Jose Palomino

Customer Service Hostility

September 6, 2016

hotel-bed

Recently, I was in Montreal and had the opportunity to stay at a very nice hotel. Everything was great. Even though it was a business trip it’s always nice to have certain amenities while on the road. The quality of the room, food, and service was excellent. Except for one thing — I did not get a good night’s sleep.

A good night’s sleep is the one thing a hotel has to provide its guests, or so I thought.

The Problem

First night — couldn’t get to sleep. To me, the bed felt like it was made of concrete. I woke up with aches and pains, and mentioned it to the front desk on my way out for the day. Sure enough — when I got back from my day of meetings, they had laid out an additional set of quilted covers to help make the bedding softer.

Unfortunately, these covers were the only soft things on the bed, and when I laid down it would all squeeze down back to the concrete mattress. To get to sleep the second night, I lined up my rock-hard pillows like a second bed on top of the bed. This was not any better. I had more aches and pains in the morning.

The Problem Made Worse

When I checked out, the concierge issued the perfunctory inquiry of “How was your stay here Mr. Palomino?” I mentioned that the food was excellent, the service was very nice, and everything was aesthetically pleasing. The only issue was that I could not get a good night’s sleep — the beds were very hard and uncomfortable.

Without skipping a beat, the nice young lady at the front desk said the following in a way that suggested my complaint was both unusual, and unwelcome: “All our guests love our beds.

All. As in every last one. To my tired, unsatisfied ears, what she was saying was, “Mr. Palomino, you’re an idiot for not liking our beds!”

This exchange made me think about how often customer service attempts to justify the unjustifiable. They could offer no excuse for robbing me of a good night’s sleep, and yet the young lady at the front desk tried to write my experience and assessment as being “off” or strange and wrong.

Some examples of all-too-real customer service experiences…

The Solution

There are ways that the concierge could have both appeased me, and rectified the situation. Here are some of the ways she could have replied:

  • First — with empathy. “Mr. Palomino, I’m sorry you felt that way. It’s certainly not our intention to offer anything but excellent experiences for our guests.” Lack of customer insight and empathy leads to ignorant and ineffective customer service. Diane Helbig in Small Business Trends put it this way, “All it takes is a little insight — putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, or just thinking back to a time when you were not helped by customer service.” A hostile attitude hinders the open mindedness necessary to take a step back and empathize with the customer.
  • Second — she could have assured me my complaint was valid in the hotel’s eyes. “We don’t hear that very often, but I will make sure our management hears about it.” Replying to the complaint in a manner that tells me that my voice is heard lets me know that I wasn’t just shrugged off. It communicates to me that the company values my business. Customer service hostility is a knee-jerk defense. It’s a shield protecting the appearance or perception of a business’ quality, rather than a collaboration set on finding solutions. Most solutions can only be found by asking questions and listening — digging further into the problem.
  • Third — she could do something to try and rectify the situation. “I’m so sorry. While I can’t give you back your sleep, I noticed you ate at our restaurant a number of times. Why don’t I take your breakfast from this morning off your bill?” It would have been a small accommodation. A way to make me remember that they really do care about my business, and my experience.

Quality customer service stays true to its purpose. It ensures that problems are fixed in a timely manner, and fairly compensating customers/clients. Frankly, because of the customer service I received, I will never stay at that hotel again.

The Takeaway

How could this experience have been prevented? An effective, or formal Customer Relationship Management policy — taking into account customer insight and the company’s value proposition — will ensure that client concerns will be handled in the correct fashion. It will also guarantee strict employee adherence to proper customer service practices. It won’t try to justify what’s not right — or argue on your company’s behalf — but fix it.

Hostile or absent policies lose focus on what’s important — solutions. By attempting to re-educate their “woefully misguided” customer, they often regurgitate the same information customers have heard countless times already — even before they sought the help of customer service. And none of that reiteration actually serves your customer. If your customer service is lacking, a customer who has options will exercise that option by taking their business elsewhere.

Bottom line:


Understanding and accommodating customer service is vital to ensuring customers utilize your service or product again. If a customer is treated with hostility, or made to feel like they don’t matter to you then they will not come back.

  • Do your employees treat customers with respect and consideration?
  • Is there a policy in place in your company that ensures customer complaints will be heard and appeased?
  • Does your company have a culture of disrespect for customers? Do your employees often refer to customers by derogatory terms?

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