Apr 16 2012

No Holiday at the Inn!

Published by Hank at 11:21 am under customer service

Was recently discussing customer service issues and experiences when the question came up:  Would you feel guilty if an employee was fired because of the poor customer service you experienced?  Obviously, the answer depends on the circumstances of the employee’s errors; the punishment should fit the crime.  Customer service is the lifeblood of so many businesses; their success or failure is largely dependent on the quality of the customer’s experience.

In many cases, bad customer service is a matter of poor training and a lack of oversight by management, where a reprimand and constructive instruction can usually fix the problem and minimize repetition of the same mistakes.  But sometimes an employee’s actions and behaviors surpass the need for admonishment and require actual dismissal.  Here are some examples worth thinking about:

During a recent visit to the Gulf Coast of Florida, my customer service experiences were less than optimal.  We were there for a family get-together. All the out of town relatives stayed at the same hotel to be in close proximity to each other and the scheduled events.  Our reservations were made several months in advance, and then about a month before our stay, we extended our original reservation for an extra night.

Upon arrival, the desk clerk had a difficult time confirming our extra night’s stay because the additional night was listed as a separate reservation. Merging the two reservations into one proved difficult for him, and he then told us we may have to switch rooms for the additional night.  I told him this was unacceptable!  A few hours later the clerk called our room to say the reservations had been merged, and we could keep the same room for the duration of our stay.  Problem solved?

Not so fast:   Our “final” bill with the wrong room rate was slipped under the door prematurely; we weren’t checking out for another day.  And when we returned from breakfast that same morning our electronic keys wouldn’t open our room because the reservations had NOT been merged.  Their systems still thought we were checking out and changed the room keys’ codes.

Should the desk clerk or reservations agent be fired for these errors?

No, these are training and computer issues that can be addressed.  The clerk made a genuine, albeit futile attempt to merge the two reservations.  It wasn’t his fault the computer still thought we were checking out.  While these issues were a nuisance, they weren’t something someone should be fired over.

Let’s see how you feel about this next part of the story.

Leaving the hotel one morning around 9, we saw housekeeping staff a couple of doors down from our room, and asked them to please clean the room as soon as possible. They clearly understood the request!  We returned at noon and discovered that our room still had not been cleaned.  I confronted one of the housekeepers standing right outside our room, and she said it would be done in about 10 minutes.  Annoyed, we went downstairs for about 45 minutes and returned to find our room had still not been cleaned.  After a call to the housekeeping supervisor, someone finally came in to clean the room, close to 5 hours after I asked it be done.

A few hours later, I saw 3 of the housekeeping staff hanging out, chatting and watching TV in one of the other guest rooms on our floor. Sadly I did not have camera at that moment to document this.  Their brazen lollygagging was visible to anyone who walked by and was clearly the reason they couldn’t do their jobs in a timely manner.

Should anyone have been fired over any of this?

If this was a first offense for the responsible members of the housekeeping crew, no, they shouldn’t be fired.  But if this issue has occurred before, I’d encourage management to do some housecleaning, and fire a few people.  The staff getting caught openly watching tv reflects very poorly on the hotel and they should be fired, as should those who did not clean the room as they said they would.  The housekeeping department manager(s) jobs’ should also be at risk.  If they had been doing their job the room would have been cleaned on time, and staff would never think of goofing off in a guest room!

These issues were taken up directly with hotel management and its corporate management to ensure they were effectively addressed. Poor service makes customers unhappy, and can really hurt a business. The high costs of hiring and effective training limit some employers’ ability to invest the necessary time and money, or risk making personnel changes.  But when that happens, customer satisfaction erodes, confidence evaporates, the business bleeds red ink, and it’s no holiday at the inn for the business or the customer.

For more tips on job search and employment strategies, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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