It was the worst of circumstances, at least for a business trip. Up since 4 ... bumpy flight ... forgot to book the rental car ... and the hotel ... and late for two of our three meetings (traffic was horrible). All I wanted — all I needed — was sleep. We Pricelined a hotel from a Starbucks. A four-star establishment, The W seemed the perfect fit to wind down a hectic day. Until we returned from dinner.
We returned to the hotel to find a darkened lobby, lit only by flashlights, cell phone screens and emergency lights. No electricity. "It'll only be a half hour," suggested the guy who appeared to be the manager on duty.
This could have been (and nearly was) a horrific experience. But despite the fact that I was dead tired, I took the opportunity to study and watch as the team at The W responded to the predicament.
It began with complimentary cocktails and appetizers. Generously poured drinks were served with a smile. And guests couldn't keep up with the frequency with which appetizers were replenished. Then came the desserts. Now, I'm not a fan of cheesecake, but this night, it tasted pretty darn good as I ate it near the glow of my laptop.
Not once did I see a frazzled, bothered, disgusted or even unhappy employee of The W. They smiled. They escorted guests to and from their darkened rooms, down darkened hallways with flashlights and glow sticks. They greeted every request with the ultimate in customer satisfaction. Never mind the fact that the day's business had been so slow that many of them were expecting to be allowed to go home early.
That half hour turned into an hour. And that hour turned into two. And suddenly, rather than continuing to fill their now-bloated guests with drinks and apps, they began offering alternatives. There was another hotel around the corner. Upon request, The W re-booked their guests at the other hotel. And arranged for their transportation. And paid for their rooms. And did it all, for some fairly frustrated guests, with a smile. No questions asked.
This was a catastrophe in the making, especially for those who had had a long day. But even more so for those who were at the hotel on their own dime, such as the wedding party greeting long-lost relatives in the dark. But because of the way that the employees at The W reacted to the circumstances, going above and beyond to not just satisfy but also to surpass the expectations of their guests, it was a major victory for that team. It would have been just as easy to close the bar because the cash register didn't work. It would have been just as easy to sprinkle some pretzels and peanuts on the counter. It would have been just as easy to send their customers into the dark on their own.
Those things never appeared to be an option.
You know, our industry is experiencing some fairly difficult circumstances itself. Our businesses are short-staffed, under-supplied and, in some cases, indeed struggling merely to keep the lights on. Are we taking the opportunity found in this "crisis" to set ourselves apart in the minds of our customers?