 20 years of business travel and consulting, I have never experienced anything like this. It was a customer service nightmare.
So, how did the staff of the Courtyard Inn do?
Initially, this horrific violation was handled as well as I could have ever expected. When realizing that the break-in had occurred, the staff called the police and notified the assistant General Manager on duty who handled things with empathy and professionalism. I was moved to the nicest room they had available and told that they would take care of anything I needed. They even offered to get me anything I wanted to drink or something to eat. My tweet about the experience received immediate response from the corporate social media team. I was treated with deference and the staff went out of their way to take good care of me that night.
Because of the loss, I had to scuttle my customer service training with the client that week I returned home to file my claims and reschedule things with my client. At that point, I felt pretty good about Marriott's handling of the catastrophe.
When I rescheduled my training visit just two weeks later, I considered staying at a different hotel. Most of my friends and colleagues encouraged me to do so. I decided, however, to reward the folks at the Courtyard Inn with some loyalty. I was also curious to see how they would follow through. I phoned the assistant general manager days before my trip to let him know I was coming and that I would like to meet with him to be updated on the investigation of the break in. I received no response.
When checking in mid-day, I was not remembered or recognized. I asked for the assistant general manager by name and was told "he's no longer here," giving me the impression that he'd left or been let go. I explained what had happened two weeks earlier and said I'd like to talk to someone to check in on the investigation and to see if they'd learned anything about what happened. I was told that the general manager was on-site and would contact me. I heard nothing all afternoon.
I checked at the desk late that afternoon with one of the clerks who had been so kind and empathetic to me just a few weeks earlier. She obviously didn't remember me. I reminded her of the experience and she seemed to remember me...maybe. I asked why I'd not been contacted by the general manager as promised. I was told that he/she had left for the day but the clerk said she would send an e-mail right away. I was assured that the general manager would get the e-mail and I could expect to receive a prompt response. I heard nothing.
I checked out two days later without ever receiving so much as a message from the general manager. Later the day after checking out I finally received a quick voice-mail from the assistant general manager (I guess he was still employed there) who said he was returning my contact. I was already hundreds of miles away and checked into another hotel. I was not impressed.
I returned from my trip to find that my Marriott credit card had been charged for my room the night of the break in and for the coffee I'd gotten at the hotel Bistro the following morning. It seems the hotel's promise to take care of "anything I needed" was only limited to a snack or beverages the hour or two immediately after the robbery was discovered. I must assume that they felt adequately generous putting me in the empty one-room suite they had available at the price of my robbed king-suite.
One of the things I have always taught my clients is that customers tend to remember the last impression you give them. The Courtyard Inn in San Antonio, and the folks on the corporate social media team initially impressed me with their empathy and responsiveness. In fact, it earned my loyalty and a return stay. It is the lack of follow-through and the last impression that sticks with me, however. Broken promises, lack of communication, and getting stiffed for a room that was robbed.
What kind of last impression is your team making?