Tag Archives: service quality

How Not to Deliver on Your Mission

rex-familyI’m sitting here in my hotel room at the Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar in downtown Toronto. It could have been an amazing experience… even though the room itself is tiny, the bed is functional but definitely not plush, and there’s quite a bit of road noise. You see, there’s a world class jazz band playing downstairs right now. Perhaps they haven’t even started… I’ve no way to know.

I arrived here around 8pm after a long, 10-hour drive from the fantastic BIF10 meeting in Providence. Although the reservations desk was closed, a nice sign instructed me to go to the bar, where it was very easy to order a beer and a sandwich and get my hotel room and bar tab taken care of in one fell swoop. It felt nice. I was enjoying the ambience, until halfway through my second beer when an older man came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder.

“You’re going to have to vacate this seat for a paying customer. There’s a band coming in at 9:30.”

This was kind of confusing to me, since I was on my second beer, was done with my sandwich, and had just invested $115 in a room for the night. “I’m staying here,” I let him know.

Doesn’t matter,” he said. “Everyone has to pay the $15 cover. It’s not included in your room.” He was gruff and unyielding, kind of like a New Yorker. (I wasn’t expecting that… I thought Canadians were far more collegial, eh?) He walked away, leaving me to think about what just happened.

About 10 minutes later my bartender came over. “Would you like another beer?” he asked.

“Well, apparently I can’t have one,” I said. “Some other man told me I needed to vacate unless I wanted to pay a $15 cover, even though I’m staying here.”

“That’s right,” the younger guy cheerfully acknowledged. “The shows are not part of the hotel room. Either you pay the cover or you have to leave.”

I’m not one to argue, but this made me really mad. I let him know that this “very important detail” was not on the Hotel’s web site. Nor had anyone told me about it. “Well,” he said, “if you had arrived earlier, the doorman would have told you, and it’s also on your information sheet.” So you see, it was all my fault already. I was late and I didn’t read the sheet.

“Where is my information sheet?”

“Upstairs, on the bed, in the room you haven’t checked into yet.” (Whew. I thought I’d missed it.) I explained to him that I came a half hour out of my way to experience the Rex. I could have stayed in the ASQ conference hotel, nearer the airport, for less. But I came here for the experience of a hotel and a jazz club, together – the home-like nature of being able to weave in and out of the club atmosphere as I’d like. I was so encouraged by their marketing materials that said I’d “feel like part of the family”. He said he was sorry, again, but there was nothing they could do. (Really? It would have been so nice just to be able to sit there and finish that last beer for the evening. I probably would have headed upstairs shortly after the show started, anyway.)

In addition to a “sorry” — he tried to convince me of the value of this very prominent New York band that was about to start, and it was important that they collected the extra $15 from everyone. More important than just letting me finish my dinner.

(Apparently, you interrupt the family while they’re in the middle of their dinner to pay $15 or give up their seat.)

This sent a very strong message. In fact, it felt like extortion must feel (to a lesser extent). You’re not welcome unless you pay ANOTHER $15. You need to leave your seat NOW so someone who’s willing to pay can get in!! Doesn’t matter that you have paid quite a bit. You need to pay more. Sorry.

Could I at least come downstairs a little later (after I write my blog post to vent about this service experience) to get a beer and take it downstairs, I asked?

“Sure, if you pay the $15 first. We’re happy to direct you to other bars.” Well, unfortunately, I think you’ve directed me to other bars (and hotels) permanently. Or maybe it’s fortunate. It would be difficult to feel less wanted and welcome somewhere else.

Dear Rex, I do not feel like part of the family. I am upstairs in my room, feeling like the wayward child who’s not included from the festivities because she didn’t bring an extra $15. Feeling like I couldn’t even stick around to finish my dinner. I wish I could leave now where I feel more welcome — even at a nameless, faceless chain hotel that doesn’t say that it would LIKE me to feel like family, but I’m parked in overnight public parking, and I don’t have anywhere else to go. You claim that you are “attentive, convenient, and down-to-earth friendly.” But all I got was a “sorry you didn’t see our policy.”

LESSON TO SERVICE PROVIDERS: Include that extra $15 in the room charge. Make the guest feel welcome at the show, even if they choose not to attend. If they didn’t know the policy (because you don’t have it on your web site), figure out a way to make accommodations. Or they might see fit to write a blog post to 100,000 quality practitioners across the globe who might be able to learn from this and not make the same mistake.

