Taking Care of Customers

Here's one way not to do business. The New York Times business travel writer Joe Sharkey told the story recently of a partner in a law firm who was a long-time, loyal customer and frequent visitor of a particular hotel chain. As was his habit, this senior lawyer had booked a stay at one of the hotels in that chain for an upcoming business trip. But because of a schedule change, he had to eliminate the first night of his stay. When he called the hotel to make this change, he was informed that he could not show up the day after he had originally planned to arrive because no one would be available on that day to check him in. (Pause.) Incredulous, he asked why not and was told that a large group was arriving at the hotel that day, hence no one would be available to check him in no matter what time he arrived. After an unproductive back-and-forth exchange about this (il)logic, he called the chain's frequent-visitor service line, to no avail. So he gave up and rebooked at another hotel. Then he canceled all of his future reservations with that hotel chain, as well as those of all the members of his law firm. This finally got him some attention and a call from someone willing to help him. But even after profuse apologies from the hotel chain's senior management, he refused to go back to that hotel chain. Net, net: a loyal, heavy customer lost—just when losing loyal, heavy customers is the worst possible thing that could happen.