What bad customer service can teach us

Selling Radio Direct with Pat Bryson.

My travels often give me life lessons on how to provide great customer service. Sometimes those lessons are positive as noted in my previous post. Sometimes they are perhaps even more powerful in what NOT to do. Thus the subject of today’s newsletter.

On my way back from the Idea Bank meeting in Kauai, I had to overnight in Las Vegas. Hoping to save a bit of money at the end of my trip, I made reservations at the Artisan Hotel. I had stayed at this small boutique hotel several years ago and found it nice. It is off the beaten path a bit (read, you can’t walk anywhere from there) but for one night was to be a good place to stay.

After arising at 3:30AM, flying 6 hours without food (I love Southwest but they aren’t known for their gourmet meals) I landed in Las Vegas, called an Uber and headed with my 4 bags to the Artisan. We drove into their circle drive and my driver began to unload my bags. We were met by two burley security guards that refused me admittance to the lobby. Totally confused, I told them I had a reservation. In fact, the day before I had received an email from the Artisan welcoming me to the hotel. They were adamant I couldn’t come in. I asked for the manager. She appeared, glanced at my email, then informed me this was a private party. She disappeared into the building. 30 minutes later we were still waiting in the parking lot.

Now, I must mention that my Uber driver, Samuel, volunteered to wait with me. He loaded and unloaded my bags 3 times. He went above and beyond and is an example of going the extra mile (literally) to help a customer in distress.

While waiting for the manger to reappear, I dug through my luggage and produced my printed reservation, complete with pre-pay. She had demanded to see it, not accepting the email version as legitimate. When I found it, I asked again for the manager. She came back out, looked at the printed page, and disavowed it. She said I wasn’t in her system, so leave. I asked that she help with an alternative reservation. No. Not her problem. She was rude, and completely oblivious to my situation.

Not knowing what else to do, I got on my phone, luckily located another hotel with an open room, and my driver took me there. Should I mention he didn’t charge me for the 30 minute wait or for the second trip? He got the “hero” award from me that day. With the location of the Artisan, had he not waited with me, I would have been concerned about finding another mode of transportation.

Now, to the moral of this story. When one of our customers (that would be me) encounters a problem with us (our stations), how we handle the situation determines whether we win a loyal advocate or whether we fan the flame of discontent. Today, this discontent can go viral.

What to say when one of our customers has a problem:

• No problem
• Great
• I’m sure there’s a way…
• That’s my favorite problem to solve
• I think we can solve…

Starting with a positive statement immediately calms an upset client. Remember, all they want is to get their problem handled quickly and efficiently.

Here’s what never to say:

• It’s our policy
• I don’t handle that
• That’s the way we’ve always done it
• We don’t, we can’t
• That’s not my job
• You can talk to the manger but she’ll tell you the same thing.
• Let me transfer you to the people who can handle that

Or, what I heard:

• You’re not in our system
• You can’t enter the building
• Not our problem

Whatever you say to an upset customer, put “grandma” at the end of the sentence. “It’s our policy, grandma!”

I don’t know who had rented out the entire hotel. Judging by the two skimpily dressed young ladies who were allowed to enter the building while I melted in the parking lot, I probably don’t want to know. What I did want was someplace to drop my bags, a good dinner, and sleep. I did receive the latter at Resorts World, including a welcome bottle of water. Who knew water could taste so good?

We learn from our experiences. Whatever the problems we might encounter with our clients, if we start on a positive note and do our best to correct the problem, we will earn loyal customers. Think “Nordstrom’s”. They are legendary for their service. We should be too.

Happy problem solving!

P.S. The day after my aborted stay at the Artisan, I receive a “How was your Stay?” survey.