Editor's Note March: A Single Experience Can Lose a Long-Time Customer, or Gain a New One

Editor's Note
Thomas Haire

Two hotel stays during February — one at a property I’d spent time in before and one that was new to me — provided a stark reminder of the importance of the customer experience. 

Early in the month, on business in Phoenix, I stayed in a hotel that I’d been a guest at three previous times. During each of those stays, the service had been solid, if unspectacular, and the accommodations more than serviceable.

This visit, however, was rocky from the start. After checking into my room, I noticed the toilet was inoperable. For the record, the hotel had that fixed by the time I returned from my evening event. After heading downstairs to meet with cohorts to head out said event, I stopped by the hotel bar to get a sparkling water. However, the “on-duty” bartender never appeared during a 10-minute wait (yes, the bar was open at the time).

The next morning, though, was mind-boggling. My wife also works in the marketing business, and we split hotel rooms when we are traveling to the same event. Dozens of times, I’ve arrived at a hotel’s front desk on the morning of checkout and asked the employee to split the room charges on two credit cards with no issues whatsoever.

When I arrived at this front desk, though, the lone staffer was a trainee who didn’t know how to perform the task. There was no manager on site (at 8 a.m.). During his attempt to take care of my request, the employee actually added more than $100 to the bill, taking the cost of my stay from one night to one-and-a-half nights.

Fifty minutes later, I was still waiting for the split charge to be handled and hopelessly late for an appointment. The trainee had called a manager at home to awaken him, and that manager had to log in remotely to handle the issue. Even then, it took nearly an hour to do so. 

Fast forward to late February: on a mini-vacation in South Florida at a resort I’d never stayed in, my mobile phone took an unauthorized dip in the pool on Friday afternoon. Seeking to save it, I called the front desk and shared my story — one I’d also shared with the bellman who’d brought our bags to our room — and to ask for a bag of dry rice, one solution to a wet phone. Within 10 minutes, one staffer arrived with a large baggie of rice — and the bellman followed closely with a large baggie filled with silica gel packs, another possible solution.

Though I eventually pronounced my phone dead on Sunday morning, the rapid response and thoughtful service set a tone for what was a weekend of excellent     customer service.

Suffice it to say, one business lost a former repeat customer, while another earned future repeat business. Never take for granted that once someone becomes your customer, they’ll fight through one challenge after another to remain your customer. With so many options in every vertical these days, the customer experience has become that much more crucial to lifetime customer value.

Thomas Haire
Twitter: @THrants