I have a new Marriott hotel story, but this one is a good example of them trying to right a wrong. Let me first say, when you travel a lot you begin to develop high expectations of the brands you are loyal to. I am loyal to Air Canada / United, Marriott and Enterprise. At the same time, I am completely empathetic to "mistakes happen", "delays happen", and "weather happens". What matters to me is how the mistakes and delays are handled.
I arrived at my hotel around 1:00 a.m. Tuesday morning and was told they had a computer glitch and had over sold their rooms, including my prepaid room. The front desk person let me know they had a room for me at the Red Roof Inn, 30+ miles away. Thirty miles in Atlanta can be a 45 min. to a 2-hour drive as traffic can be terrible and unpredictable. I intentionally booked this hotel area to be close to our client for my morning meeting. We spent the next 45 minutes calling every hotel in the area, only to find they were all sold out. We must have called 25 hotels! I decided to call my Marriott Members line to see if they could do anything. The lady who answered was extremely apologetic and immediately started to do whatever she could to find me a room closer by. She was unable to help and offered me 90,000 points (about 3-4 nights free stay) and $200 for my inconvenience. While I appreciate what she did for me, something is missing. It has now been 10 days since this happened, and I have not received any further communication from the Marriott. I expected some type of communication, confirming the offer and an apology. I now need to spend time calling them to find out how I will be compensated.
This made me think about how we respond to failures with our clients. Here are some quick reminder points on how we should be handling those times we do not fulfill our individual and brand promise:
- Be proactive. If possible, let the client know before they call us. Clients appreciate us being proactive as it helps them plan.
- Listen and acknowledge. A lot of clients reach out and want to know what is going on or be heard about how we let them down.
- Apologize. Offer a sincere apology, even if it is not totally our fault.
- Fix it as fast as possible. If you are wondering whether you have the authority to fix a mistake, even if it may cost us financially, you do. Use common sense and do your best to fix it. If unsure, please consult any of the managers and leaders.
- Keep the customer informed. While fixing it, keep the customer informed of the most recent status.
- Reach out to the clients. About a year ago, I had asked to be notified of any service failures we create. Why? I want to ensure when we fail, myself or one of the executives reach out to apologize and understand what we can learn from the failure. While some continue to notify me, I have noticed a sharp decline in the past few months. I assure you it is not to find blame, it is to learn from and reach out to the clients.
- Share our learnings. Every mistake comes with an opportunity to learn from what happened. Can we prevent future failures with what we learned? Do we need to change a process?
Thomas Watson Jr. was the second President of IBM. He had called a VP to his office to discuss a failed development project that lost IBM in the range of $10 million. Expecting to be fired, the VP presented his letter of resignation. Thomas Watson Jr. just shook his head and said, “You are certainly not leaving after we just gave you a $10 million education.”
Mistakes happen, if we learn from them, share them, own them and handle the customer properly; we will continue to live out our brand promise.
Chris Bachinski - President