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Insider information

Last Wednesday, I learned that a friend of mine was traveling from California to Marriott’s Marco Island Florida Resort & Spa to attend a coaching conference.

Christopher and I both invested the early part of our careers working for Marriott and, knowing that he would not call ahead to request any sort of favors—unbeknownst to him—I called the hotel while he was en route.

When my call was answered, I asked to speak with a front desk manager. The person I reached informed me that all of the managers were busy serving guests and suggested that, as a supervisor, perhaps she could assist me with my request.

I then introduced myself, gave her a little background about my friend Christopher’s Marriott experience, told her of his impending arrival at the hotel, and then asked if she had any flexibility to upgrade him to a room on a higher floor or with a better view.

As our conversation continued, I sensed that I was more interested in the opportunity to recognize Christopher at check-in and provide him with a pleasant surprise than was the supervisor.

She said, “I’ll see what I can do.” I thanked her for her time.

The following day, I emailed Christopher to check on the quality of his arrival experience.

Here’s his response:

“Interesting that you asked. The clerk was young/newer yet was truly committed to ensure that she gave me her all. She was earnest and genuine in wanting me to have a great check-in experience.

She had trouble finding a room for me and wanted to meet my in-the-moment realization that a high floor and view was more important than a King-size bed (which I had requested in my reservation).

Where it fell apart was when she asked for help from her manager because he came over to help in his very “I have role power” kind of way and didn’t look at me/speak to me and it derailed the spirit of service that she created.

She acknowledged the purpose of my stay and asked if she could show me where I needed to start my day with the conference in the morning. She used my name, thanked me and offered assistance should I require it. She did fantastic! Her name was Danielle.”

From this response, I’m not sure my phone call to the supervisor had any effect on the quality of his arrival experience.

The irony here is that hotel companies are always looking for ways to capture “insider” knowledge about guests—their dislikes, preferences, tendencies—and leverage this unique knowledge to pleasantly surprise and delight them throughout their hotel stays.

Seriously, how many phone calls do you think the hotel received last Wednesday that provided the kind of “insider” information about a hotel guest that I shared during my call?

My hunch: One.

Although I could be wrong. Perhaps there were two such calls? Or possibly three? My point is that these types of calls are uncommon. They are exceptions. And exceptions create a unique opportunity to provide exceptional customer service.

Consider the possibilities that were available to this supervisor:

  • Pleasantly surprise Christopher with an upgrade to a room on a high floor with an ocean view
  • Recognize his Marriott experience at check-in
  • Inform a senior manager of his arrival (As large a company as Marriott is, I’ve yet to meet a senior manager with whom I don’t share at least one mutual connection.)
  • Deliver a welcome amenity (e.g., crackers, cheese, and/or fruit) to his room accompanied by a hand-signed note

Any of these actions would have achieved the hotel’s objective to delight its guest while providing a memorable arrival experience. And, with the exception of the welcome amenity, there would have been no extra charge to perform these actions. They’re free.

So, if these actions help to achieve the hotel’s customer satisfaction goals and cost little or nothing to provide, why didn’t they occur?

My hunch: Because they’re optional.

And since they’re optional, the supervisor chose not to perform them (and Christopher was denied what could have been a superior arrival experience).

Perhaps she was busy answering phones, checking-in guests, securing valid methods of payment, and issuing room keys. After all, in her defense, these job functions are mandatory.

So that brings us to the conclusion of our story. It’s not a sad story really. I’m sure that Christopher was satisfied with his arrival experience and guest room at the resort. I’m just not convinced that he was in any way delighted by his experience.

And that, Marco Island Florida Resort & Spa, was a missed opportunity to capitalize on some sweet “insider” information.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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