I think most people are able to recall a particularly negative experience they’ve had with a company—a poor-quality product, extremely bad service or perhaps a combination of both. As a customer, you would think most companies would want to make the situation right and return your faith in them.
Sadly, not all companies operate under that type of thinking these days. I was taught that the customer is always right, and I have used that as a rule and guide in my own career. I’m sure most salespeople know whether their own company respects the customer. (That is because salespeople are among the first persons contacted should something go wrong.) While the salesperson may not be the final decision-maker about how to correct the problem, he or she will likely play a large role and will often be the one tasked to communicate the final resolution to the customer.
A few years ago, my wife and I experienced a horrible weekend getaway vacation at a hotel in Miami. It was so bad, in fact, that we decided that we were beaten by day two and checked out by early that afternoon. It started with the hotel having no parking, despite it being listed as a hotel amenity. There was a driveway with a few cars on it, but we didn’t qualify for the VIP status necessary to claim one of these parking spots. Parking for us and other regular hotel guests was two blocks away. As an added bonus, this was metered parking and enforcement began at 7 a.m.—a nice way to start each day of a vacation.
The evening we arrived we decided to eat at the hotel dining room, which was promoted as fine dining. Unfortunately for us, the restaurant staff, it seemed, had just had an argument and were openly hostile and vocally abusing each other—enough so the entire restaurant could hear. After about an hour’s wait, our entrée arrived, cold. On top of that, we both agreed it was the worst restaurant meal of our entire lives and left the majority of it on the plate. Our waiter was angry, but even he felt bad. You know your meal was awful when your waiter tells you to leave, that you don’t owe anything—and the rest of the staff agrees.
The following morning, we went to the beach. My wife went into the water and, quickly, her toe was bitten by what we think was a crab, but it could have been anything. So, we went to the pool, which was beyond full with kids, adults and seniors—every bit of water had someone swimming, bobbing or splashing, like a children’s summer camp. We tried the hot tub, but it had cold water and no jets were working. Sunbathe? Well, the chairs at poolside were damp and moldy.
After lunch away from the hotel, we decided to watch a movie on TV. We were interrupted by the fire alarm and had to evacuate by the fire stairs. The exit left us in a back alley stinking of garbage, with no way of knowing when it was safe to go back inside. The situation was made even worse because a few minutes later there was lightning and a heavy downpour. When it was finally safe to go back inside, there was a human stampede for the elevators. The combination of the fire alarm sending people out and then the thunderstorm sending people in from the pool was complete chaos. And there was no staff to control the mob of people at the elevator.
We sat in the lobby, and watched, and what we saw was amazing. The topper was a family pushing a shopping cart full of their barbecue gear right through the lobby to the elevators, eventually going upstairs.
That was when we knew we were going to leave. We went upstairs, packed and went immediately back down to the front desk to check out. Funny thing, the staff didn’t seem at all surprised that we were leaving—perhaps they’ve seen it before at this hotel.
Now that you’ve heard the details, I would like to ask salespeople to contact me with how they would respond had this been their own customer’s experience. Remember, it was really that bad, and you are the one who has the power to make a difference. Please send your comments to me at RWardlaw@gulfshorebusiness.com.
Rob Wardlaw is the associate publisher of Gulfshore Business.