Poor Customer Service Damages a Great Vacation
I just returned from a wonderful vacation at our time share in Oceanside, California. We spent a week at our time share – literally just a few feet off the beach. The weather was perfect – mid 70’s. The ocean temperature was in the high 70’s (and that means even I will get in!) We enjoyed time with family and friends. The room was clean and comfortable and the neighbors were quiet. But, something still managed to spoil the overall experience.
Even now, a week later, as I’m writing a letter to the manager of the hotel to let her know about the poor customer service we experienced, I’m still amazed that a lack of basic customer service skills can exist in the hotel industry. Is it really possible that front desk staff can be hired (and presumably be trained) and still not understand the basic Do’s and Don’ts of customer service?
My family is generally easy going and by no means “high maintenance.” But, even we can get upset with poor customer service. So, by now you might be wondering – what happened to damage our vacation? Parking! (Or more specifically, lack of parking.)
Our hotel makes a REALLY BIG DEAL out of the fact that each unit can only have ONE car in the parking garage – in fact, you sign several documents upon arrival acknowledging this, and listen to a lecture from the front desk reinforcing the message and reminding you that you MUST put your Parking Pass on the dashboard or risk being towed. These efforts are all in place, they tell us, to ensure that we have a parking space for our unit.
Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work out that way for us. When we leave and return to the hotel after 11 p.m., there are NO parking spaces available. Worse yet, here are the responses we got when we went to the front desk to address the situation:
- “I’m new here and don’t really know. I guess you’ll have to park on the street and feed the meter.” (The meter is 25 cents for 15 minutes, with a maximum of 4 hours.)
- “I called my manager and she says to tell you to park at the train station. No, I’ve never parked there but I think it is two streets over.” (By now it’s after midnight and they want to send me several blocks away in an area I don’t know. I don’t think so.)
- “There are 42 units and only 33 parking spaces, you’ll have to look for something on the street.” (Some basic research shows that there are 42 units, with 37 parking spaces in the garage and 6 parking passes for the street.)
- “Sometimes non-guests park in the garage. No, I have no idea how many non-guests are parked in the garage. (I knew because I counted them – there were 7.) We ticket them. (Only 1 car had a ticket.) I can’t really do anything about it. You’ll have to park on the street and feed the meter. If you want to leave me with quarters, I can do that for you.”
- “You can always park at the train station. No, I don’t know where that is but I think it is close by.” (As a footnote, earlier in the day I had checked the parking garage at the train station – you are not allowed to leave a vehicle there from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. – the sign says they will tow your car. That didn’t sound like a good choice for us.)
- When we shared the fact that last year they gave us a space out front with a parking pass for the hotel. Could we do that? The answer was, “No, the only space open is right in front and someone is parked there.” “Whose car is that?” “Mine (the front desk person!)”
Listening to these comments I was reminded of the importance of the “Moment of Truth” in customer service. At that critical moment in working with a customer, what do you do to make the experience a positive one? For us, unfortunately, this just didn’t happen.
No one bothered to apologize for the inconvenience this was causing us or even demonstrate any concern over the situation or our frustration. No one took ownership of the situation and looked for a creative solution. They didn’t even ask what unit we were staying in, let alone use our name during the discussion. When in frustration I asked for the manager’s name, I got a post it note with a name scribbled on it, and a phone number I couldn’t read.
So what did I want? What would have been an appropriate response?
I wanted to be acknowledged as a valued customer with a legitimate concern. I wanted someone to acknowledge that this was a frustrating situation and that they would work with me to find a suitable solution. I wanted to talk to someone who was knowledgeable about the parking situation (or at least who would make sure the concerns got addressed by the right person). I wanted someone who could make a decision to “fix” things for me. Most of all, I wanted to hear that this situation would be resolved before we come back next year!
As I write this blog, I hope that my experience reminds you, as it does me, the importance of excellent customer service. Many times it’s the small things – like using my name, acknowledging my frustration, offering to find a creative solution – that demonstrate that you care about me and my problem. Excellent customer service is key to the success of your business – don’t let the lack of it damage things.