This one is hard to believe. But it occurred. Until recently, I was a huge fan of the W hotel brand. I found it to be the greatest place to stay in Miami and Santiago de Chile.
Until I tried the W Barcelona (Spain).
Its landmark architecture and seaside location were promising. I was travelling with my little daughter. At check-in I was reassured that the reserved crib was already in the room.
It was not. I pushed this funny “whenever, wherever service” button on the room phone. After 10 minutes of “we are currently assisting other customers” (!) I went downstairs to address the issue personally.
No problem, the crib would be delivered in minutes, “for sure”.
An hour and another 10 minutes of “we are currently assisting other customers” later, finally someone picked up the phone and promised solemnly to “take personal responsibility” (he must have gone through some staff training recently) for getting the crib installed in my room. I trusted his promise and left for a city tour.
When returning at 10 pm, guess what: nothing. To make a long story short – after endless waits on the “whenever wherever whatever”-line, a pointless abbreviated hotel terrace dinner and a night spoilt by a desperately crying baby, the crib finally arrived close to 1 a.m. (!!!!).
Now that my brand confidence was destroyed, I even started noticing the amazingly un-managed impression of the hotel: permanent long queues at reception, empty lobby apple bowls, empty drinking water fountains surrounded by dirty glasses or employees giving wrong information about parking fees. Worse: when trying to check out in a hurry, I was informed that “this hotel had no express check-out” (what??). Given the number of people in the queue, I ignored that invitation and left for the airport keeping my fingers crossed to get charged only what I had really consumed (worked fine, but I never got the corresponding SPG points).
Back home, I complained directly to Starwood (it’s their brand, isn’t it?).
All I got was a response from a hotel middle manager of the W Barcelona (one of those who had screwed up my experience), a template-dictated “sorry” with “a free upgrade” for my next stay (which I should have received anyway as an SPG Gold member).
Starwood customer service declined to comment directly, saying that “all complaints had to be handled by the property”: again – bad service by design.
- PLEASE, be empathic and really try to listen when customers come up with a problem. It’s not about being an SPG Gold customer, it’s about the crying baby.
- PLEASE, get customer service leadership in place – otherwise, nobody is never really in charge.
- Allow/train employees to be accountable for the results.
- Empower the after-sales service team to fight for a departing customer!
A lot of risk taking hands-on leadership is required under these circumstances!