Stop It With the Sugar, Already!

I get irked when marketing misrepresents products or services. I get even more irked when I have to register complaints with people who aren’t responsible for my displeasure.  I don’t think I’m alone in this boat, either.  Pretty much every customer service professional out there has to struggle with the moral dilemma of whether or not to come unglued on the poor front line person who has presented us with our less than promised product.

Sometimes the angel on the left wins…sometimes, it’s the devil on the right.

But what gets my goat every time?   When my feedback isn’t given to the people who need it in the terms that they need to hear it in. Recently over the holiday break, I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express in Kansas.  I had booked this room over another hotel room because on their website they listed that they had a hot tub.  Now, for those of you who will say to me, “Heather, you know that while 80% of residents factor amenities into their renting choices but only 20% of them ever use them,” I say to you, “Shut up.”  I NEEDED that hot tub, or at least the lingering hope of a hot tub.  It was very, very important to me. If you went through a holiday with my grandmother, you’d understand.

Imagine my displeased surprise then, when upon arrival, I was informed that the listings online through Holiday Inn’s website were incorrect, and they did not, in fact, have my much needed and highly coveted hot tub.  The poor guy behind the desk handled the situation well.  He could tell that I was not happy and he tried to explain to me that they “used to have one, but then the door got moved and, yada yada yada, no hot tub for you!” He apologized to us for the “confusion,” and went on with the check in process.  Honestly, that guy did the best he could and handled the situation beyond reproach.  It’s just that he’d been set up to fail because someone didn’t care enough to check and make sure that their online listings were correct.

Fast forward through my stay and into my inbox.  Like any company that wants to appear “in touch” with their customer base, Holiday Inn sent me a follow up customer survey, which, because I was busy, I promptly ignored.  So they sent me another one, which, again, I was busy, and I ignored.  And then… you guessed it, they sent me another one.  I wasn’t busy this time, and I took the 10 minute long survey that they sent, where I detailed to them my displeasure with their marketing misrepresentation and with them putting that responsibility on the poor guy at the front desk, who I did give kudos to because, as I said before, he rocked. The final part of their survey was this:

Holiday Inn Survey Score

They wanted me to share that score via Social Media. 4 out of 5.  I don’t know what algorithm they used to get that score, but my stay, as detailed by my comments, was not a 4 out of 5, because no matter how good everything else was, the fact that they didn’t have what they promised me made everything that they did have shine a little less brightly.  I would have given them a 3 out of 5 overall.

If you’re going to send out surveys for your residents this year then don’t sugar coat the results for your staff.  If there are problems, they need to know it. A lot of people tend to put padding on bad scores because they don’t want to discourage their onsite team, or disappoint them, or drive them to look for a new job. If there are problems, approach it with a drive to make a plan to fix the issues, not lay blame for them.  When problems are approached from a positive point of view as challenges instead, people feel a whole lot better about confronting them and making the necessary changes to solve them.  All sugar coating crap news does is put cavities in the information needed to make good solid choices about the future of your assets and teams. Unless you have all of it, you can’t make a strong decision.  It’s not harsh to share complaints with your staff – It does them and you a disservice to mitigate the importance of issues by rolling them in sweetness first. And if you’re going to ask people to share their score of your apartments online, make sure that your scoring matrix reflects what they’re actually putting in… otherwise they won’t share it, except perhaps to make a learning moment out of your mistake on their own blog.