If you don’t have a strong service culture in your organization, it’s going
to be difficult to gain loyal customers. In fact, some of your employees may
even take pleasure in arguing with your customers, and trying to proving them
At DMSRetail we think hotels are an excellent place to study if you want to see
customer service in action in a variety of different scenarios.
There’s reception, where the first impression is usually formed. There’s
housekeeping, maintenance, food and service in the restaurants, concierge
services, room service, etc.
In our case, we interact with the catering and banquet staff as well. We’ve told
you stories about the excellent experiences we’ve had in many hotels around the
One of our consultants recently came back from a workshop that we conducted in a
hotel which is a franchise of a very large, and very well known chain of hotels
- worldwide. It’s quite new and located very conveniently to a major city in the
US. It was also priced reasonably well relative to some other hotels in the area
– a major plus for our guests. The experience was memorable for all the wrong
Here’s the story:
When my colleague and I arrived at the hotel, a day prior to the workshop, we
had to wait an unusually long time to check in. There were 3 employees behind
the desk, all with their heads down looking very industrious but, apparently,
not accomplishing much. There were two guests at the desk and then one guest in
front of us – not a lot of guests to deal with. The fellow ahead of me had
clearly been there for quite some time and he was becoming impatient. I finally
got the attention of one of the clerks and he confirmed that they were having
After about 45 minutes, I was finally on my way to my room. For a tired
traveler, 45 minutes is a very long time to stand at the reception desk. So, not
a great first impression.
Fortunately, the elevator came quickly, my room was clean, the set up fairly
efficient and internet was available. Great.
I had pre-arranged a meeting with the Banquet/Catering Manager to allow me to
see the meeting room we would be using the following day. When I went to
reception, they cheerfully called to let him know I was waiting for him. He
arrived and up we went to the meeting room.
When we got to the meeting room, my jaw dropped. The set up was terrible; just
unacceptable. But that’s not the worst of it…no, the really bad part was that
the Manager didn’t want to take responsibility for fixing it.
He kept repeating “This is what you asked for.” and “I followed the
instructions.” He was wrong on both counts!
By this time, my colleague had joined us and, between the two of us we convinced
this young man – whose title was actually Director of Banquet and Catering –
that he was going to fix the room even if he had to do it himself. We generally
show a lot of respect for the service people who look after us during our
workshops because they are an important part of our guests overall experience
and we are very diplomatic and adept at making hotel staff feel happy to oblige
us. However, I’m sorry to say, in this case we did have to resort to some rather
threatening conversation regarding his obligation to perform his part of the
contractual agreement. He did finally see the light.
So, the next day we arrived to find the meeting room satisfactorily set up.
There were a couple of problems. The electrical cord providing power to the
projector and lap top did’nt work. They had to send someone out to buy another
one, which delayed us. And, also, we could not control the lighting from within
the room; the light switches were far away from the meeting room.
They were not set up to succeed. The meeting room was not properly equipped for
their main purpose…meetings.
According to the Service-Profit chain, in order to meet the requirements of
Internal Service Quality, employees must be provided with the tools to do the
job properly. In this case, they were clearly at a disadvantage.
Moving on… now it’s lunch time. Our arrangement was that we would all go to the
main hotel restaurant for lunch, with the understanding that our workshop
attendees would order whatever they wished from the menu. Anything they asked
for was to be delivered to them. Period. It was very clear.
That should have gone very smoothly and, for the most part, it did. However, one
of our participants interpreted the menu slightly differently than the server
did and she had expected a certain item to come with her meal while he insisted
it was not included. We were horrified to see the server return several minutes
later, waving a menu and saying “just so you know, you were wrong, it’s not
included – I’ll get it for you, but you were wrong.” She got the item she wanted
but not until the server had made a point of trying to prove her wrong.
They broke the cardinal rule of customer service: Never argue with your
In any case, it gave our workshop participants a lot of laughs over the next
couple of days.
Of course, these problems, or ‘events’, were taken up with management but it
became clear that there was a fundamental problem in this organization. I don’t
believe they will improve because there is no service culture in this hotel.
Some of the staff members were great and some of the interactions were very good
– but, without a service culture, there can be no consistency – virtually
anything can happen. And, a lot of what is done right will be accidental or will
happen ‘one time only’. Repeat business will be insignificant. Will they have
loyal customers? Probably never.
The end result – we’ll never go back to that hotel and we’ll certainly never
recommend it to any of our colleagues.
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