Thursday, March 28, 2013

Customer Service - It's the Details Stupid

customer service done wrong
photo credit: ...-Wink-... via photopin cc
I talk a lot about customer service and going the extra mile because as someone who has been in business for many years, I view everything through this lens. This has been no different with my recent travels. Over the last several weeks, I bounced back and forth between two hotels, fell in love with one, and disenchanted with the other. This article is not a hotel review, but a case study of the importance of attention to detail to win over customers. If you have a business, pay close attention.

The Big Stuff is Easy

It is difficult to miss the big stuff like providing a comfortable bed, a TV and housekeeping services. Many hotels even offer complimentary breakfast and dinner. Such perks are so commonplace, we travelers tend to take them for granted. What we notice instead are the minor details. These small gestures elicit unexpected smiles and the audible “Hmm.” If you can get this out of your customer, you may have a friend for life.

How the Staybridge Suites Dropped the Ball

My first stay was at the Staybridge Suites in Lincolnshire, Illinois. I was quite impressed at first. The representatives at the check-in desk were friendly and welcoming to my weary, jet lagged eyes. 

The Staybridge had a cozy, almost cottage feel. An ambience I am sure was intentional. The room had a full kitchen with full size fridge, stove, dishwasher, microwave and dishes for cooking. One could really make themselves at home in such a place.

Then, there was the breakfast. Wow! I can say without exaggeration the Staybridge has the best oatmeal I ever tasted.  Their breakfast bar left nothing to chance – scrambled eggs, omelets, bagels, toast (white and wheat), hardboiled eggs and fresh fruit. The kitchen staff in this place really won me over. 

Although the Staybridge got some of the big stuff right, there were signs of trouble that I tried to ignore.
When I returned to my room the first evening, I could not put my finger on it but I thought they could have done a better job cleaning. 

Throughout the rest of the week during my stay, the little things got bigger, like waking up one morning and the Internet not working. Moreover, the cleaning staff only seemed to get worse.

But I gave the Staybridge a second chance by staying there during a return trip, but matters only got worse. I wondered why the carpet did not smell fresh but I soon discovered why. The cleaning staff did not vacuum the room during my entire stay. How can I know for sure? Because the powder from my Shower-to-Shower bottle remained in the same spots on the floor for 5 days. I wondered how long it had been since the room was vacuumed at all.

On one occasion, they did not clean my room at all! I returned in the evening to the same pile of dirty towels and unmade bed I left in the morning. When I called the front desk to complain, they said someone would be sure to clean the next day. The next day!
“What about clean towels?” I asked.

“We’ll bring some right up.” Which they did.

I don’t know about you, but if this were my business, I would have cleaned the room myself.
The problem with neglecting the little things is you eventually neglect the big things too, which is exactly what happened at the Staybridge.

I decided to tell them about the problems so they could make corrections because I really wanted to like this place. So, instead of leaving the keys in the room and doing the popular auto check out, I went to the front desk. But the conversation never happened.

It’s not that the clerk was mean or rude, just indifferent. As if to say, “Come again if you like, but if you don’t that’s fine too.” To an already dissatisfied customer, such an attitude is enough to push them away for good.
I decided not to bother. Instead, I did what I suspect many dissatisfied customers do. I walked out and vowed never to return.

In business and in life, the little things matter. In some ways, they matter even more than the big things because the big stuff is obvious and there for all to see. The little things take extra care and consideration. 

When that customer leaves disgruntled, they may not tell you at all. But they will tell all of their friends. And if they have a blog, well, you know what they say about the power of the pen.

In a follow up article to this one, I will talk about how another hotel in the same area, The Homewood Suites, won me over for life by focusing on the little things. Who would ever think that toilet paper folded in the shape of a diamond would have such an impact.

Godspeed and I look forward to seeing you in The PlayersLounge.

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