Several weeks ago, in the mist of the first round of the NBA playoffs, I had a spontaneous idea to travel from Boston to Indianapolis to watch the Boston Celtics game. In addition to being able to watch my favourite team play in a different city, it was a good excuse to see my dad and eldest daughter.
So, I set the plan in motion.
Then came another impulsive move. I decided we should stay in the same hotel as the players in the hopes of meeting some of the stars. There was just one problem: they were staying at the Conrad Hotel, but we were booked in elsewhere and it was too late to cancel.
By the time I boarded the flight, I had begun to accept that hallway encounters with Boston Celtics’ finest would have to wait. However, as I took my seat, I found myself next to the team doctor. Refusing to accept that it was a coincidence, I decided to give my plan one more shot.
This time, I would cancel the existing reservation and get rooms at the Conrad. That shouldn’t be too much trouble, right?
Wrong. My plan proved ridiculously difficult and the treatment I received amounted to customer service at its worst. For all the managers out there, the following sequence of events is a lesson in what not to do.
It all began when I rang the Diamond desk at Hilton and explained why we wanted to change hotels. Given that both properties were in the same hotel group, I didn’t think there would be a problem. All we wanted to do was cancel one reservation and re-book at the other hotel, at a slightly higher rate.
Why would Hilton not do this? I thought to myself. After all they would be making a few extra dollars out of us.
Well, to my astonishment, the hotel didn’t see it that way. The agent said we would have to contact the hotel directly as only they could make the decision. As it turns out, while all the hotels in the brand portfolio belong to Hilton, each is in fact a separate business and each gets to decide how they deal with their guests.
OK, I thought, this still shouldn’t be overly challenging. Surely, all I would need to do is call the hotel, explain our dilemma and request that they cancel our rooms. What reasonable manager would not take this opportunity to delight a guest, especially a brand-loyal one?
Once again, I was wrong. “No, we won’t cancel your reservation without charging you for one night,” replied the manager, failing to see how ridiculous that was, given that we had only booked one night in the first place. Deciding to play to his human side, I explained that we were there for the game and were hoping to see the players.
He still didn’t care. Even when I explained that we were long-time Diamond members, he showed zero interest in us as guests.
“Are you telling me that you are choosing a couple of hundred dollars in revenue over long-term customer satisfaction?” I asked, struggling to disguise my irritation. He could have delighted us. He could have chosen in favour of the customer and built loyalty.
But he didn’t. Instead, he chose revenue and lost a customer.
But something good did come out of the whole experience. Having failed to get anywhere with the manager, I called the property’s owner. His assistant informed me that the he was out of the office, but she empathised with me and suggested I send an email which she would forward immediately.
A couple of hours later, I received a call to say they would cancel our reservation without a penalty. Unlike the unhelpful manager, the company president saw the bigger picture and decided to forgo a few bucks in order to save the company a loyal customer.
When faced with a choice between revenue or the customer, choose wisely.
(Tommy Weir is the founder and CEO of enaible: AI-powered Leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)