“Service isn’t something you can turn on and off. It requires a great product, training and giving our associates the tools they need to serve our guests.” -Bill Marriott
I don’t know of any frequent business traveller who likes leaving on a Sunday. It pretty much takes herculean self-control not to be in a slightly depressed mood. Leaving at “zero dark thirty” on a Monday morning is fine, but not Sunday travel. So, after a very long Sunday flight from London to Washington, D. C., a connecting flight to Burlington, Vermont, then renting a car and driving I finally arrived at my hotel, very tired and somewhat grumpy (missing my Sunday evening family time at home).
I pull into the parking lot of the hotel, one of the many Marriott chains, only to find that there had been a fire, in fact, the firetrucks were still parked around the back. The smell of smoke and wet carpet was overpowering. My “Mood Elevator” is about to hit the basement. Just what I need!
But as I was getting out of my car, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a group of four couples having what seemed like a very good party. But I was focused on my upcoming problem of where to find a room for the night, so i ignored their shouts to join them. I had important issues to deal with and I WAS FOCUSED!
What could have been a customer satisfaction nightmare turned out to be a memorable and positive experience. The hotel staff had set up a small desk in the parking lot that served as the registration and information station. A very friendly staff member guided me over, explaining about the fire but that everyone was okay and that I would be well taken care of. As I reached the makeshift office I realised I was dealing with experienced and well-trained staff. My name was on the list.
“We have been expecting you, Mr Childress. Sorry for the inconvenience. We have booked you a room at another Marriott property only a mile away. And of course, the hotel costs will be fully taken care of by us. Again, we are sorry for the inconvenience”. They even had a map for me and one of the staff was a mobile phone talking with my new hotel at that very moment, telling them I was on my way.
What could I do other than smile and thank them? They had everything figured out in advance. They obviously had a procedure and were well-trained. I wondered; “If their disaster recovery processes is so meticulous and well executed, imagine what their normal customer service must be like?”
On the way back to my car I again was hailed by the group having a party at the other end of the parking lot. So, seeing food and beer and people having fun, I walked over. A cold and much appreciated beer was thrust into my hand. This group had been staying at the hotel for a week before the fire, and they decided to have a party as they waited for their new hotel assignments (individuals staying one night are easier to place than a group of ten staying a longer period). But they had been treated well by the hotel staff and so a little party, complete with BBQ chicken and lots of beer seemed like a no-brainer to them. I arrived about four beers behind. They told me how well the staff of the hotel had taken care of them during the ordeal and how everything was going to be just fine (optimism among guests after a hotel fire?). And as things do at parties, the topic of conversation soon got around to fishing, but that’s another story for another time.
How well trained are your staff on all possible customer service scenarios? It matters, big time, not just in emergency situations, but in the thousand points of customer service opportunities every day.
1. Continually challenge your team to do better.
2. Take good care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers, and the customers will come back.
3. Celebrate your people’s success, not your own.
4. Know what you’re good at and mine those competencies for all you’re worth.
5. Do it and do it now. Err on the side of taking action.
6. Communicate. Listen to your customers, associates and competitors.
7. See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk around, make yourself visible and accessible.
8. Success is in the details.
9. It’s more important to hire people with the right qualities than with specific experience.
10. Customer needs may vary, but their bias for quality never does.
11. Eliminate the cause of a mistake. Don’t just clean it up.
12. View the problem as an opportunity to grow.
What positive hotel experiences in challenging situations have you encountered?
Thanks for joining the dialogue.
John R Childress
Senior Advisor on Corporate Culture, Leadership and Strategy Execution
Author of LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
PS: John also writes thriller novels