The Middle Manager

Surviving & Thriving as a Leader

Customer Perception

I had the unfortunate experience of having my iPad stolen last week.  It’s a horrible feeling, knowing that god-knows-who has your property, doing who-knows-what with it.  canstockphoto14015157Fortunately, much of the information on it was cloud-based; unfortun-ately it was not set up with a passcode (I don’t use one when I’m at home, and simply forgot to enable it during my trip).  So I’ve been spending the remainder of the week resetting a lot of passwords, just to be safe (I doubt it’s absolutely necessary, but I just want to be sure).

The whole situation is made worse by the fact that I know it’s my own fault – I left the device unattended; I laid it down to charge and then got distracted and left the room.  So I don’t hold anyone responsible for the loss but myself.

The ‘silver lining’ for this experience was in how the event was handled by the hotel. Not because they were exceptional, but rather because they were not.  My job has revolved around service and support for a very long time, and the events of the week provide fine fodder for highlighting a hot and cold customer experience.

So here’s the timeline.  I left the room at 2:40 in the afternoon and didn’t notice that my iPad was missing until just after 4:00.  I immediately contacted the hotel’s security department and encountered a very nice young man who seemed genuinely interested in helping me. He let me know what he was doing, and he followed up with a couple additional calls letting me know the status.  In our last conversation, which took place after I had landed at home in Tampa around 1:00 AM, he gave me instructions on what to do next – open a police report, email the report number to his manager, and follow up with a call to that manager the following morning.

All in all, my initial experience was positive – hot, if you will.  But the next morning it took a turn.

I opened the police report upon arriving at home, so it was done and out of the way quickly.  I emailed the report number to hotel security before I retired for the evening.  The next morning, I called and asked to speak with the manager. After a few moments on hold I was connected, only to hear – almost immediately – “Sorry, I can’t help you.”  After further discussion he acknowledged that it was likely that someone on the hotel staff had probably taken the device.

To reiterate what I mentioned at the start of this article, I do take full responsibility for the loss – I don’t blame the hotel and I understand that they’re going to be limited in what they can do to recover the tablet.

But from a customer service perspective, the approach left a lot to be desired. Rather than an immediate, “I can’t help,” why not say, “We’re doing all we can to help.”  It’s really just semantics, but the color of the message is very different. The first is a dismissal, and sends the idea that the hotel was not going to do anything to even attempt to find out what happened.  The latter is more empathetic, and the color of the message is warmer, telling the customer they’re interested in the outcome.

Well, the message that I heard was a dismissal of the issue, and that along with no further communication from the hotel caused me to become somewhat upset about it.  As a result I used social media and tweeted my displeasure and included the @hotelname in the tweet.  To illustrate the power of that medium, I heard back from the hotel’s corporate office within only a few hours.  I explained my concerns in an email – mostly expressing my displeasure with the service and communication, while fully acknowledging that I was accountable for the loss.

Two days later I received a call from the hotel’s General Manager and it’s Director of Security.  They were responding to the corporate concern and expressed to me that while they failed to appropriately communicate it, they had been trying to locate the device.  I expressed my appreciation for their efforts and explained again that it was the message, not the loss, that most upset me.

There were several lessons learned through this chain of events.  First, tone is important.  Keep it positive and upbeat, even in the face of bad news.  Next, communication is vital. Regular updates would have gone a long way to reassuring me that they were interested and working on the problem.  Finally, social media is powerful. I heard back within a few hours of tweeting my concerns to the corporate office, and even the hotel took the escalation seriously enough that the General Manager took the call.  Overall, while it was an expensive lesson, it is an experience I can draw from for a long time.

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