WOW Your Customer Later, Alligator!

PrintIt was to be an evening of fanciness for the Dempsey sisters. I was in town for the week, working in San Diego, and we had scheduled to spend quality time together on a Saturday night. My sister is a huge fan of a specific hotel chain, always talking it up to the best place she’s ever stayed. She booked a room with this said hotel chain on the San Diego bay for a little under $300/night.

The evening we arrived, we were greeted by a beautiful entry way. The hotel felt like a tropical paradise, fresh and clean, decked in browns and blues with palm trees and flowers lining the sidewalks.

“Paradise Lost”

When we entered our room, the dazzle dissipated instantly. The curtains were open, revealing a small balcony. The door to this balcony was covered in greasy hand prints and smears. The desk in the corner of the room appeared to have been dashes with a knife several times on the side. There was a thick coating of dust on the ice bin as well as the table that it sat on. Drink rings were left on the bed side tables. Plus, my sister had made a mistake booking and wanted two king beds. Her confirmation said one king. In the room, we had one queen.

About 5 minutes in, we’re back down at the front desk, kindly sharing our impressions of the room. Since we both work in customer service, we’re not going to be rude about this to any employee.

“In the Spirit of Hospitality”

The representative at the front desk listened and said that she can make up for the mistake with booking by “comping” a roll away bed. A supervisor on duty walked over at this moment, listened in and then said, “So, do you want another room or something?” We said that this would be really cool if they could do it. Then he replies, “Well we have two weddings and a prom so we have nowhere else to move you.

He then lets us know that he’s sorry for the room condition, to go enjoy our dinner and he will send house keeping up for the room to be cleaned.

After our delightful dinner at the hotel restaurant (which was fantastic, by the way), we wander up to our room. Housekeeping had not made a visit, so we call down to the desk. It was the same supervisor, who answered with an annoyed tone. He then said that he will call them again to come to our room. And, finished off the conversation with “In the spirit of hospitality, I will “comp” your valet fees.”

Housekeeping and Losing

Housekeeping does eventually show up and cleans the window, then leaves. We’ve had enough at this point and decide to go enjoy the resort pool.

We arrive at the pool, ready for drinks and Jacuzzi time, hoping that the lavish lounge pools, fancy lights and palm trees will save the experience.

There were no towels.

We then ask the bartender where we can obtain towels.  He said, “UGH, I already called once. Let me call again to see if they’ll show up with more.” We then order drinks and head over to the Jacuzzi, which was full of people drinking and smoking (despite the no smoking signs). We don’t rat them out because we did not want to re-approach the same frustrated bartender.

Strewn across the pool yard were many used, wet towels, left behind by other guests, as well as empty drink glasses and cans. There were so many that we had to walk for a few minutes before finding a clean place to sit. We ended up moving some trash to sit down at a cabana in the back of the area. After hanging out and talking, an hour later, still no towels, we give up on the Jacuzzi and head back to our room for bed.

WOW You Later, Alligator!

The morning of check out, we explain to another representative about the situation that we experienced. She expressed empathy to us about this situation, saying it’s not their normal standards whatsoever. She “comped” us $100 toward our bill and apologized over and over. She did end the conversation saying that we hope would give them a future opportunity to try and WOW us.  We’ll see about that.

I asked my sister if she felt “compensated by all the comping” that was done on this trip. She said, “No.” While it may have saved her pocketbook, she still left with a scowl on her face (and if you know my diesel mechanic sister, her scowl is nothing to mess with).

I Want to Know!

Is comping really the best way to resolve a customer situation? Are there ways to avoid giving away money and WOW your customers in other ways? How can you WOW them right on the spot, while the issue is happening, without asking them for another future opportunity?



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  • Great post. I know the feeling Jenny. Bad customer service stinks. Especially when they previously provided amazing results. After awhile crocodile you get hurt.

    • Jenny Dempsey

      Yeah, it most definitely does stink. Booooo! I like how you ended your comment though–it’s so true!

      Slip ups happen but how can a company that has a reputation for great service fail so hard? What does it take to regain trust?

  • Hi Jenny – I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret that the hotel wouldn’t want you to know.

    The front desk supervisor offered to comp your valet fees because the valet operation is outsourced to a third party company. This means that the cost of the valet parking won’t hit his budget.

    So, in the spirit of hospitality, he dumped your problem on the valet parking manager’s budget.

    Sorry to hear you had such a poor experience.

    • Jenny Dempsey

      No way!!!

      Thanks for that dirty little secret, Jeff. It’s nice to know that this was an easy route for him to take.

      Let’s cheers to “the spirit of hospitality” (ha ha ha)

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