Customer Service Recovery Gone Awry

Here’s an example of how not to resolve a customer complaint. It’s real, it’s recent and it’s all too common.

Not long ago, I wrote about a hotel stay my wife and I experienced. At times it felt like a comedy of errors visited upon us by the hotel gods. So I sent feedback to the hotel company. Mostly I was curious to see how they’d respond. And, yes, I wanted a resolution too.

A few hours after I posted the above mentioned article, I received a response from the hotel. (Probably a coincidence because I didn’t use their name.) The general manager of the hotel did one thing right and several things wrong. I’ll recount them here because they provide a helpful lesson.

The first thing she did was right on: She apologized. Although, if I’m going to quibble I’d say her actual apology was weak:

Please accept our apologies for any inconveniences incurred during your current stay at the (hotel name removed).

It sounds like she’s not sure if I had any problems but if I did, they are apologizing for them. Even more so, it sounds like it came from a corporate handbook. It sounds neither genuine nor sincere.

Here’s what would have worked better:

“I am sorry your recent stay at our hotel was not wonderful. We want you (and all our guests) to enjoy their stay with us…”

It’s better for the person making the apology to use the first person “I”.  And if the apology mentions any of the specific problems, that’s helpful too. It tells me the person read my feedback and understood what the problem was.

Okay, enough nitpicking. Let’s move on the the real beef: What she did wrong.

The next paragraph told me they were successful because they do such a good job at affordable prices. And it said comments from customers are helpful. She never thanks me for my “comments”. And, honestly, this is not the time and place to tell me how successful your company is and why. I’m not interested. Not at all.

Then she goes on to offer me a 50% discount on my next stay. And she asks for another opportunity so they can show me how wonderful they really are.

I don’t mind giving people (or organizations) a second chance. But I’d have a hard time doing so here. She said nothing about my specific complaints. And she offered no assurance they had been or would be fixed. For all I know they would keep happening.

Finally, I despise the logic of this feeble attempt at a service recovery: Ignore the problems and bribe me to come back again.

Apparently, their solution is to lower their prices rather than fix the problems. When you ignore the problem and simply offer a discount to get me to come back, you’re telling me a couple things:

A. You think I’m cheap.
B. The problem I experienced will become less important to me if your price is lower. (Because I’m cheap.)
C. You’re not really concerned about fixing things or giving me a great experience. You’re just giving me a stock, generic answer rather than trying to resolve a problem. (Because it’s easier and faster for you.)

An offer like this can do more harm than good.

To summarize, here are the lessons I culled from this experience:

1. Apologize and do it sincerely. Use “I” not “we”.
2. Acknowledge the specific problems or issues the customer had.
3. Assure the customer you’ll fix the problems.
4. If you offer a credit, apply it to the current purchase. (That’s where the problem was.)
5. Ask the customer how they would like the issue resolved.
6. Thank them for their feedback.

How would you grade this hotel’s service recovery response? On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being the lowest) how would you rate them? (And why?)

Thanks for O Malley Watch for the shout out!

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz