When you get to your hotel, you just want to get to your room so you can take a nap, or change, or head off to what’s next, right?
The Computers Are Down
The computers were down when I arrived at the Hyatt Regency Jersey City, two hours before my friend Lauren’s wedding this summer. The employee at the desk — we’ll call her “Sally” (not her real name) — explained she couldn’t make keycards without the computers. But she promised to call my cell phone within an hour to get me into my room, since I needed to get the wedding on the hotel’s Hudson River terrace. OK, fair enough. I saw the hotel was struggling, so I could wait to see how they’d recover.
Sally Waits for the Squeaky Wheel, and Passes the Buck
I camped out in the lobby, which had a nice view of the Statue of Liberty. An hour later, no one had called, so I went back to ask “Sally” if things were sorted out. She immediately assigned me a room (should I have come back half an hour earlier?) and introduced me to coworker Jan, who’d use his master key to unlock my door for me.
Before I left, I asked Sally if I could get a house credit toward room service. (I was thinking a nominal $25, presumably in line with what she was empowered to grant on a discretionary basis.) She said, “No, because the problem affected everyone.”
Incredulously, I explained I wasn’t asking her to comp my entire stay — I said I was just hoping for a $25 house credit. She repeated her “no, because it affects everyone” line, and allowed that maybe I could speak to a manager about it tomorrow. That didn’t strike me as accommodating customer service — more like passing the buck with stubborn and inflexible customer service.
It “affected everyone”? I know that, Sally. I realize everything’s falling apart, but if you’re going to decline my polite request — an hour after I should have been in my room and now less than an hour before the wedding ceremony starts at your hotel — you can at least be more diplomatic about it. Every guest wants to be treated as an individual, not a number.
Her Coworker, Jan, Takes the Initiative and Saves the Day
Jan escorted me to my room. Before he left, he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the credit. I’ll make sure you get a complimentary amenity tray.” I assumed that an “amenity tray” was like an airlines’ cheap earplugs and sleep mask, and that I’d have to follow up the next day — after everyone took a breather from the computer meltdown — to get whatever he’d promised me.
Nope. Twenty minutes later, room service delivered a free artisan cheese tray and a bottle of wine. List price: $60. I was pleasantly surprised, because it exceeded my expectations, and Jan’s nice gesture erased my negative feelings about how Sally dropped the ball earlier.
The next morning, the hotel slipped a photocopied apology and a restaurant credit under everyone’s door, but the cheese was immediate, and delicious. That’s good for an A+.
It’s a minor thing in the greater scheme of things, but it made a big difference in the moment. And the hospitality industry is all about creating nice moments, right? When I checked out, I left a note for hotel general manager Stephen D’Agostino, praising Jan’s initiative in fixing the situation.
3 Lessons for Marketing and Customer Service
Not to be too entitled here, but Sally knew I was part of a larger, full-service wedding group (hotel rooms, ceremony space, five-course reception, open bar cocktail hour, and more for 120 guests), so $25 would have been minor compared to the thousands and thousands of dollars the Hyatt Jersey City was getting from the group. Beyond hospitality, that’s just smart business, right?
Here are a few lessons for us as marketers:
- Good customer service can save a situation.
- If you’re going to say “No,” do it nicely.
- Even if all of your operating systems are melting down, each customer will remember your one-on-one snippiness. And some of them will write about it online.
Any other lessons from what happened?