Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Customer Service is Not a Dead Art

I was inspired yesterday by a blog, specifically, this blog post. But I wasn't inspired to write a post. I know so why am I writing one then? The post is just the means to share the results of what I did do. What I did was write an email. Intrigued? Yeah, probably not, but there it is, I was inspired to write an email. I have been sitting here trying to determine the best way to share what I wrote, but I think I'll quote the entire email.

When Scott Stratten of posted his most recent experience with some cold food, I realised that being silent about my recent unhappy encounter with customer service was doing a disservice to everyone, not just myself. So I sent this email:

Attention: Manager, The Fairmont Empress

My recent stay at the beautiful Fairmont Empress was regarded with much anticipation. Ever since I was a young girl staring up at the castle like hotel from the harbour I've wanted to stay there. With the recent excellent rate offered to those attending the Social Media Camp at the Victoria Conference Centre, the opportunity arrived for a 30 year old dream to come true. I had no expectations of staying in a suite, I knew I would be in a smaller room and that suited me fine. The room itself was absolutely lovely inside, everything I needed. But I do feel I need to make a couple of comments regarding customer service, one not so positive and one positive.

When I booked my room I explained to the agent that my plane would be landing in Victoria quite early the Friday morning and would really appreciate if it was possible to check in early as I have a disability and it would make things a lot easier for me if I didn't have to haul a bunch of things around until regular check-in time. She was absolutely accommodating, asked what time my flight arrived and accordingly booked a 9:00 AM check-in for me. At the time I was also told I would be getting a room with a view of the city. I was immensely pleased with all this and promptly shared with my friends both verbally and on social media platform how great the customer service is at the Fairmont Empress.

Due to circumstances I didn't actually show up to check-in until shortly after 12:00 PM that day, no big deal except I still didn't have a room to check-in to. I must say I was very disappointed, I was tired from an early flight, sore and needed to rest and the best the desk clerk could offer me was, drop my suitcases with the porter and someone would call me when the room was ready. I didn't receive the call until 3:00 PM, a full 6 hours past when I had booked the early check-in (a time chosen by the booking agent, not me). No accommodations were made for this inconvenience and no suggestions even made as to what a stranger in your fine city could possibly do or any indication how long it would be. When I did finally have a room to check-in to, I found my view to include a brick wall from one window and a back alley from the other. Noise from early morning workers waking me every morning of my stay at 5:00 AM banging for an hour straight of something that sounded like the lid to a dumpster. All of which I likely would not ordinarily comment on if it weren't for that original inconvenience of having to wander the city without any idea how long it would be. I realise things happen beyond the control of the hotel, but perhaps it would be a good idea to help out when you leave a person, particularly a disabled one, without the room they were promised, even if it is just for a few hours.

On that note I do want to commend the porter that showed up at exactly the right moment the day I checked-out. Somehow he happened to be on the 4th floor at 4:50 AM just as I was struggling to get my bags out of my room and head down to catch the Airport Shuttle. He helped me with my bags, we had a lovely chat, he brought me a bottle of water while I waited in the lobby ( I didn't ask for it), and helped me take my bags to the shuttle when it arrived. I didn't catch his name but I really appreciated his help and kindness at such an early hour so please pass on my kudos for such an excellent representative of your organisation.

Kind regards,

So that's it, I hit the send button at 3:05 PM MDT and quite frankly didn't really expect much. By 4:54 PM I had a short reply in my inbox.

Ms. McCann, good afternoon and thank you for sharing your experience while visiting our hotel in Victoria.

We do strive for the highest standards of professional and attentive service for which we are known at Fairmont and I am sorry we fell short on your recent visit. Your feedback was shared with our executive office at the hotel to review and advise.

