The other night on the way home from work I stopped to pick up my dry cleaning at the drive-up window. I'm not making this up. A nice young woman opens the window and says, "I'm sorry we are closed." And promptly closes the window. I'm usually up for a robust discussion about the quality of service, but she closed the window so quickly and I was so surprised by her action that I did not have time to mount a charm offensive. I checked the time as I thought perhaps it was past closing time and I was being inconsiderate, but I had 5 minutes to spare. I drove away in stunned silence. I'm currently staying at a hotel/condo in a warm climate that I selected in part because the website proclaimed they have a washer and dryer in each unit (I'm biking 50-plus miles a day and generating massive amounts of dirty laundry). So I arrive in the unit and there is no washer and dryer, but I do spot a locked door that looks suspiciously like there might be a washer and dryer behind the door.
I called the hotel "service desk" and after a robust discussion I was told that indeed there was a washer and dryer behind that locked door, but they were for the exclusive use of the condo unit owners. After further extended discussion she wrapped up our conversation by saying emphatically, "There is no way in the world we will allow you access to that washer and dryer."
She transferred me to reservations, for whatever reason I'm not entirely sure, and after a brief discussion with some poor guy I politely asked if I could speak with the hotel manager. He said yes and put me on hold for five minutes and then reported he could not locate the manager, but would have him call me. I thanked him and awaited the final showdown.
The hotel manager called shortly and said he was sending security up with a key to unlock the door and give me access to the washer and dryer. I praised him profusely and thanked him. Score one point for customer service. There is hope for the world.
Two different challenges but, with the exception of the hotel manager, none of the people involved were taught the value of a customer. And I'm guessing, especially with the hotel service lady, she was never empowered to solve a customer problem as the hotel manager clearly had been empowered.
I remember hearing Tom Peters, whom I've always considered the "father of customer service," speak years ago; he thought it would be a nice service if the printing on hotels' shampoo and conditioner bottles was larger so he could differentiate the shampoo from the conditioner. I had trouble with that, as well, at my hotel/condo, but I put on my glasses rather than call the hotel service lady again.
The father of customer service must be busy these days.
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About the Author: Ralph Heath is the author of Celebrating Failure, The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big (published by Career Press). You can learn more about Ralph at his blog Thoughtful Leadership and Marketing.