Friday, April 12, 2013

Knowing When, and How, To Complain About Poor Customer Service

Being a consumer advocate, I am perhaps a bit more sensitive or aware of customer service experiences, especially in the service industry, restaurants and hotels.  I don't "look" per se for problems, but after my recent experience at a restaurant in which I described the dirty pagers and employees on cell phones, let's just say I perk up a bit when I see things.  When you are wronged, see if you can be righted, as I will explain.

Last weekend, I stayed at an awesome hotel in New York City (nameless), but had a small unfortunate experience with the cleanliness of the room.  The property belongs to a major hotel line and I have mid-level elite status with them, and it was no dump, just to set the record.  However, it was obvious that our room hadn't been properly cared for after the previous guest.  In short, there was some broken glass on the wood floor that I stepped on after showering.  Ouch.

I called the front desk and they were immensely apologetic, sent up a bottle of champagne, and promised to clean the room around dinner time.  End of story, right?  Not quite.  On my check out day, I was putting things away and noticed that there was still shards of glass that could have been stepped on again.  This time, I was a little more frustrated.  We all make mistakes, but this was just sloppy.  I documented the area where I found glass and went to the front desk.  They were embarrassed to say the least.  I wondered, are they going to comp me something, like breakfast?  Nope.  

I decided that it was time to pull out my oldest trick in the book--a complaint letter.  I had photos, proof that they were aware of the problem and hadn't addressed it, and a respectful but firm story to tell.  I banged out the letter on the way home, ensuring that I had all of the details straight, and emphasizing my elite status, too.  Next step, find out to whom I send it.  One look at the hotel's website caught my eye--an online customer service form.  Awesome!  This will be quick.

Pressing send, I wondered how long it would take to respond.  One day?  Two days?  Today, I received both a really nice phone call from one of the property managers, and an e-mail response from their headquarters, rewarding me with several thousand loyalty points for my trouble.  Score!  I kept my wits, pointed out an error, and had a nice chat on the phone as well.  A great way to end the day.

The point is that you should never pass up an opportunity to write a complaint letter when you have experieced truly poor service.  In this case, it was a legitimate gripe that I only save for egregious cases.  Not only can you help out the business that screwed up, but you might just be rewarded, too.  In future posts, I will describe in greater detail the basis for good complaint letter writing.