I have been referencing that great Walt Disney quote regularly to my training clients over these past 10+ years since I started Sale Away. To use Walt’s word, I have many examples of great ‘places’ delivering less-than-great, and sometimes just plain poor, customer experiences. This 2012 family vacation certainly comes to mind.
Sadly, this recent account has joined the my list of great places diminished by a disappointing customer experience.
2 Tickets To Paradise..
To celebrate our upcoming 20th wedding anniversary we decided to leave our teenage kids home and take a long weekend to somewhere special that we had never been before. After much research and deliberation we decided on the Waldorf Astoria Casa Marina Resort in Key West. As you can see on their site here, the place is just beautiful.
A gorgeous setting and that world-renowned Waldorf Astoria name set high expectations for a top notch customer experience. What could possibly go wrong in paradise?
Here’s a few examples that left us with less-than-happy memories:
1) Special Requests
Preparing for our arrival, the Casa Marina emailed me a reservation confirmation with details on the resort and included a request on any “special occasion” that we may be celebrating on our visit. Using this “Pre-Arrival Assistance” form, I informed that we would be visiting for our 20th Wedding Anniversary. I fulfilled a similar request at the Casablanca Hotel in Times Square for our 15th Anniversary and fondly recall how we were welcomed appropriately (“Happy Anniversary!”) by the check-in staff and pleasantly surprised by a bottle of champagne and card in our room.
Apparently, this was ignored as nothing was ever mentioned or offered during our entire stay. I know what you’re thinking.. they never received the request. They would never ignore it and, in fact, had they received it then no doubt they would go to great lengths to ensure it was acted upon. That what I was thinking too but, as I later discovered, this was only the beginning of a troubling trend.
2) The Beach Incident
First off, if anyone ever asks you if you want to drive from Miami to Key West.. SAY NO. Anticipating a pleasant scenic drive for 3 or so hours, we decided to fly to Miami International Airport and drive to Key West. Ended up being a 5+ hour mostly stop n’ go ride with plenty of time spent traveling traffic light to traffic light in, you guessed it, traffic. Of course, the resort awaiting us had absolutely nothing to do with our experience at this point.
Then, finally, we arrived.
After our surprisingly unceremonious check-in (see #1), all we wanted to do is relax so, after a brief room pit-stop, we visited the private beach. Around 5:45 at this point, the beach was fairly empty with plenty of chairs and cabana beds available. Not ones to pass up an opportunity to be extra cozy, we laid out on one of the cabana beds. I was dozing off rather blissfully when, not 15 minutes later, a resort employee abruptly asked us to get up so they could move all the chairs back for beach grooming later (not right then). I sat up in bewilderment.. there were easily a few dozen other chairs/beds spread about that they could of moved before even considering disrupting our peace. Not a good second impression of service..
3) Breakfast On Us
Our first morning there, we decided to walk the 1.5 miles or so down to Duval St. and had breakfast at a funky little restaurant there. Pretty good eats for about $40 with tip.
The next day we decided to stay onsite and have breakfast at the resort. Upon checking-in with the hostess, she advised that their rather extensive breakfast buffet was included in the package I had already paid for when I made our reservation. Well now, wouldn’t that have been a nice reminder at check-in? “Mr. Ferrante, I see you have purchased the package that includes our buffet breakfast. It’s really great and served just around the corner in our main dining area with additional seating on our outdoor patio. The hostess will be expecting you. Enjoy!”
Instead of that, nothing.
It’s worth noting that I regularly stay at Marriott’s all over the map for business, and occasional pleasure, travel. I cannot recall the last time the check-in staff did not welcome me as a Marriott Rewards member and inform me of their free breakfast. The Casa Marina is part of the Hilton Honors program. I am a long-standing Hilton Honors member. Although my reservation had my HHonors number on it, my membership never came up and there was certainly no distinction between ours and non-members service.
4) We Don’t Give A Tweet
As I often do with poor customer service interactions, I broadcast the post below on Twitter and included the resort wondering if anyone was paying attention there.
The next day after incident # 3..
Apparently no one was paying attention as no reply was received on either tweet. Compare this lack of response to my recent experience at the Marriott and it becomes painfully apparent that there is a valuable customer service component lacking at this establishment.
Upon departure, I requested to speak with the resort manager to discuss our experience and, when he could not be found, the front desk employee cordially provided his business card. I emailed him, along with Hilton Honors customer service, a detailed account of our experience. When no reply was received, I forwarded the email to them again requesting feedback for this article. That was 3 weeks ago now. No reply has been received.
The Gap Between Us
The gap between a business and its loyal advocates is the experience customers have when interacting with the brand. Every service interaction will either add or subtract from the customer’s overall experience. If poor interactions outweigh the good ones, as was the case here, then the customer’s memory of their experience will be tarnished and the likelihood of securing their future business jeopardized.
In most cases, customer service interactions come down to the employees tasked to deliver them and whether or not they demonstrate PRIDE on the job.
Still, even when PRIDE is present, employees can be limited by the organization itself, not having a true customer service culture and/or not being properly trained on what to do (and how to do it) to effectively contribute to it. Reflecting on our time at Casa Marina, I suspect this played a major role in the service shortcomings we experienced.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how nice your business looks if your service is substandard. As Walt Disney said, People make the difference.
Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC. As producer and host of Pinnacle Performance Training, Steve delivers sales, customer service and winning team culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven organizations throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is also on LinkedIn here