Brands in the News

Hilton’s Missed Opportunity

8 Dec 2011  

Service recovery is incredibly important, especially in a world with blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  An unhappy customer can do a lot of damage.

Sometimes there isn’t much you can do; the person is unsatisfied for one reason or another but you don’t find this out and so can’t address it.  It is hard to deal with a problem when you don’t know there is one.  This is why companies should encourage customer feedback: it is a far better to know about an issue than not.

But sometimes the issue surfaces and there is an opportunity to address the situation and turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer.  This is a moment of truth for any organization.  In some ways, finding an unhappy customer is a wonderful thing; it is an opportunity to excel.

Of course, this assumes your people are willing and able to take action.

Yesterday I spent the evening at the Hilton in Minneapolis.  It was a disappointment.

Now I’m not a very demanding hotel traveler.  I just need four things: an adequate room, internet service, a wake-up call and a key that works.  The Hilton went one for four.  The hotel had no internet service all evening, my key didn’t work and I never received a wake-up call.

When I checked out, the woman at the front desk dutifully asked “So how was your stay?”  I replied, “Well, actually it was really disappointing: no internet, no wake-up call and a key malfunction.”

I would like to say this is when she quickly called in the troops, summoning the front desk manager and offering a room discount, credit for a future stay or at least a free donut.  Unfortunately, she just looked astonished and somewhat terrified, and mumbled, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

Any service organization should make sure that employees look for unhappy customers and have the tools to try, at least, to address the situation.  Hilton can do better.

8 Responses

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  3. Yousef Shaban says:

    There is no excuse for the front desk staff not to have it in their power to satisfy customers. All customer-facing staff should be trained and given the power to satisfy customers, within limits, and be able to immediately call upon a supervisor for more difficult cases.

    This is especially true for a hotel, especially one like Hilton. They could learn a lot from

    Here’s a story you may have heard of in the media about a year or two ago:
    One of Zappos’ customer service reps was dealing with a return for shoes a lady had bought for her husband. She had to return them because, tragically, her husband had died in a car accident. Not only did the customer service rep obviously provide free return shipping for the shoes (that’s their standard policy) but even had flowers delivered to the lady!

    Looks like Hilton’s CEO needs to get a copy of Delivering Happiness by CEO Tony Hsieh.

  4. Sid P. says:

    I have had issues with the keys at Hilton several times. The person behind the desk told me not to keep the keys near credit cards or near a cell phone. Well, that eliminates both my pant pockets! What a shame that they can’t figure out the technical challenges like other hotels have.

  5. I think the front desk personnel is not empowered to take a decision, which I imagine senior management would view as resulting in too many discounts. That has to be frustrating, especially when it goes hand in hand with customer satisfaction surveys that ask customers whether the personnel at the front desk were friendly, did they smile…

    Perhaps like Tim, I am one to stay away from the cell phone alarm. I turn it off at night. My preference is for an alarm clock in the room. Absent that, a wake up call.

    • Tim Calkins says:

      I agree the front desk person probably didn’t have tools to work with. This is a management failure; front line employees should be encouraged to identify issues and deal with them, and given some things to use if need be.

      On the alarm front, I generally use a lot of them: I bring one along, use the clock in the room and get a wake-up call. I don’t want to sleep late when I’m supposed to be speaking to a group!

  6. I sometimes feel the junior hotel staff, like the front desk lady are not always trained/empowered enough to take these simple decisions. Just by doing so could improve the guest satisfaction levels significantly.

    By the way, why do you prefer the wake up call over the mobile phone alarm? Haven’t used that service in years!

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