Making Quality Standards a Collaborative Game

maxrestaurantHello again! I haven’t written in a while – suffice it to say, productivity cannot be achieved without sound mind, heart, and body. I’ll write more about that theme during the upcoming year, because I’ve decided to make personal health my top priority for a while – and explore the ripple effects.

I spent a lot of time traveling this summer! In May, I spent almost a week in Reykjavik, Iceland. I’m planning to take students there in a study abroad program which will probably start in July 2015. In June, I was sick pretty much the whole month – an experience I don’t ever want to have to repeat. By the beginning of July, I was feeling well enough to travel again. I spent a few days in San Francisco (one of my favorite places on Earth), and then flew out to Hawaii for some much needed, soul-replenishing reconnection with the things in life that are most important to me. Now, I’m in high gear planning for Burning Man, where Morgan and I will be contributing our organizational capacities to “Transformational Learning” day on the playa on Friday, 8/30. I’m looking forward to sharing stories (and pictures!) from there too.

Today’s quality story comes from the Bay Area – Burlingame, to be exact.

For the few days I was in San Francisco, I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express south of SFO airport. I was tired, jetlagged, and didn’t have a car – meaning that my only restaurant choice was the place situated in the front parking lot of the hotel. That restaurant was Max’s – a place whose web site does not effectively reflect its unique quality orientation!

Here’s what left an impression with me at Max’s restaurant: they have RULES. 15 rules, I think. These rules are printed on their menu, and some of them are also printed on the napkins (see the picture above). Each of the rules are intended to get the customers to co-create a great service experience with the restaurant staff. For example, the management wants to make sure that the staff asks the customers meaningful questions that help them provide exemplary service. If anyone comes up to you and asks the very vanilla question “Is everything alright?” — Max’s will buy you a drink! Same deal if you walk in by yourself and someone asks “just one?” instead of engaging you in more meaningful dialogue.

I liked this approach for many reasons: 1) it gets the customers involved by raising their AWARENESS of the restaurant’s service quality standards, 2) it focuses their ATTENTION on the service experience, and 3) it makes the service experience a game, played collaboratively between the service staff and the customer!

Can you improve your service quality by adding elements of a collaborative game?

The Trouble with Tools

This post is a collaboration between Eric Sessoms at MyCustomerCloud & Nicole Radziwill.

Everyone knows what a tool is. We use tools all the time, every day. Hammers to drive nails… cars to drive to work… glasses to read a book. Tools help us do stuff. They make our jobs easier, our lives simpler, and our existence more orderly. But we have to remember that tools only exist to help us achieve our goals… we humans are the real brains behind the brawn of our tools! And we have to figure out what goals we’re trying to achieve – or else we could inadvertently use our tools and technologies to just stumble about without making any progress towards our goals!

In the words of the political scientist Langdon Winner [1], “What matters is not technology itself, but the social or economic system in which it is embedded.” It’s the context of what you’re trying to achieve that makes a tool work – or fail miserably!

In customer service, the choice of tools is particularly context dependent. Want to build trust with your customers? Consider the context in which your tools will be used. For example, there may be pros and cons of implementing an interactive voice response (IVR) system. People like efficiency, and your company will love the cost effectiveness of being able to route its contact center messages to the appropriate person. But I know I can react with vitriol if I’m forced to “Press 1” every time I want the sickly sweet fake customer service voice to move me to yet another menu. And I know I’m not alone. Furthermore, I want to be treated the same way whether I contact a company over the web, or via Facebook, or by phone.

Quality depends not only on the features, performance, reliability and aesthetics of your product or service, but also on your customer’s perception of you – and that includes their perception of your experience as a company, the reputation of your company and brand, the truth of your advertising, the prices you set, and their individual expectations of what you will provide. In addition, their expectations will depend on HOW they feel you should provide the product or service.

The tools you use to provide customer service will help shape your customer’s perceptions. Choose them wisely!


[1] Winner, L. (1986). The whale and the reactor: a search for limits in an age of high technology. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 19-39. Retrieved from http://zaphod.mindlab.umd.edu/docSeminar/pdfs/Winner.pdf