Welcome to a Lousy Stay

A major component of serving your customers well is knowing what they want from you and how you’re doing in giving it to them. This seems simple. Or as my 15 year-old niece would say “duh, Kevin, I get it”. But many companies don’t get this. Or they ignore it.

Here’s my latest example.

Last week my wife and I stayed in a chain hotel in a small town in central Minnesota. We were there for a conference and to spend time with friends and family who lived there.  We had a swell time, in spite of our hotel stay. Our non-smoking room constantly smelled like smoke. The Internet didn’t work. The iron didn’t either. Its replacement wasn’t much better.  And the tub drained so slow it was like showering in a wading pool.

What I found just as annoying as the room problems was the employee’s complete inability (or unwillingness) to fix things.

Do hotel clerks really think telling me “the Internet works fine in the lobby” is the resolution I’m looking for when I explain it’s not working in my room? And, why is it when you complain, they offer to put you in a different room? If everything in the other room works, why didn’t they give me that room in the first place?

Their business philosophy seemed to be: “You pay us, we give you a room. Return the keycard to the front desk when you leave”.  The whole idea of SERVICE was glaringly absent.

After we returned home, I sent an email to the corporate office of this hotel chain.  Rather than send it straight to the top though, I decided to experiment. I used the form on their website. I wanted to see how fast they would respond. That was four days ago and I’ve heard nothing from them.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I did get a standard survey email from them. I started to complete it and then realized it had 35 questions. And, every time I answered “less than expected” they asked me more questions. Arrrgh! I left the form and didn’t come back.

This company failed in several ways. The good news is they offer us some clear lessons in how to keep customers coming back.

1. Take care of the little things (like irons and Internet connections if you’re in the hotel business).

2. Empower your employees to really serve your customers (so they can fix problems as they happen).

3. Make it easy for your customers to tell you about their experience.

4. Listen to what they tell you (and do something with it).

5. Let them know you’ve heard them (a ‘thank you’ goes a long way).

If this company had done even three of these five things, I might consider staying at one of their properties again. Since they didn’t I have to wonder how much they care about pleasing their customers.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz