Your customers only find out how good you are when things go wrong. This has been shown many times in research -- a customer who has had a problem fixed WELL will likely be more loyal than one who never had a problem.
My buddy Bernie swears Marriott are the best for business travel. I have stayed in them once or twice, not particularly memorable. But after hearing Bernie's reco, I booked Marriott in Las Vegas for a recent conference. Here's the story of their amazing service recovery and incredible flawless handoff:
I arrived mid-afternoon, and no non-smoking rooms were available. No problem, they would hold one for me. Upon returning around 6:00 pm, I was informed that they were overbooked and someone had "scooped" the room being held for me.
It took only seconds for my desk clerk to bring his supervisor over, who almost immediately apologized and said,
We can put you up at another Marriott right next door for tonight, and we will cover the cost of your room, and also provide you complimentary breakfast in the morning. Would that be alright?
No problem! Annoying to have to drag my stuff over there -- even with a helper -- and check in again, but I was a happy camper. So far, there is nothing remarkable here, as I would expect any hotel to do at least this much.
In the morning, here was the first amazing thing. As I walked into the lobby with my bags, the dread factor is lurking: "Will they know who I am? Will I have to explain? Is this going to be a big hassle?" As soon as I say my name, the desk person says immediately,
We're very sorry for the problems you had yesterday, Ms. Abbott, and we have a room for you tonight, and we will do everything we can to make sure the remainder of your stay is trouble-free.
They could not check me in right away (7:30 am), but kept my bags, and I went on my way to the conference. About 12 hours later, heading out for dinner, I thought I'd better make a quick phone call just to make sure all was still well. No problem, they assured me, my room was waiting.
And indeed, when I arrived a couple of hours later, all was well.
Here's where they really shone. When I opened the door to the room, I found a half bottle of Chardonnay chilling on ice, and a fruit and cheese plate awaiting me. This was accompanied by a handwritten card signed by several staff apologizing for the problem!
Very impressive, and of course I am now using this anecdote in seminars and presentations.
What impressed me most here was: 1) speed of response, and 2) smooth handoff. The night shift ensured the day shift knew what issues were pending, and no customers were made to explain their problem over and over. (Which customers hate to do -- this comes up frequently in research)
Finally, when there is a problem, something EXTRA needs to be done. The wine and cheese with the personal note was was the perfect extra touch.
Actually, organizing the shifting of my bags for me would have been even nicer, but I'm not complaining. Does anyone out there have an insight into how Marriott delivers this?