I got really annoyed at a hotel front desk clerk once. It was my first time at the hotel, too.
One of the hotel staff originally said we (my extended family and I) would have adjoining rooms, but when we arrived, we found we weren’t in adjoining rooms.
So, I explained the situation to the clerk, saying, “I was told that…”
(Side note: do you notice how we use the passive voice when we complain? I think it’s a way we make ourselves out to be the victim. More about that next week.)
Bernard (the human being behind the counter) responded, “Look, man, I didn’t block the rooms. I’m not sure what happened. But we’re sold out, and we’ve got two rooms for you, just like you need. They’re not gonna be next to each other, though.”
I stayed mad.
I was tired, I wasn’t getting what I had been promised, and I wasn’t at my best.
Even so, Bernard didn’t let up. “Okay, Mr. Feirer. I can’t help you with the room. But I could maybe help you by reminding you that you are on vacation with your family, and it’s going to be a great time. You’ll be happy to be here, and you’ll forget all about this room thing by the end.”
I remained annoyed by his insolence. What happened to “the customer is always right”!??!
But Bernard went on: “Why do you want to share a wall with your parents anyway? Why is that so important? Sometimes it might be nice to have them down the hall.”
This triggered a change in me. I don’t know why that comment put me over, but it was.
I smiled. “You’re right. This might have its advantages. I’m sorry I went off on you. Especially because it’s not your fault.”
“That’s okay Mr. Feirer. We all get cranky after a long day of travel. How many keys do you want?”
That was my first time at that hotel, but I have probably stayed there over 100 nights since that encounter.
The staff are fellow humans, and they know their place.
Looking back, I loved the way Bernard put himself alongside me instead of offering empty apologies.
He led the situation.
This isn’t a customer service story; it’s a leadership behavior example. Ken Blanchard, known for Situational Leadership and The One-Minute Manager, points out the three legs of the ideal business organization:
- Be the employer of choice.
- Be the investment of choice.
- Be the provider of choice.
In my experience, the hotel nailed all three. As I got to know the hotel employees, I saw that at every level they often acted as servant leaders, meeting the needs of those around them, both teammates and guests. This style isn’t just good for customer service and retention (though it sure worked on me!); it also improves productivity and reduces turnover. When people are happy, supported, valued, and empowered at work, they tend to stay.
How empowered are the team members in your organization?
Next week, I’m going to talk about grammar. Really. Words matter. Come back and see….
Thanks for reading,