Problem? Respond Quickly And Prepare Them For The Worst

I’m in New Orleans (Gnaw Leans, if you are a local) as I write this. I decided to get an early start before I head out to the airport. I fired-up the in-room coffee, and turned on the shower. The only steam came from the coffee machine.

The shower was cold as ice. I turned the dial. The shower sputtered. A few ice cubes fell out.  I called the front desk and they said that the boiler broke last night, that there was no hot water. They said they should have it fixed within an hour. It’s now three hours later and a small iceberg is forming in my bathroom.

Before you think I am a total Diva, I completely understand that the lack of hot water is totally a first world problem. I still took the ice shower, and I am grateful that I even had water. Now let me get my Diva on. The hotel missed a major opportunity.

Boilers break. Problems happen. But when a customer discovers a problem before you notify them, it gets amplified by a hundredfold. The essence of customer service is addressing problems before the customer ever experiences it, or (worst case) revealing the problem to the customer before the customer discovers it on their own.

Here’s what the hotel should have done: The second the boiler broke, they should have prepared an apology note and slide it under the door of every guest. The note should have explained the problem, explained the action they were taking to fix it, and they should have promised the worst case resolution.

For example, the hotel should have told customers that they were sorry and working on having the boiler replaced and that hot water will be back within 24 hours (even if they are confident they could fix it in 10 hours). Then, they should have arranged an alternative solution, like offering a temporary room at a nearby hotel for any guest requesting warm water. Then when they fix the hot water problem (since it will likely be fixed in less than 24 hours), they should have announced that they fixed the problem ahead of schedule.

When problems occur, and they will, notify customers immediately and use the always effective under promise, over deliver method of customer service. Promise the worst case, and when you beat it (and you usually will), you will come out the winner in a very difficult situation.


1 thought on “Problem? Respond Quickly And Prepare Them For The Worst”

  1. I’d be interested in hearing how much you underpromise. Underpromising too much, especially in the case where every minute is cost a client money, could be really bad and have the opposite effect on your reputation. When you finally fix the problem they may still be annoyed in the first place and their expectations still may be that it needed to be fixed faster. Is there a win-win solution in these cases?

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