The Uncomfortable Suites Customer Experience
Being a customer service trainer I pay particular attention to the ‘experiences’ I and other customers are having as we do business with a wide variety of service businesses. Over the years, I have personally experienced and/or witnessed plenty good and many great acts of customer service. The following true account of my recent hotel stay is not one of them.
As is often the case in my travels, I arrived at the hotel with a reservation made by my client. I explained to the front desk employee that, in addition to my stay, we also had reserved the meeting room for the training I would be conducting there all week. Knowing the magnitude and expense of this, I was anticipating some sort of warm welcome but instead received no acknowledgement whatsoever.
Having a clearly visible hurt hand (in a brace) I was given the room key cards and labored my 3 bags up to my assigned room. The cards (both of them) did not work and neither would register the ‘go’ green or ‘no go’ red signal. So I made my way back down to the lobby and informed the front desk girl, “I don’t think my cards are programmed”. She replied, “I programmed them”. A wonderful response I would later use in my training as a “what not to do” example.
Watching her program new cards, I had every confidence in my successful entry as I again labored my bags up to the assigned room. Again, nothing from either card. Now, back at the front desk and quite hot (about 95 degrees this day) I advised that these cards were also not working. “I’ll have to get you another room then”, said in a manner that would make most folks feel they were the problem.
Nonetheless, I now made my way up to room 310. A place I will not soon forget. I entered without issue as the key card now worked as advertised. Walking two steps into the room I reached in the bathroom and clicked on the light. Darkness. Not completely as the 2 mini candle-type lights that flanked the mirror were working but the main light above was out completely.
As I was beyond hungry (it was 7:30pm or so) I just dropped my bags off and left. Walking past the front desk I informed “I’m in my room but the bathroom light is out”. “I’ll have maintenance come up and change it for you”, she responded. “Great, I’m heading out for dinner, if you could change it before I get back that would be much appreciated”.
When I returned I saw no one at the front desk but walked into the dining area and right past the front desk girl in conversation with another employee eating potato chips. I was the only other person in the room. The front desk girl certainly saw me but said nothing. Not wanting to interrupt her “I’m going to iHop” banter I assumed all was set and I would see the light in my bathroom. I was wrong.
With no light and no one contacting me with an explanation, I reluctantly called the front desk. The potato chip employee answered and I explained that someone was supposedly coming up (a couple hours ago) to change the light. “Oh, maintenance left at 7 but she has you on the list for tomorrow morning”. Of course, that news would have been fantastic to know earlier along with a proper offer to move rooms but apparently it was more convenient (for her) to defer my situation to the morning crew.
At this point, their PRIDE score = 0
Unfortunately, it gets worse. Much worse. I had been sitting on top of the bed working on my laptop until about 11:15pm when I decided to call it a day. When I first pulled down the bed covers I thought there were a bunch (couple dozen or so) of tiny pebbles on the top sheet… then I noticed… THEY WERE MOVING! Horrified beyond the capacity for rational thought and having exactly zero faith in the front desk support and their ability to be responsive to my now dire needs, I decided to violently shake the sheet, brush like crazy, inspect, re-inspect, final inspect and sleep (sort of) in the bed.
I have severely regretted that decision since.
The next morning I noticed several small blood stains on the sheets… I later learned courtesy of another employee who was chemical-treating the room that bed bugs are translucent and when they bite you they turn red and then get squashed producing those stains. If there was one thing I didn’t need to know that was it.
After shaving and showering by candlelight I went to find the manager. I explained the situation and he could not have been nicer. In fact, both managers I spoke with then were most accommodating, ultimately transferring my belongings and leaving a handwritten apology note with a courtesy bag of chips and two soft drinks in what was then my 3rd room since check-in.
It’s a shame that this same spirit of winning customer service was not felt before there was a crisis situation.
Regardless of the gifts (that I was thankful for) it was a small token in light of the aftermath. After returning home the small bite bumps I had developed after my week at The Uncomfortable Suites turned into an incredibly itchy, welty rash covering my arms, neck and various other body parts. Most unpleasant and certainly not the sort of lasting impression I had hoped for.
The complete story above was sent to the parent company of the offending hotel, Choice Hotels International. I had hoped to end this story with their ‘Customer Relations’ response but, after their original auto-reply shown below, no further response was received despite my 3 follow-up attempts to receive one.
From: “Customer Relations” <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 1:12:28 PM
Subject: Hotel Concerns
Dear Steve Ferrante,
Thank you for contacting Choice Hotels International. Please feel free to contact our corporate office at any of the following:
Choice Hotels International
6811 E Mayo Blvd
Phoenix, AZ 85054-3119
Customer Relations Specialist
Choice Hotels International
While seemingly ignoring critical communications, they have successfully added insult to injury by continuing to send me special email offers as a “Choice Privileges” rewards member.
There’s a lesson in here… I’m sure of it.
Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses 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