I was making arrangements to attend a conference in Los Angeles, California.
As a frequent flyer, I receive award coupons offering a 50% discount from normal hotel rates. I contacted the call center of a major hotel chain to make my reservation.
The reservations clerk was friendly and very helpful. She took my name and contact numbers. She confirmed the dates, my room preference and credit card number. She asked if I was a ‘Premium Club’ member, which I was not. So she registered me for Club status over the phone.
Then she remarked, ‘Mr. Kaufman, now that you are a Premium Club member, I can offer you an even lower rate for an upgraded room on a higher floor. And a fruit basket will be waiting for you upon arrival. ’
I was surprised and delighted. My special room rate was just $100 per night.
Signing off from this great telephone experience, I said: ‘Thank you for your help. I am looking forward to staying at the hotel during the conference. ’
‘The conference?’, she quickly replied, ‘What conference are you attending?’
When I told her about the event, she said, ‘Oh. If you are attending that conference, you have to use our conference rate of $124. ’
I laughed and assured her I was happy with the special rate and Club status she had already confirmed.
‘Oh no, ’ she repeated. ‘If you are coming for the conference, you must use the special rate. We have a block of rooms already reserved for you on a lower floor. And I’m afraid you don’t get the fruit basket. ’
A lower floor, higher rate and no fruit basket? I protested. But my protest was in vain. She checked with her supervisor, who concurred. ‘I’m sorry, but that’s our policy, ’ she said without much concern.
I surrendered to her insistence, listened sadly as she cancelled my Premium Club reservation, but declined to have her book me back into the hotel at the higher conference rate. I hung up the phone in disbelief.
Then I called right back and reached a different reservations clerk and made another reservation, again using my frequent flyer award coupon and my new Premium Club membership number. This time I kept my mouth shut about attending any conference.
I paid $100 per night when I went to Los Angeles. I enjoyed the Towers room and a complimentary fruit basket upon arrival. No thanks, though, to this hotel’s absurd policy and customer-unfriendly procedures.
Somewhere deep within the marketing department of this hotel chain, yield-management professionals carefully calculate the maximum rate they can squeeze from participants at each international conference.
Meanwhile conference participants are also thinkers…real, live customers! Yield managers, are you listening?
Key Learning Point
When your policies cross, collide or contradict, your customers will find out. Clean up the confusion!
Review the many ways your customers can confirm, order, book, engage, hire, rent or purchase your products and service. Look for mismatches and inconsistencies in the policies and procedures. Get them back in line so your company and your customers stay aligned.
Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed educator and motivator for partnerships and quality customer service. He is author of the bestselling “UP Your Service!" and founder of “UP Your Service College". Visit http://www.UpYourService.com for more such Customer Service articles, subscribe to his Newsletter, or to buy his bestselling Books, Videos, Audio CDs on Customer Service from his secure Online Store . You can also watch Ron live or listen to him at http://www.RonKaufman.com .