For those of you that put up with my tweeting on Twitter, you will already know that I am obsessed with customer service. Or to be more accurate, I am obsessed with being treated like a customer. While a polite Englishman at heart, I am not prepared to tolerate poor customer service. In the words of David/Bruce Banner, “You won’t like me when I am angry.”

“But what has this to do with ITIL?” I hear you screaming at your screen. Please bear with me as I recount last Saturday night and Sunday morning (thankfully there is no link to the film of the same name).

Last weekend I spent a single night at a “chain” hotel. The customer service upon arrival was excellent, on the back of my loyalty card I received a room upgrade and complimentary soft drinks and chocolate bars in the room. Ah, the world was good and I was “living the dream.” I felt like a valued customer. Fast-forward to the following morning and the picture couldn’t have been more different.

During the night the room had been so hot that it was difficult to sleep. “You should have turned down the heating or opened the window,” I hear you cry. Check and check. The wall-mounted thermostat made no difference. The window, somewhat morbidly, had been screwed shut. I didn’t call down to reception as I couldn’t face a handyman/woman messing around in my room in the middle of the night (if they were actually available).

Anyway, as I checked out the following morning I waited for the “how was your stay, Mr. Mann?” question. Sadly, it wasn’t posed. I just had to awkwardly spurt out “I would like to make a complaint” in a somewhat Hugh Grant stylee (we Brits really aren’t built for complaining, thank heavens I am a “European mongrel”).

Cutting to the chase, it seemed that it wasn’t only my room that had this “heat” issue. They all did, and it was a known issue (the air conditioning was broken); one could argue it was a “major incident” that needed to be managed. I did my “usual,” bombarding the poor staff member with a "barrel-load of awkwardness." But I believed my POV was right, that is that as they knew about the issue when I checked in it should have been communicated to me. They should have also offered some workarounds such as the provision of a fan or just sending someone around the rooms removing the screws so we could at least open the windows.

I tried to explain that I didn’t come to the hotel for a room but rather for a “good night’s sleep away from home” service and that they had failed to provide this, but I think it was a little too abstract for them to comprehend.

IMO, this is very much a product rather than service-based view on the hotel’s part. It is a shame as the entry and exit procedures were great; with the “exit” a quick chat with the duty manager who was very apologetic and offered a free night’s stay straight away (by the look of her notebook I was at least the third person to have seen her that morning re the issue and it was still early). She and the hotel were prepared for the complaints with preprinted complimentary night vouchers in hand.

Ultimately, however, I wanted service not “service credits.”

I booked the hotel to get a good night’s sleep and they failed. ITIL, even with its faults, would have worked well here. Firstly with the hotel’s service-orientation (aren’t hotels meant to be a service industry?) and secondly with dealing with what was a major incident. All I wanted was to be informed, my expectations managed, and evidence that workarounds had been offered and affected. The fact that the air conditioning was to be repaired Monday meant little if nothing to me. It was a big fail and I expected so much better from this “chain” hotel.

What can I&O learn from this? A lot, IMHO.


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