A Tale of Two Hotels

It was a rare weekend where we decided to do a staycation with the kiddos. We found a great deal on a hotel suite and got tickets to a minor league sports event that was within walking distance of the hotel. This hotel had a reputation of being the best in the city, and we were excited to check it out.

The staff was incredibly friendly, and the girls were practically jumping up and down in anticipation of checking out the room. We got to our floor with our luggage, and found that the key didn’t work. So down the elevator we went. These things happen, after all. The front desk staff was extremely apologetic. They made new keys and let me know if there were any additional issues, I could use the courtesy phone and they would come up to us. Up we went, and once again the keys did not work. We checked the door to the left and right to see if the room number had been written incorrectly, but it was no use. I walked up and down the hall and through the elevator lobby to look for the courtesy phone, but was unable to spot one. So down we went again, the four of us.

As we approached the front desk once more, the look on the woman’s face was of utter embarrassment. She couldn’t apologize enough. This time, she re-ran the keys and sent a supervisor up with us to ensure there were no other issues. To everyone’s dismay (and to our kids’ hilarity), the keys did not work. The supervisor tried her master key, and THAT didn’t work either! There was nothing to do but for the entire entourage to go down the elevator yet again. The woman at the front desk could hardly face us, she felt so badly and apologized again and again. This time, they assigned us to a new room, gave us new keys, and escorted us up the elevator, this time with success! Apparently the 4th time is the charm.

My husband and I, who both travel extensively for work, jokingly placed bets on how many minutes it would be before we got a call from the manager checking that everything was ok or a plate of cookies was delivered. The minutes turned into an hour and we realized that, to them, the matter was resolved. We finally got access to our beautiful room, therefore all was well. And it was, in the sense that every person was so friendly, so polite, and so eager to solve the problem at hand. They did their job description perfectly. And that was where it ended.

Contrast that with an overnight stay at a well-known hotel, where the valet attended to the car behind us first. Now, that car had a family that looked like a travelling circus, so we didn’t mind that they were assisted before us. Believe me, we’ve been there. However, once the valet realized his error, he proactively apologized, walked us in to the front desk, and slipped some kind of note to the front desk agent. She checked my husband and I in and gave us a complimentary upgrade, apologizing for our additional waiting time for the valet service. Wow. That evening at dinner, we were chatting away, enjoying a dinner for just the two of us (a rare treat). Our appetizer had long been polished off, and we suddenly realized our entrees seemed to be taking a long time to arrive. Before either of us even said anything to each other, the head waiter came over to us to apologize for the wait. He said he would be sending over complimentary glasses of wine right away to thank us for our patience. Again – wow.

We haven’t stopped talking in rave reviews about the second hotel experience. While both hotels were beautiful, memorable, comfortable, it was each employee we interacted with that made the difference. The employees at the second hotel didn’t just do their job well, they turned each interaction into an opportunity to create a fan. They were friendly and helpful, and when they saw an issue, they had the training, authority and self-motivation to resolve it with confidence. It was extremely apparent each employee felt pride in their work and felt it had purpose.

The first hotel hired well. Each employee we encountered had the right attitude, but they had only been trained how to do their job well. The employees at the second hotel had been trained to create customer experiences well, and they did it with pride.

Would it surprise you to hear that the second hotel was a Ritz-Carlton? This was the first time I’ve ever stayed at one with my husband, and after seeing their service in action, I really “get it.” As you think about your customer service experience, I encourage you to first look at your employee experience. Have they been given the training, resources and support to not just do a great job, but to create great customer experiences? I’d love to hear what you’re doing to empower your teams to create fans in their communities.