A tale of customer service. Once upon a time the marketing folks at University Circle came up with a great idea: team up with the hotel and cultural institutions in the area and create an entertainment package that would generate attendance while giving the customer a chance to experience services they might not otherwise encounter.
Okay. Sounds good. So UC publishes a brochure listing the “African Safari Adventure” package–includes a room at the Intercontinental Hotel on Carnegie and tickets to the 4 Circle museums (art, natural history, gardens, historical society) with an option to purchase orchestra tickets at a great price. I’m hooked. I invite my sister from Chicago and we sign up. I won’t here go into the incredibly rude person who handled my telephone reservation. I don’t know who she actually worked for (perhaps an answering service) but when I hung up with her I told her: “Miss, you need to find yourself a different kind of job.” Being rude and giving out misinformation is not a good way to make more sales and grow your business…
So far so good; we assume we are reserved with the optional orchestra tickets. Comes the day; we haven’t heard anything so I call to confirm check-in and ask about the orchestra tickets; we wanted to go to a Sunday afternoon matinee. The hotel reservations clerk confirms our reservation but says he’ll have to transfer us to the front desk because they handle the tickets part. Okay, that young lady confirms the museum tickets, but as I’m explaining about the orchestra tickets, she keeps saying she doesn’t know what I’m talking about and “where?” did I read this? Several times I repeated “the University Circle brochure that advertised this package.” She says okay, she will check on it and call me back in an hour.
We never get a call so we just spend our afternoon doing other things and arrive at the hotel about 7:15 to check in and be on our way to enjoy Cleveland’s restaurants and nightlife. The clerk greets us with relief and the manager rushes over to introduce himself. “Oh, we were so worried you wouldn’t get here on time,” he says. Seems they even called us at 7 to check to see where we were. Because, he announces proudly, “we got your orchestra tickets. You were right; they were an option on that package, and we’re very sorry about the misunderstanding.” He proudly produces an envelope with two box seats at Severance Hall–for 8 o’clock…by now a mere 35 minutes away.
I look at my sister and we are pretty much in agreement. We don’t really want to go to the symphony tonight–we never planned to go to the symphony on Saturday night. We thank them, and we can see the manager struggling as he asks, are you sure you won’t use these tickets? We confirm it, and I ask politely how did they get the tickets? He says the performance tonight is sold out, but we know some people. He said you’d be amazed if I told you what these tickets cost… Now I know tickets to the orchestra are not cheap–but box seats produced out of thin air on a sold-out night? Whew.
So Shirley (my Chicago sister) and I feel bad, but we simply aren’t prepared to go at that time. We haven’t even had dinner yet. We proceed to our room, wondering how this situation developed, and find on our desk a lovely platter of perfect fruit–grapes, apricots, plums and apples–and an envelope with my name handwritten on it. Inside is a note of “deep apology” for the interoffice miscommunication that caused their desk people not to know the details of the package we had signed up for. We were pleased.
So we talk about the whole misunderstanding for the first half hour we’re out. The whole problem, we conclude, hinges on the fact that we didn’t get a message about the tickets early in the afternoon as we were supposed to–or we would have organized our day differently and been prepared to attend the symphony that night.
The home run
Next morning the front desk clerk I had spoken with the previous afternoon (who hadn’t known about the orchestra) answered the phone when we called for concierge assistance. After helping us, she asked my sister what happened yesterday. Shirley explained that we hadn’t received a message from her; she said she’d left one. We hung up, called my voice mail, and by heaven, she had left a message–we had apparently been out on the patio at the time preparing our grilled chicken and mushroom lunch and didn’t get the message. AND none of my telephones with voice mail has a visible message waiting signal…
On our way out to investigate the service at the Old Stone Church on Public Square, we saw the young lady at the front desk and told her, yes we did after all find your message–and here’s the best part–she said, “Oh, that’s good, but we are very, very sorry for the confusion. We have discussed it with our management and this will be a good thing. We should have been more organized. Things will be better for the next time.”
Thank you, Intercontinental and staff. Classy. Cool. Customer service doesn’t have to be perfect…but the best companies know that taking responsibility for misunderstandings is the way to the customer’s heart.
Anybody know how to get a visible signal with SBC voice mail? Phones with flashing message lights don’t work with it…
Oh, and P.P.S.
The beds at the Intercontinental Hotel are luxuriously comfortable–with four huge, plump feather pillows on each. Delightfully, you can actually make the room any temperature you want (unlike some places that control how low you can adjust the temperature). And the bathroom is especially lovely–beautiful artwork, separate frosted-glass shower, adjustable lighting, and an in-wall telephone by the commode. ” )