My reaction, sounds nice, but yeah right, it'll likely get dropped at that point. Was I ever wrong. The phone rang at exactly 8:00 PM, an unknown person from somewhere in BC. It was the hotel's executive manager (or some such important, top brass position). Edward indicated that he was about to send an email to me, but decided a phone call would be more appropriate. Apologising profusely, he felt horrible that I was not entirely satisfied with my stay at The Fairmont Empress. He took all blame on the hotel's part, said they should be prepared for such situations and that it was an excellent learning experience. He then asked me what could they possibly do to make it up to me.

Well, I really didn't know what to say, to be honest I think I was in shock that he was going to this much effort. I explained I really didn't expect anything, just that I thought it best they should have some policy in place if this situation presented itself again. I indicated they were quite lucky my disability is minor compared to some and that if some one was quite disabled it could be a much bigger issue. He still insisted he must do something and suggested a free night at the Empress but I explained I don't travel much and really didn't know when I'd be back. He has an executive meeting coming up where they will make a more considered plan, but said if I had friends in the area he'd be happy to give them one special night in the hotel. Edward then explained that many hotels were under the banner of Fairmont but that they were owned separately and he wasn't sure he could get me a free night, but would do his best with his connections in the Banff area.

I was pleasantly surprised, they really cared that a guest had a disappointing experience and he must make it right. Everyone makes mistakes, it happens, but that he was sincerely upset that my visit wasn't completely satisfying meant the world to me. They could have sent me a placating email with a coupon for an entire weekend free and it wouldn't have meant nearly as much as taking the time to phone with a sincere apology and owning up to a need for a change in policy, to learn from the mistake. Customer service like that is hard to come by and truly shows that some people really do realise they wouldn't have a business if it wasn't for the customers.

So instead of me posting, if you're not rich and famous, this may not be the place to stay, I'm sending a shout out, if you want to be treated with respect, friendliness and caring, The Fairmont Empress is the place to stay when you're in Victoria, British Columbia!

What is your best customer service experience? What is your worst? Feel free to share :)



Monday, October 4, 2010

Chocolate Loaf Cake, Wherefore Art Thou?

I'm craving chocolate cake... I know what you're saying, so what? We all do from time to time, but to be quite honest, I'm weird, I don't. I don't generally have a sweet tooth at all, except for certain times during the cycle of the moon when, as we all know, we become a completely different persona, our heads appear to spin like the girl in "The Exorcist" and our family members swear we must have forgotten to wear the tinfoil hat and an alien invasion occurred without their knowledge. *Whew* say that 5 times fast.

But I digress, I want chocolate cake.

I tried eating just dark chocolate, which I always have a supply of, 70% and 85% cocoa, no milk chocolate for this girl (remember, no sweet tooth), "in case of emergency". (It's kept in a glass box with a miniature axe mounted to the outside, really... no, not really, but it's a good idea). Unfortunately my outrageously priced, plain dark chocolate, usually the balm to sooth most cravings, just ain't cuttin' it sista!

I want chocolate cake.

I don't want just any chocolate cake either. What I'm really hankering after is a chocolate loaf. You know the kind don't you? It's dense, and moist, and heavy, and rich, probably has dark chocolate chunks or chocolate chips in it and left to your own devices you would likely eat the entire thing yourself. However, I have two problems, the first one is I'm barely functional after a really awesome weekend that also included a severe lack of sleep. Some days I'm a V8, most days I'm a four cylinder that tries really hard to push past those bigger hills, but tonight... well tonight I don't think I've got enough gas to power a bubble mower!

Oops, I digress again... The second problem is where you come in, I can't find a recipe that seems to jump out at me and say... "Pick me, I'm the one you're looking for". Please, please, PLEASE I would be ever so wonderfully grateful if anyone knows what the heck I'm talking about here and happens to have a delicious, no fail, amazing-to-die-for-melt-in-your-mouth chocolate loaf recipe, please send it to me, or post me a link where I could find it. Because I think that if a chocolate loaf cake does not somehow materialise and find itself consumed by this time tomorrow, I may no longer be responsible for my actions.

Thank you, thank you very much. My family thanks you. So do my cats, the ravaged chocolate bars thank you as well.