I recently took a trip to Colorado Springs to visit colleges with my son. I enjoyed spending time with him and visiting Colorado College. We were very impressed with the student-led information session and campus tour. The students were knowledgeable, poised, enthusiastic and inviting. If these undergraduates are a reflection of the school and its caliber of students and faculty, then I know that my son will do well there. We left with an overwhelmingly positive impression of the school, the campus and the region. I would give our student ambassadors an A-plus for customer service during our visit. However, during our trip we were customers of several other companies and many of them fell short of superior, or even acceptable, customer service.
Our flight to Colorado Springs was uneventful and the staff of United Airlines did an exceptional job in making us feel special and that they appreciated our business. However, when we landed in Colorado Springs, things started to fall apart.
We arrived promptly at the Hertz counter to find that the car we had reserved and paid for weeks in advance had been given to someone else. Hertz claimed to have no cars to rent to us. They offered to get us a car if we returned to the airport sometime after 4:30 a.m. the next day. How convenient for us that we would have to rise early the next morning to hopefully secure a car that we had already reserved.
Did Hertz consider the loyal customer when they gave the car away? Did they honor their contract to provide us a car for the weekend? We did go back to the airport the next morning and did receive a car. Although it was appreciated that Hertz gave us a voucher for part of our next rental, but after such terrible treatment of a loyal customer, what makes Hertz think that we will be back; that there will be a next time?
The night that we didn’t receive our car, we had to take a taxi to our Courtyard Marriott hotel (as well as back to the airport the next morning). As we approached the hotel it became obvious that the entire block, including the Courtyard Marriott, was dark. Apparently they had lost electricity about 30 minutes prior.
As the front-desk clerk tried to check us in, we asked how we would get to our rooms. He pointed toward a stairwell. As we ascended the stairs, the stairwell got darker and darker. The staff had failed to check the emergency lighting, probably thinking that they would never need it. Not only was the stairwell so dark that my son had to use his cell phone to light the way, but many of the emergency bulbs in the ceiling were out on our floor as well.
In the hotel business, safety is an important part of customer service. By not allowing your customers a secure and safe exit route, are you providing good customer service? Are you looking out for your loyal clients?
Marriott will continue to be my ‘go-to’ hotel as I almost always have a good experience, a comfortable night’s rest and they have an exceptional rewards program. However, I can’t help thinking that they could have taken a situation like a power outage and put a positive twist on it by using this opportunity to check their security measures. A quick walk-thru of all the stairwells and hallways would have shown them that there were areas in which they could improve their customer experience.
Well, the series of unfortunate events did not end there. On our trip home, United had changed planes, which meant that the seating configuration had changed, including going from a small Canadair regional Jet 200 to a 700 series. The 700 series has six first-class seats and, being a regular United customer, we requested an upgrade. Three United crewmembers were flying standby for our flight.
We were denied an upgrade (which was fine, because there is usually at least one person with a higher frequent flyer status than I), but the clerk saw that we were no longer sitting together because the seating configuration of the plane had changed.
As we were waiting for our boarding passes with seats together, they began boarding the flight. When we boarded, we found that our seats near the front of the aircraft had been taken. The family sitting in our seats said that they were told by the flight attendant to sit anywhere. So we proceeded to find seats – anywhere.
The exit row was open, but the flight attendant told us that we couldn’t sit there at that time, and to wait and see if anyone was assigned those seats. If no one was assigned those seats, they were ours. As the plane began to fill up, we were forced to find seats in the back of the plane. In addition, the flight attendant had a mysterious case of amnesia and began letting anyone sit in the exit row. To rub salt in the wound, they put the three standby crewmembers in first class rather than review the upgrade list.
Once again, we observed extremely poor customer service. Simply ignoring a customer’s request and then pretending amnesia is the worse kind of customer service. Even in uncomfortable situations, customer requests and complaints should be dealt with quickly and efficiently if you want that customer to feel valued.
On a very positive note, we had a wonderful dinner the night before our departure at a lovely restaurant called Pepper Tree in Colorado Springs. The food was delicious and their attentive staff made sure that we had a pleasurable experience. They had five waiters working the dining room; they worked as a team to meet the needs of their customers. Although the overall dining experience was superior, based on the customer service alone, I will make a point to return to the Pepper Tree restaurant next time I am in Colorado Springs and I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a delicious, memorable meal.
At Paw Print Genetics, in addition to accurate and reliable results, customer service is our number-one priority. We strive to provide an outstanding customer experience every time, whether it is your first time ordering with us or you are one of our many loyal customers who return to us again and again.
Without excellent customer service, we are just another canine genetic testing laboratory. We know that you have a choice in laboratories and appreciate the opportunity to serve you. We pride ourselves on answering the phone rather than using an automated system, providing quick answers to your emails and incorporating the important feedback we receive to update our user-friendly website.
There are many lessons that can be learned from my weekend in Colorado Springs. United, Hertz and Marriott each missed an opportunity to ‘wow’ us – or to even provide their basic business services. Unfortunately, the most crucial lesson is that customers have choices. I can choose to fly a different airline, stay at another hotel or use another car rental service. I may do that next time. How unfortunate to lose a loyal customer over circumstances that could, and should, have been avoided; situations that were opportunities to impress us. Maybe I will just provide them feedback and see how they respond. Helpful responses to feedback are also a good indicator of outstanding customer service.
Photo of Milestone Hotel