Customer Service: “it’s too hard” and the moon’s not full: Or what happened to “service” & “customer” in the same breath?

Last night, flying from CLT to BNA, the sliver of a moon was visible. It was a beautiful fall orange in color and definitely not full!If it had been full, I might have attributed the events of the night to the phase of the moon.

Disclaimer: My mood, cheerful when I first walked in to the hotel, even after so many “Lucy Van Pelt-Charlie Brown-football moments”over 25+ years of doing meetings at this property was influenced by being tired, hot (from my stupid cancer that sometimes makes my body think it’s having hot flashes and it’s not), hungry, and ready to get to my room, order a bit of room service, unpack, and get to sleep. 

Had this blog been written Friday night after my arrival at the hotel or even hours later, the frustration would have been evident.  In my interest to always teach through example, questions and comments, I encourage you to also get involved in this conversation by sharing what you would have done or would do in similar circumstances to provide service. If you provide an incident, provide a “best practice” to help us all learn what to anticipate and how to correct service errors. This blog is not inclusive of all that happened. Rather I share the“low lights” of the night from which we can learn. Send this on to industry partners. Ask them how they specifically address service.

Experience/arrival:

No ability to see, as one walked from the front entrance,where the front desk queue began. No one to greet guests and offer a kind word or even visually direct guests to the line. No smiles on the faces of guests in the queue or on front desk staff faces. Nothing inviting as the first impression. (Come to think of it, though the hotel, via the client’s request,transported me from the airport, none of the door or bell staff asked if I needed assistance.)

Once in line, I waited to get to the front desk, still observing no smiles on those behind the desk. It was busy but not “that” busy.There were people behind the desk not checking people in; they didn’t smile orsay “someone will be with you in just a minute” or even offer assistance.Perhaps their shift was to end at 10.

And a front desk person chewing gum? Ugh .. really ugh. It does not present a professional or pleasant image.

What would have improved the arrival experience:

-Door and bell staff to assist from the moment of arrival.

-Directional signs.

-Staff in the lobby with smiles and verbal“welcomes” and offers of assistance.

-“No gum chewing”!


Experience/check-in:

The greeting was perfunctory and not accompanied by anything that made me feel welcome. Oddly, after I’d given my name and it was checked “in the system”, the front desk person (“FDP”) left to ask the manager,behind the “Oz door”, a question. It took more than 5 minutes! No clue what the question or answer was; nothing was ever explained. (If the FDP was not feeling well or someone had hurt her feelings, I am sorry. I’d have gladly heard “I’m sorry – it’s been a tough night and I’ll do all I can to help you.”)

I inquired about having boxes I’d shipped to myself in care of the hotel delivered to my room. (I knew they were here: I had proof from the carrier that the hotel’s loading dock, before accepting the boxes,turned them away 3 times on Wednesday because the loading dock was too busy.) I was told that yes, they were here, in the “Business Center,which is outsourced to FedEx” and they could be delivered on Saturday morning.“The business center closed for the night at 9.”

Me: No, sorry, I need them tonight. What can we do.

FDP: They’re closed; you can’t get them tonight.

Me: That won’t work. I have to have them. A sales person with your property said it would be possible. [Groaning .. never trust sales?!Kidding .. really.]

FDP with stern look: It’s outsourced; we can’t get them.

Me: May I speak with your MOD?

FDP: She can’t help.

Yeah, it kept up and finally the FDP went again to Oz,returned and said they were “working on it” and checking with Security. I was asked to step away from the desk to wait. (Blah blah blah .. that didn’t work –I finally came back to the FD since no one came looking for me.)

(Meanwhile at the desk .. another woman arrived to deal with a credit card issue. She had been contacted by the front desk to do so.She had to dress –it’s now after 10 p.m. – and schlep from the hotel’s far reaches to the desk. And that conversation, with the same FDP with whom I was dealing and the woman from Oz, was equally non-customer friendly. It was all about blaming the system.)

What would have improved the check in experience:

-Dump FedEx and other 3rd party business services for package handling! Services, and especially outsourcing services that causes inconvenience for guests makes no sense. Charging a guest for receipt of packages may be an okay practice; charging a guest for incoming packages that a guest cannot retrieve on arrival – and for packages that were turned away from the hotel’s loading dock  – is obnoxious. I know FedEx has supported a number of our industry’s associations. It’s not enough when the customer service is bad.

-If you can’t dump these services, develop policy and procedures that are guest- and security- centric. The customer is key.

-Empathy and words of soothing and understanding without blaming the “system” or how an hotel does business makes more sense.Trying to solve the problem and being empowered to do so, would have been better.

-Taking charge of the situation (v. passing it off to others or saying nothing can be done) is a must. It was needed for me andfor the woman with the credit card issue; it appeared to be needed for others.

 

But wait– there’s more:

My room, which is evidently near* the room where I’ll conduct training, is far far far in another kingdom away from the front desk.The walk, through dark “scenic” areas, is unpleasant for a tired person with aging eyes. The map and distance are not friendly for the typical guest at this hotel – that is, older. My guess is that for well-seeing people and others itis still a challenge.

* “near” in this hotel is relative.

When I got to my room, I tried to call the “help line”(designated by a smiley face on the phone) and had to repeat my story multiple times only to be put on hold each time. Finally, the queen of service, or so I’ve dubbed her, and I talked. She, knowing none of what happened [no one had made records of it nor were they talking to each other] finally took care of getting the boxes here. When I inquired about other issues needed for my stay,she called others and kept in touch with me, being kind and helpful and empathetic each time.

I am not kvetching for the sake of kvetching.  Service is suffering as hotels instead pay for what they consider better amenities. Bottom line is impacted by providing staff and training for staff; hotels’ owners, management companies, and managers don’t seem to find that as enticing as flat-screen TVs.  (Note: the “smiley face” people didn’t know the term MOD or ADA and the CSM with whom I spoke today has had “sensitivity training” but not ADA-specific training.)

Lots of attention from lots of people today and I am thankful. Of course I wonder if it’s because it’s me – someone known to them –or because they really will take these comments and do more. (I am grateful they didn't send an amenity to "make it whole" or "fix it" - that would have been inappropriate tho' something too many settle for. I just want better service.)

We, in our site considerations, have to ask more service questions. We have to demand service and we have to follow up with constructive comments. Our industry partners have an obligation in our service industry to provide hospitality.  

If not, we remain a commodity.

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