A Tale of Two Very Different Service Experiences…

Isn’t it amazing how in just one day you can visit both ends of the spectrum in terms of how you feel as a customer?

Last week I checked in to a hotel chain I use all the time. As a ‘Platinum Elite’ customer (their term for ‘a regular’!) I’m not normally that demanding, but when I opened the door to the room to which I was assigned I was not impressed.  The room was stiflingly hot and despite frantic button pushing on the air conditioning control panel it just seemed to get hotter.

I called the front desk for help and was asked in a patronizing tone if I had read the air-conditioning instructions.  When I explained I had already done this, I was asked to report back to reception for assistance, as there was no one available to help me in the room. When I returned to the front desk to explain my plight, the receptionist looked blankly at me and tapped furiously at her keyboard only to declare ‘We’re full tonight – I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do’.

As I had no intention of sleeping in the bedroom-cum-sauna allocated to me, I invoked the ‘Look here, I’m a regular customer’approach and, after much huffing, puffing and keyboard tapping, I was told that ‘as a favour’ I would be switched to an adjacent, cooler room.

Later that evening, I went for dinner at an Italian restaurant chain which I again use all the time.  I didn’t even look at menu, I just ordered the type of pizza I like but asked if I could substitute one of the usual toppings for another. The waitress cheerfully acceded to my request but despite this, ten minutes later, delivered the pizza as it would have been described on the menu. As she placed it in front of me she must have seen the disappointment in my eyes and she immediately apologized for her mistake. “I know you’re hungry and won’t want to wait, but you’re clearly a regular customer and I don’t want you to be unhappy. Let me change that for you”, she said. When the pizza arrived for the second time she placed it on the table and said “This one’s on us – we’re sorry we let you down today”.  Funny how things taste twice as nice when they are free…

As I reflected on the difference between these two experiences, I thought about a complaint handling routine someone once taught me when I first started working with customers / clients.  I remember my boss at the time saying that unhappy customers (and especially unhappy regular customers) needed to be dealt with ‘ASAP‘:

  • Apologise every time – sorry goes a long way
  • Sympathise – show the customer you see it from their perspective
  • Accept responsibility – tell the customer you want to remedy things
  • Propose action – explain what you can do to put things right

Clearly the waitress got it exactly right and the hotel receptionist was some way off the mark.

The result? I ate in the Italian again the following evening and I checked out of the hotel the following morning determined not to stay there again.

Providing a service, whatever it is, requires the utmost empathy at all times. Every little thing makes a huge difference in a customer’s views and feelings about your service. Keep them happy! And if that doesn’t quite go to plan, handle the situationASAP.

To find out more about our award winning customer experience training, call us now on 0207 043 1582 and we’ll help you on your journey to deliver an exceptional service to your customers.


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