Dear Marriott: Some free service advice after a bad night

The ceiling above my hotel bed leaked all night long, onto the mattress, the end table and the rug below. Had to sleep on the floor as a result.

OK, so maybe it’s not your fault that my hotel room ceiling leaked all night long. Though the fact that there was already a stain in the same corner of the room suggests you should have known about it.  But what doesn’t really work for me is the response that I got when I called in the middle of the night. It went something like this:

“We’re sorry, the hotel is totally booked there’s nothing we can do.”

Really? Nothing you can do?  How about a real apology?  How about an offer of five free nights at any Marriott in the system? How about setting up a bed in a conference room? They’re not full in the middle of the night. Or perhaps it doesn’t really matter to you.  After all, you’re full.  Business is good. What do you care if you lose one customer or have an occasionally unhappy guest?

Well I think you should care. Because not caring is the beginning of the end.  And whether you believe it or not, no business these days is indispensable.

My suggestion is this.  Develop a customer bill of rights if you don’t have one already.  Post it at the front desk. Place it in the rooms. Train your employees in what says and what it means.

Start with:

1. We guarantee your satisfaction.

2. We guarantee your room will be clean and that everything works: the clock, TV, lamps, bathroom.

3. If for any reason your stay with us was unsatisfactory we will make it up with comparable accommodations on us.

4. We will take any complaint and suggestion seriously and respond as quickly as humanly possible.

5. We encourage you to Tweet, blog, and post images and video of anything you find below standards or unresolved.

The last point is to me the most important. It acknowledges that Marriott recognizes it lives in an age of social media and expects to be held to even higher standards as a result.

What do you think?  Do brands have to be even more responsive when all of its customers can create, share and disseminate opinions and reactions?

33 comments
Dana Webster
Dana Webster

Having worked for Marriott in the DC area for 4 years, I can promise you that the encounter you had was far from the company's standards.

You experienced what they call a "walk", and it is customary that, if you have to be shuttled to another local hotel, they not only pay for that room, but they also comp you with a stay in the future for the trouble.

It's a gambling game to get the hotel to 100% capacity without having to "walk" guests. Usually, when it does happen, you're dealing with the night audit staff who would rather run reports than deal with checking-in/checking-out guests.

Your visit appears to be a bad anomaly. I hope the General Manager has since contacted you to rectify the situation.

Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer

I really like your idea that Marriott should have invited you to tweet problems; perhaps even suggest using the #Marriott hash tag. What a great way to monitor the success of the front line experience by an authentically concerned company.

Can you imagine how you would have felt if you tweeted the problem with your room at 4am having it result in a phone call (within say 30 min.) from Marriott corporate following up on front line action of the local Marriott? Now THAT would make Tom Peters grin.

I think I read Jason Fried write that you can have all the fancy amenities and atmosphere in your beautiful luxurious hotel just perfect but if the bed is uncomfortable the hotel sucks.

Schneider Mike
Schneider Mike

After Marriot failed you, you missed an opportunity to ask Zappos for help. I am certain they would have had a creative solution to your problem.

Jennifer Dominiquini
Jennifer Dominiquini

Good thinking Edward. Shows how we can all use social media to get our point across more efficiently and effectively - and hopefully - make change happen. The crowd you spoke to today is still talking about this powerful example.

Patrick
Patrick

Excellent post - and a great case study! Although it is a recurrent pity that poor customer service is such a good topic for a blog post...

david knies
david knies

edward - as always a great, insightful post. i always say that the true value of your brand is "what they say about you after you leave the room".

The point that the Marriott GM misses is that it doesn't matter that they rank 35th in customer satisfaction (which is really just a self-pleasing statistic to throw out, and a mediocre one at that) when your staff isn't trained to deliver an experience where they instinctively know to respond in a manner that solves the problem and exceeds (let alone meets) expecations. I'll bet that the staff at the properties that Marriott aspires to be compared to would've known what to do.

Enjoy the road!

Frank Jovine
Frank Jovine

Way to expose the truth about poor customer service! I am sure the Marriott would like a do-over.

Lance Misner
Lance Misner

Mr. Boches,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me this morning about your poor experience at our hotel. It was certainly unfortunate that a toilet tank broke two floors directly above you at 3:00am. However, what is the most unfortunate and unacceptable is the way that our staff reacted to your issue. For that, I sincerely apologize. We are currently ranked 35th out of 340 full service Marriotts in regards to our customer satisfaction scores. Your experience is typically not the way we conduct our business. We clearly failed you today. Nobody should have to endure such a poor nights' sleep, especially when there were options for resolution. In this economy it is difficult to find new business and the way that we have been successful is to retain our current guests. We did you and ourselves a disservice by not properly addressing your experience immediately. You offered some excellent advice on ways that we could have resolved the issue on the spot. I will be sure to share them with not only those that worked overnight, but the entire staff. As well, This is a great lesson learned in how social media can be very advantageous to a business, but to the consumer as well, giving those a platform to hold businesses accountable for the promises that are made and the expecations that result. Your idea of a "customer bill of rights" is fantastic. We have what we call "associate empowerment", but we can clearly expand this notion and include it in our training exercises. Once again, I apologize and I hope you take me up on my offer to return. I promise that you will not go away unhappy.

