A few years ago whilst working I stayed for a couple of nights at a hotel booked for me by my client and on my first night, I checked in around midnight. The registration clerk who greeted me at the reception desk offered to collect my bags from my car and then showed me to my room. During the couple of minutes that this took, he had found out a little about what I did and he was also aware that I was feeling hungry after a long and very busy day. Unfortunately room service had closed, so there wasn't much that he could organize for me, other than suggest that I could grab a snack from on top of the bar fridge in my room.
He mentioned that the hotel's air-conditioning had been playing up, so he had put a small fan heater in my room about a half an hour earlier, so that the room would not be cold. I thanked him and after putting my bags in the room he left and would not accept the customary tip.
After unpacking my bags, I then went to look at the snacks on top of the bar fridge but nothing was appealing. A couple of minutes later, the phone rang and it was the friendly registration clerk to say that he had checked to see what restaurants were open in the area, and he could arrange a pizza and salad to be delivered to my room in about 15 minutes. Again I thanked him for his courtesy. Before he hung up, knowing from our discussion when I arrived that I had an early start the next morning, he asked would I like a wake-up call. This being organized, he then said those genuine customer service words that we all love to hear, "Thanks for staying with us Mr. Ready; I hope you have a great night's sleep."
My great first impression was progressively undermined over the remaining two days of my stay; by such things as a leaking toilet, a room that was very poorly cleaned and maintained, a lack of warmth in the room, a towel hook that hung from the back of the bathroom door, plus a level of service in the restaurant best described as 'forgettable'. To top it off the desk clerk on the day shift was the opposite to his counterpart that greeted me on my arrival. My excellent first impression had suddenly become a never-ending list of examples of poor customer service.
At the end of my stay I asked to speak to the manager to let him know how great the service was on my arrival and also how bad it got from there on coupled with the lack of response to my requests to have the problems fixed. As he was not available, I left a message and my contact number for him and then made a point of calling the evening desk clerk that evening to thank him for his great service.
To this day, I have not heard from the manager of the hotel and I am sure that I never will. Despite the goodwill created by the registration clerk who greeted me and offered me great service when I first arrived, I won't stay in that hotel again.
In absolute contrast to this experience of poor customer service, let me share with you how genuine service and attention to detail has turned me into a powerful advocate for another motel.
A year or so later, I was conducting a series of customer service seminars in the New England region, and once again my client had booked a motel for me to stay at in Glen Innes. Everything about the service I received at this motel was beyond what I could ever have expected. I was greeted on arrival, welcomed with a handshake and a friendly smile, and shown to my room. At 6.00 a.m. the next morning I enjoyed a country style breakfast and as I checked out the owner of the motel thanked me for staying with him and gave me a crisp, fresh, red apple to eat as I drove on to Inverell.
The Central Motel in Glen Innes is owned and run by David and Rosemarie Bryant and is one of some ten motels in the township and since that first visit, I have stayed at the Central Motel on several other occasions. However, the most significant fact is that in the course of that time I have conducted over 1,000 seminars and workshops for over 70,000 people. At nearly all of these seminars and workshops; I have told my story about how the great service at the Central Motel and the little extra touch of the crisp, fresh, red apple on my departure encouraged me to stay again.
I have no stake in the Central Motel, other than being a delighted customer who likes to tell the story of how well I was treated. My story also reinforces that word of mouth endorsement and unsolicited publicity, will follow in abundance if you just treat your customers with genuine courtesy and respect.
If one thing can be learnt from my experience, it is that attention to detail pays handsome dividends when it is coupled with genuine and sincere customer service. It also reaffirms that most often it is the little things that count in business if you want to create and build long-term customer loyalty. These little things are the 'moments of truth' in customer service that makes you say WOW and cause you to spread the word. We all need to look for the apples in our business then deliver them to exceed the expectations of our customers.
Let me finish my story with a question. If you had occasion to stay overnight in Glen Innes, which motel would you choose?