Customer Service is truly what makes or breaks businesses today. In a world that has so many different options available, people are still people, and they are looking for great customer service. When your customers/clients have a great experience at your business, they are likely to return again and again. At the forefront of your customer’s great experience is customer service, as it plays a crucial role in making their experience great or awful. However, many companies just don’t get it, and are losing customers because they fail to get to know their customers and meet their needs. Let me explain one recent encounter I had.
I recently returned from vacation, and had some great experiences and a few not-so-great experiences. One very bad experience was an issue we had with the hotel we were staying, specifically, the way they managed their “lost & found” department. On our last morning, we checked out at 10 a.m., and then went straight to a theme park about 10 minutes from the hotel. As we were leaving the park at 4:00 p.m. we discovered we left several items in our room. Since we were only about 10 minutes away, we immediately called the hotel to tell them we would be swinging by to pick up our items before leaving town.
On reaching the hotel via phone, they told us the lost & found hours were from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. and they were closed for the day. Upon explaining our situation and the fact that we were leaving town and really needed our items, the hotel simply told us that lost & found would reopen at 8 a.m. the next morning. We asked to speak with the manager, but the person we were talking to insisted there was nothing they could do, and said the manager was too busy to talk to us. Naturally, we were not happy customers at this point—our customer experience had gone from not-so-great to awful in about 2 minutes. The hotel all but told us that we were an inconvenience to them, and the manager was too busy to even talk to us because he was checking people in.
The next morning shortly after 8 a.m. I called the hotel’s lost & found and I got an answering machine. I left a detailed message along with my phone number. The lost & found attendant called me back about an hour later. He immediately told me he had all of our items, and could ship them to us if we wanted to pay the shipping cost. Reluctantly, I agreed, and gave him my information.
I told the clerk that I was disappointed we weren’t able to pick up the items the day before, since we were only 10 minutes away. He told me the hotel’s policy was to keep the lost & found open 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. He also told me he had heard "numerous complaints" about the hours of operation. Hmmm—“numerous complaints” from customers!
Let’s pause right there for a moment. I shouldn't have to say this, but when a business stops listening to its customer’s complaints and takes no action, the customer experience will plummet! When the lost & found clerk told me he had heard “numerous complaints,” bells and whistles went off in my head, and I immediately knew I wasn’t the only customer to have a bad customer experience with this hotel… and yet the hotel didn’t seem to care... they took no action!
From my calculations, this hotel had numerous opportunities to fix this problem. First, they could have contacted us as soon as they found our items—they had two cell phone numbers to contact us at, yet they chose not to. Second, they could have had the manager talk to us and try to explain the situation, and possibly even get into the lost & found section to retrieve our items, yet they chose not to. Third, they could have listened to the “numerous complaints” of previous customers and adjusted the hours of the lost & found, yet they chose not to. Finally, they could have tried to lighten the blow a bit by offering to pay half or all of the shipping costs, yet once again, they chose not to.
Needless to say, our “stay” at this hotel ended on a sour note, and our overall customer experience was dismal. We will choose not to return to this hotel—ever! I have purposely not mentioned the name of the hotel because that’s not the point of this message. The bottom line is this hotel had a challenge, and they chose to ignore it… or to run away from it. They've had “numerous complaints” about their lost & found hours, yet refused to address the challenge or serve their customers. They had an unhappy customer on the phone requesting to speak to a manager, and yet they decided to avoid the challenge and make excuses—the manager didn’t even return our call when we requested a call back.
Challenges are what will stand out the most to your customers; specifically, how you handled the challenges will be talked about for years to come. Did you run to the challenges and resolve them in a way that boosted your customers experience, or did you run away from the challenges while allowing your customers experience to plummet? As you can tell, the hotel we stayed at chose to run away from the challenge, and for that, they lost customers and most importantly, future referrals!
The choice is yours whether you run to or run away from your challenges… I encourage you to Run to your Challenges to make your customer’s experience great. By Running to your Challenges, you create lifelong customers! Run to your Challenges!