Regards,

Lance Misner
General Manager

Phil Dunn
Phil Dunn

Companies are going to have to be trained by their customers. There's nowhere to hide. "Giving a crap" is a customer service necessity, as Gary Vaynerchuk would say.

I've been bouncing around a software/service idea lately related to this. Companies need a way to "scrape" their Web-wide commentary (the good reviews and bad) and respond appropriately. For example, the service sucked at a restaurant or hotel, and the support team can then proactively respond to issues inline to the comments. The response could be anything from "we fired the nasty person" to "we'll reach out to you privately and compensate you for the bad experience" to "we've added a new feature which fixes the problem."

Transparency and real solutions are key, of course. If they game it, they lose.

Randy Corke
Randy Corke

Edward - thanks for making the post we all want/mean/intend to post but never get around to it. I've done it once about poor service from a BMW/Mini dealer in Boston, and to their credit, they corrected the issue immediately. Hopefully Marriott will be equally responsive. While your post is the type that strikes fear into many big-brand marketing types, as we always advise them (and I'm sure Mullen does) - better to hear these things and be able to address them - and turn a negative into a win, rather than have them simmer beneath the radar. Marriott, your move.

Mark
Mark

You could have another "Motrin Moms" on the horizon, although that's not what you're after.

Take a look at this post, from Bill Marriott himself:

http://bit.ly/d67eYW

Too bad it didn't apply this time.

Richard Simeone
Richard Simeone

Edward, thank you for sharing your story. I could not agree more that poor customer service will be the end for companies in today’s hypercompetitive marketplace. Research has shown that an unsatisfied customer shares his/her negative experience with an average of 9 to 10 people; however, this research does not take into account the social-media megaphones that customers now leverage to voice their dissatisfaction. It is imperative for companies to develop the internal infrastructure and culture that supports superior customer service to mitigate the risks that our digital world presents—the Marriott in which you stayed lacks both. Consequently, I do not think that a customer bill of rights would improve service and prevent others from experiencing what you did. Rather, Marriott should start with reviewing and revising the basics of its service program (e.g. hiring, training, empowerment, service and recovery policies/procedures, etc.) to prevent situations such as yours from happening in the first place. What you endured is inexcusable and as a recent MBA graduate, whose studies focused on service management and service marketing, please keep us posted on if/how Marriott attempts to rectify this situation. Thanks again for sharing!

Mark Jenson
Mark Jenson

Great post Edward. Totally agree the customer experience needs to at the forefront of the customer service managers. It's a new day with social media.

Cindy Clifford (@DotDraper)
Cindy Clifford (@DotDraper)

Hmmm... First of all, it'll be interesting to see how quickly you hear back from Marriott corporate. My guess would be by the end of today.

Secondly, and sadly, I'm sure the response was less officially Marriott and more off-handedly the night guy who was either in a mad text fight with his girlfriend or busy figuring ways he could get himself a day job.

I'm just saying. It seems that the greatest satisfaction always come from the top- those who really get the value of the customers. But it's also true that a truly great company is populated with a staff that is enpowered to do what needs to be done and understands the absolute value of customer service.

Looking forward to their follow up.

Nicole Berard
Nicole Berard

If the hotel was fully booked, a truly gracious business would pay for a room at a competing hotel. There's always something that can be done.

Tom Cunniff
Tom Cunniff

Edward, for me by far the most intriguing suggestion is #5.

A challenge for any franchised operation is consistent quality. It would be *hugely* valuable to have a crowdsourced web page that would collect every problem and bring it to the attention of both local management and HQ. If I were head of Ops at a company like Marriot, this would be the first thing I'd look at every morning and the last thing I'd look at every night before bed.

To build on your idea, it would be great to enable customers to choose to post these privately (for only Marriott to see) or publicly (for the world to see).

Personally, as a consumer I prefer to complain privately and give the business a chance to respond. I've had my own business and I can assure you that every company -- no matter how well-meaning -- goofs up some time. If the business doesn't respond, I know I can always escalate to a more public commentary. It would be good to enable that for these sorts of complaints.

P.S. To be clear, my last point is not meant as an oblique criticism of your post. You DID complain privately and were told "there's nothing we can do". Taking your criticism public at the point is entirely fair play.

Michelle Tripp (@michelletripp)
Michelle Tripp (@michelletripp)

Love it! This is the exact reason why service will improve. With voices speaking out against inferior service, it will have to. And hopefully the attitude of "I can't do anything for you" (in all industries!) will eventually fade away, too.

We're seeing that every day it's more and more about the customer experience, even for businesses that don't typically provide services. The companies who are actually in the service and "experience" business should be at the forefront and already understand the importance of providing a positive experience. It's a shame when they don't.

I hope you'll copy this post to Yelp. When I travel, I always check the Yelp report for the hotels I'm considering. Eventually, hotels like the Marriott you stayed at will find they no longer have the problem that "they're totally booked."

patrick reynolds
patrick reynolds

It's not how many times you fall. It's how many times you get up. SoMe tracks both.

Sarah Wallace
Sarah Wallace

Edward, I'm sorry you've had such a poor experience. I tried to connect you with @MarriottIntl on Twitter. Hopefully they will read your stream and try to make it up to you. In the meantime, there's no excuse for the local Marriot to not be more accommodating. With platforms such as Twitter allowing us to share our experiences with thousands instantly, businesses need to be accountable.

Trackbacks