B-Y-O-B: Build Your Original Brand – Part Three: Service

BYOB - Build Your Original Brand

5 Keys to Building Your Original Brand

At the Ritz-Carlton, the motto is clear enough:
"We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen."
Everyone from the groundskeeper to the hotel General Manager knows the motto and demonstrate a consistent level of dedication to these words each and every day. Service--Stellar Service--is the third element in my five-part series on Building Your Original Brand. Stellar Service is also, perhaps, the most misunderstood of all five of these elements.
If I had a dollar for as many times as I've heard, "Okay team, we need to get back to the basics of service. Let's practice how we greet our guest and make eye contact." Really? In my book, how we greet our guests and make eye contact is not what sets us apart. What does set us apart? Exceeding guest expectations. Exceeding our own brand standards. Recovering gracefully from a service failure. Owning our own mistakes.
Just this past weekend, I encountered the perfect example of just how customer service can make or break our brand.
On Friday morning, my wife Melea, my daughter Monet, and I travel up to Tallahassee for a synchronized swimming meet. We arrived to our hotel, a well-known, high quality brand, at just around 1 p.m. After checking in, we got our luggage out of the car and headed to our hotel room. When we arrived to our hotel room, the first thing that we noticed was that the door was ajar. After further investigation, we realized that the deadbolt was thrown on the door which would not allow the door to close and lock. The mechanism was completely stuck with the deadbolt protruding out from the door. We immediately contact the front desk and they promptly moved us to a different hotel room. Now, in the past, Melea has worked as the Head Housekeeper for the same hotel brand and her immediate comment to me was that this room should never have been turned over by housekeeping because of the door issue.
After checking into our second room, we realized that we needed extra pillows for the evening and so we promptly called the front desk to ask for them. In the meantime, we drove to Panama City to meet a friend for dinner. When we returned to the hotel at around 10:30 PM, there were still no extra pillows in our room. Melea called the front desk and again requested the extra pillows be brought to our room. The Front Desk Associate acknowledged our request and assured us that the pillows would be brought to our room promptly. Now, at this point, it's getting late and everyone just wants to get to bed. My daughter's call time is 7 AM -- bright and early-- but still no pillows.
Now it's 11:30 PM and I decided to pick up the phone and call the Front Desk. Remember, it's late and I'm fairly annoyed at this point and so, in an irritated tone, I explained to the Front Desk Associate that I was in room 131 and that we had already requested pillows twice. I continued, "I guess we just must not be that important and so I wanted to call you to let you know that we get it--we're not that important to you. Message received. Thanks." Before she could respond, I hung up the phone and plopped back down on the bed.
Moments later, the phone in our hotel room rang and I turned to Melea, knowing full well who was on the other end of that call. I asked if she wanted to take it this time. She smiled and agreed.
Melea picked up the phone and answer "Hello."
The Front Desk Associate began, "Hi, this is the Front Desk. Before I could explain that there was a call in front of you, I got hung up on."
Melea responded, "Well, we actually asked for pillows this afternoon at around 2 o'clock and so we were certainly before any other requests that you received this evening."
The front desk agent responded, "Well, I didn't come in until 3 o'clock so I don't know what happened then. I can only speak for what happened when we got the request tonight."
Now, just a reminder that Melea has worked as a Head Housekeeper for this very brand in the past. Melea continued, "I've worked at the Front Desk myself and I understand that it's no fun when someone else drops the ball. However, I also understand that this hotel's brand standard includes that my request is to be delivered within 15 to 20 minutes of receiving the call and that you are to call me to confirm that the request was actually taken care of."
The phone went dead silent for at least 5 seconds...then...meekly...the Front Desk Associate spoke up. "That is correct...and your pillows will be there in two minutes."
And just like that, 7 1/2 hours after our initial request for pillows, two fresh pillows were delivered to our room within two minutes of the call ending.
It's All in the Details. Housekeepers are supposed to note all issues with rooms. While it's unclear as to whether housekeeping failed to report our initial issue with the doo or someone else dropped the ball in reporting this issue, the room was marked as vacant ready-- the classification that hotels use to specify that a room is ready to be occupied. A room with a door that does not close does not fall into this category. 
Regarding the pillow issue, delivering pillows might not have been important to the Front Desk team but having them to sleep on was extremely important to my family. Details matter and they matter just the same in our attractions world. Whether we're handling a ticketing issue or a checking on a lost and found item, it's important to develop clear standards, establish specific operating procedures for your most common workflows, and to hold everyone accountable. A clear focus on the details matters.
Avoid Confrontation. You'll recall that immediately after I hung up on the Front Desk Associate, she called us back but rather than apologizing for the service error, she became confrontational, complaining to Melea that she was hung up on before she could provide me with a reason (excuse) for the delay. The correct response that the Front Desk Associate did not make would have been to simply apologize. For example, "I'm so sorry, we got disconnected." You never get confrontational with a guest... Great service providers don't make excuses and they don't react emotionally to the situation--no matter how rude or upset a guest might be to them--they are proactive and committed to fixing the problem.
Own Your Mistakes. The Front Desk Associate didn't own either of the delays--all she did was deflect--telling us that she wasn't there when our first issue occurred and that there was another call in front of us that cause the late-evening delay. Regardless, communication is key and this hotel's brand standard supports this point as well. When the call came in at 10:30 PM, the Front Desk Associate could have communicated a delay at that point. Instead, there was no mention.
Compensation. When we truly fail in our ability to provide the proper level of service to our guests, it's important to do the right thing. Remember that last exchange between Melea and the Front Desk Associate? The associate did not offer to resolve the situation and to make it right until Melea quoted brand standards. We didn't ask for-nor did we want a free hotel room night. All we wanted was pillows so that my daughter could get a good night's sleep. Stellar service providers don't allow situations to get to that point. They listen, apologize, solve, and thank the guest (L-A-S-T).
I truly believe that situations like the one that I just shared are the absolute best opportunity that we have for building our brand. Think about that. Negative guest experiences as an opportunity! On the surface, it's almost counterintuitive. However, when we are able to not only overcome a service issue but then to exceed a guest's expectations, we go from having an upset, ranting customer to creating a loyal, raving fan who sings our praises and returns to our brand time and time again. Great service builds a great brand.
This is part three in a five part series on building your attraction's original brand.  Here's a list of where we've been and where we're headed:
  1. Identity - May 2
  2. Quality - May 9
  3. Stellar Service - Today
  4. Wow - May 23
  5. Consistency - May 30

"Southwest Airlines is successful because the company understands it's a customer service company. It also happens to be an airline."

- Harvey Mackay