Part One: In Which We Complain to the Hotel Authorities:
This is a story about customer service. The protagonists in this story are i) A five-star hotel in one of the metros and ii) Yours truly.
(I shall keep the hotel name confidential as I (and my team) need to stay there going forward and we do not wish to antagonize the hotel management.)
This hotel, which we shall call X, has been one of my favorite hotels in India. I love the hotel, the service, the food. Everything! I just love checking into the hotel as much as anyone would like checking into a hotel on business travel, away from family.
This time round, I sensed something amiss in the service levels of the hotel. I was there for a three-day company meeting. I sensed that something was wrong when I reached the coffee shop for breakfast the morning after I checked in. Typically, the steward at the entrance asks you for your room number, checks whether you want a smoking or a non-smoking area, escorts you to a table, gets you your desired beverage- coffee or tea- and then leaves you to enjoy the breakfast. None of this happened that morning.
Room number checked, I was given a perfunctory wave of hand indicating I should find an empty table for myself.
Errors of omission and commission continued through the day as the meeting progressed. The guys serving tea at the meeting breaks were as casual. And ditto for the lunch-service chaps.
A few of my colleagues staying in this hotel too mentioned their discomfiture with service levels.
What had this hotel, my favorite hotel, come to?
Ditto on day two as well.
Enough was enough!
I then decided to do something about it and sought an appointment with the hotel boss, the General Manager of X. GM X, who was expecting some kind of a courtesy call was taken aback when I began voicing my team’s litany of woes.
“Mr GM, sir, I have been staying at your group’s hotels across the country and this particular hotel is one of my favorites.” I started.
“Thank you, thank you, Mr Ojha. We really appreciate your patronage!” chirped Mr GM.
“I am sorry, but I am a little disappointed with the service levels during my current stay.”
“I am sorry to hear that. Please do tell me more”, there was a discernible lowering of cheerfulness in Mr GMs voice.
“As a matter of fact, sir, I was wondering whether your staff has suddenly become unionized. Or maybe you lost a whole bunch of people in the recent weeks and you had to recruit people in a hurry and place them on the job without any training.” I continued.
“No, no! That is not the case!” Mr GM’s jaws were drooping quite distinctly.
“Immediately prior to checking into this hotel, I stayed at the group’s properties in two other metros, and I must say I was really impressed by the service levels there. But here…..” my voice trailed off. I was turning the screw pretty hard.
“Wait a minute, please, let me call the F&B manager.” Mr GM looked positively rattled by now.
After the F&B manager joined us, I described in detail our complaints. All hovered around poor service levels in matters pertaining to the F&B department. I gave specific examples, dramatized the bad-service episodes, and reminded them that I have been a regular guest at this property. I used all devices to drive my points home.
I can tell you by the body language of the F&B manager that he was dreading the dressing-down his boss (Mr GM) would give him when our meeting was over. And Mr GM was looking suitably shame-faced too.
“I am really sorry for all this and you will see that we will pull our socks up right away,” Mr GM’s concluding remark. “And Mr Ojha, what are you doing for dinner tonight?”
“Well, I will now head to the gym and then we have a meeting with my colleagues in one of our rooms work on a presentation which I have to make the next week. So I will order our dinner from room service.”
“Why should you work in your room? Why??” Mr GM exclaimed. He then turned to the F&B Manager, “Get a suite opened for these gentlemen. They can work there in peace”
I was finding this uncomfortable now. “Thank you Mr GM, but no, please! We are perfectly comfortable in our room.”
“Which room will that be? Your meeting?” the F&B guy queried.
“Don’t know yet. Anyway please do not bother, we will make ourselves comfortable. Bye”.
I was positively uncomfortable by now and wished to end this chat immediately. I wanted to get on with my life.
To be continued