After some 8-hour travel — 6 hours of driving from Northern Virginia to New York City where I’m participating in the Affiliate Summit East 2009, and a 2 hour business meeting in Wilmington, DE — I checked into the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers (member of Starwood Hotels group). The girl at the reception was as nice as she could be, and since I’m traveling with my wife and daughter, she kindly offered us a choice of either a king size bed with a rollaway one (waiving a $30/day charge for the latter) or a room with two twin size beds. Both of the options were unexpected exceeding of our expectations. We decided to check out the one with two beds first, and then make our final decision. Since we were pleased with it (very much so), we decided to go with such a room.
Then I realized that I left my suit and shirts in the car, went down to the hotel’s garage, and asked the attendant if he could get me my truck to get my clothes out. The guy hardly spoke any English, but I patiently paraphrased my request several times, and he seemed to understand what I wanted, and quickly turned around and walked away to help other newly-parking hotel guests. He served three of four cars, then came back to me, and asked me what it is that I want. After my new attempt at explaining he turned his back on me again, and went away to a little room to do something — to come back and ask me the same question again… It wasn’t even funny at that point. I mean, it was simply unacceptable (I’d understand it if I were speaking Russian or Cantonese, but not English)… Eventually I did get what I wanted, but is this how a hotel customer service supposed to be?
I experienced two diametrically opposite expressions of customer service at one hotel. C’mon, Sheraton, you gotta be consistent! Or is the “Customer is King” approach slowly getting excluded from the Sheraton’s philosophy? I sure didn’t feel this way at other Starwood hotels I stayed at recently: namely, The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center where I had a wonderful stay in June of this year, and Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel & Towers where I received a stellar customer service just two weeks ago. The Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers started off extremely well, but sadly, the consistency was missing.
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, is known for saying that “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary” [italics mine]. It is my belief that this applies to all businesses, but especially to the hospitality one.