A few weeks ago, I reserved five weekends at a small beach hotel where I stayed 10 times last summer.
As a returning “client,” I expected to be treated well. But a new manager took over this season, and she must have been trained in the Attila the Hun School of Customer Service.
First, she told me that the rates had gone up. “We don’t really need to discount them anymore, we were packed last summer,” she huffed.
Then she told me they would require a deposit. I could understand that. I didn’t like it, but I’m sure they’re trying to avoid late cancellations, and the deposit (refundable with two weeks notice) made some sense.
What she didn’t tell me is that they intended to take a deposit — by charging my credit card — not for just the first weekend of the several that I reserved, but FOR ALL FIVE.
I found this out when I got my credit card bill this month, fainted, woke up, checked the bill again, fainted again, woke up again, and stared in disbelief.
They charged the card 5 times — once for the first night of each of 5 weekend stays. I was blown away.
And no, it wasn’t a dream.
I called the manager to ask why she had charged me five deposits. Didn’t they trust me? Hadn’t I paid each of 10 weekends last summer? Hadn’t I had referred five families to this small hotel last year? Didn’t that mean anything?
“I told you we were going to charge you,” she chirped.
“I didn’t know you were going to charge me five times in advance,” I said.
“Well, now you know,” she replied smugly.
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
The new manager I dealt with has placed a higher priority on “winning” an argument (in her mind) than on satisfying a great client (me) who has referred a lot of business to them in the past.
Will I escalate this to senior management to let them know what’s going on?
Probably not. Her inexcusably bad interpersonal behavior is so obvious that if they hired her, perhaps they want someone like that as a deterrent to more business. I have no idea.
On the other hand, they may have no idea that someone is turning off good clients. And that’s the take-home message of this post. Bad news (well, any news, actually) has a hard time flowing “up stream” to company leaders who can actually do something about it.
The ownership of this small hotel owns a travel business and several properties. The only way they can truly find out what’s going on is to randomly contact customers to find out how satisfied they’ve been with the way they were handled.
It’s an enlightened idea, because it requires a proactive attitude and a desire to learn what’s actually going on where the customer meets the company.
I’ve decided to wait and see how things go when I actually check in — people often warm up when they’re face to face with a customer. But I definitely will not refer anyone else to the hotel, and I’ll look for somewhere else to stay next time.
With all of the work that it takes to form great customer relationships, they can be destroyed in a moment. If you’re in a leadership position, go out and get data from customers so that those moments can be avoided.