Lessons In Customer Service

It’s startling sometimes how differently the passengers on a given cruise or the guests at a particular hotel can view the experience.

This can become evident in conversations with fellow passengers or guests and also on review sites like TripAdvisor. Even when the vast majority of guests give good reviews, there are unhappy exceptions. And I think I know why.

My husband I stayed overnight recently at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, a very highly rated hotel in Santa Barbara, Calif., and came away unimpressed. It is a lovely property but a series of unsatisfactory interactions with the staff¬† tainted the experience for us. Some of these experiences were:

– a long wait at check-in, with only two employees at the front desk for a very large hotel with hundreds of rooms.

– an inferior room assignment, with an ugly view of the parking lot, an unpleasant odor (it’s a dog-friendly hotel) and a badly cracked sliding glass door.

– another long wait for the front desk to pick up a phone when we called to request a different room.

– yet another long wait outside the new (and better) room for a bellman to show up with a key

Our annoyance over these customer service failures no doubt caused us to cast a jaundiced eye toward some relatively minor problems, such as the slow wi-fi connection, a pointlessly early awakening from a housekeeper and the inadequate towel supply. Had things gone more smoothly with the room, we probably would have left with a much more positive view of the place.

Contrast that with our experience the very next day at the Marriott Ventura Beach, where we were greeted courteously and checked in quickly. When we had a question about local restaurants, the front desk manager offered to make the reservations and to send up directions.

And when something went wrong – the Internet connection wasn’t working – an engineer was in the room minutes later, trying to fix it. We didn’t get it working well enough to suit me, so I repaired to the very pleasant lobby to use the free connection.

I realized that within an hour of checking in, we knew the names of four staff members. (Shout out: Hi, Megan, Mike, Jim and Scott!) And in every interaction, regardless of the outcome, we were charmed by the friendliness and the obvious regard for our well-being.

Maybe the test of whether a hotel (or any other business) is well-run is not whether problems arise or even whether every problem gets solved. It’s the attitude¬† the staff brings to the problem, whether they treat the customer with courtesy and respect.

And that makes all the difference in the world.

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