This is an update to an article I wrote earlier this month. It was about our July 4th weekend getaway and how one of our favorite hotel chains let us down in a big way. The long and short of it was that we drove 400 miles to attend a friend’s wedding and this hotel cancelled our reservation and left us without a place to stay, two hours before the wedding was to start.
My big complaint was how they handled the problem. Their attitude seemed to be “oh well, nothing we can do about it”. Only after I insisted did they find us a room at a nearby motel (a significant downgrade in quality but at that point we weren’t being picky).
This first night was in Fort Madison, a historic little city on the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. The next night we drove up river and veered east slightly to Galena (an even MORE historic river city in Illinois).
The reason I mention this was because the second night (in Galena) we had a few slight problems at the hotel (a different but equally well-known hotel chain). The first room they gave us had not been cleaned. Not a big deal. The second room was clean but the high-speed Internet did not work. Again not a big deal but certainly an annoyance since I had wanted to use the Internet that day.
(To their credit, the hotel staff was wonderfully polite, friendly and helpful even on this busy, hot weekend.)
So when we returned home I decided to engage in a little experiment. I went to the website for each hotel chain and sent a “customer service feedback” email to them discussing our recent experiences.
I was surprised at how differently the two chains responded to my feedback.
The first chain (that cancelled our reservation) sent a form-letter response that offered nothing except to say someone would contact us soon. I’m still waiting for that call. The form letter response didn’t even have a real person’s name on it so I had no way to follow-up with anyone.
The second chain (room not ready, Internet not working) sent me a personal reply from a real person with an apology for our inconvenience. And they promised to send a gift certificate which could be used at any of their properties, as a way of “partially compensating” us for the situation. We received the gift certificate within the next week.
For me the winner is clear.
One company responded quickly. The response was from a real person whom I could contact if I wanted. They apologized for the service failure. They offered something tangible and useful as compensation. And they followed through quickly and reliably. Plus their compensation was more than I expected but not overdone. It was just right.
And they did this all in response to what I consider a few minor issues.
The other company messed up in a big way. They cancelled our reservation and left us stranded 400 miles from home without a place to stay. This is a major mistake. In the hotel business this is the worst thing you can do to a customer.
Their response on site was to try to avoid responsibility. Their response to my complaint was impersonal, unapologetic and offered nothing in the way of compensation. They didn’t even call us like their form-letter response promised.
I usually do not identify companies in situations like this. My point in writing these articles is to help us all learn from good and bad examples of how business gets done. But in this case, the good service was so good and the bad service was so bad that I feel compelled to let you know who the players are.
The hotel that cancelled our reservation and did such a poor job responding to our complaint was part of the Comfort Inn chain.
The hotel with the friendly people who did such a nice job taking care of us, both in Galena, and in response to my customer service feedback, was part of the Country Inn and Suites chain.
I understand no person or company is perfect but then again, I don’t expect perfection. What I expect is what the Country Inn and Suites did. They provided good, friendly service at a fair price. And, when they made a mistake they apologized, fixed it as best they could and they were gracious about it.
What more could you ask for?