Sometimes I feel like a superhero

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4:43am: Phone rings

Don’t forget, I’m on call 24/7 in case any hotel customers have problems

Me: Hello?

Customer: Hello, I’m customer at Bad View by the Sea. Our smoke detector is making noise, but there is no fire.

Note: customer is not from US and only speaks and understands some English

Me: Were you doing anything before this happened?

Customer: We were sleeping. We thought there was fire, we dashed out of room. We realized there was not fire.

Me: I’ll be there in 30 minutes.

I got to the hotel and the customers looked at me as if I were a superhero ready to save the day (I think they simply mistook my rain poncho as a cape)… I dashed into their room, shut off the right breaker, and ripped the smoke detector out of the ceiling! The customers were beyond thankful and profusely apologized about the situation, even though they were not at all at fault. It was a case of a faulty smoke detector that simply needed to be replaced.

The following morning the customers were in the lobby apologizing to all of the customers in the neighboring rooms about the noise. I was shocked. Here we have customers who are paying good money to stay in a hotel by the beach, who were woken up at 4:30am and up until who knows when due to a malfunctioning smoke detector. They were not angry or upset with me or anyone else. As far as I’m concerned, these customers were one in a million! To say thank you to these saints for their positive attitude and to apologize for their horrible evening, I refunded a night’s stay to their credit card. They were beyond thrilled, and the result was a fantastic review on TripAdvisor, a wonderful posting on our Facebook page, and the promise of coming back next year, and with friends.

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In the six years that I have been managing hotels, I have always thought about writing a blog to share the funny, ludicrous, mind-boggling, and sweet stories that I encounter on a nearly daily basis. While this blog has allowed me to have a somewhat secret identity with fake hotel names, it has allowed me to grab the attention of many who are not in the hotel field and enlighten them to a day in the life of a hotel manager. However, through the past few weeks, started to question whether or not I was trying to promote my blog in the hotel industry or the customer service industry.

I thought that a hotel blog should really focus on promoting the brand of the hotel, local attractions, and fun and exciting things going on at the hotel. If you have been reading for the past few weeks, you know that this is NOT what I have done. Instead, I have shared amusing and annoying customer stories to attract an audience. As it turns out, I do not seem to be too far off track. According to Josiah Mackenzie, author of the article “Hotel Blogging Best Practices”, I am right on track. In the article, Mackenzie describes that hotel blogs are usually only used by single location, independent hotels and tend to follow many themes and contain information about the hotel and happenings… I just added a bit of humor to mine! In addition, he describes that hotel blogs can be strategic, experiential, analytical, trivial, or contain a crisis, interview, or announcement (MacKenzie, 2008). To learn more about the best practices, check out this site: http://www.hotelmarketingstrategies.com/hotel-blogging-best-practices-part-4-publishing-topics-and-style

I feel that during that past few weeks of creating and growing my blog, I have done just what MacKenzie has described in his article. While this is my last required blog post for my social media class, I do plan on continuing this blog and focusing more on the specific humorous happenings at the hotels and sharing even more ridiculous customer service interaction stories… Stay tuned!!!

MacKenzie, J. (2008, September 5). Hotel Blogging Best Practices. Retrieved from Hotel Marketing Strategies: http://www.hotelmarketingstrategies.com/hotel-blogging-best-practices-part-4-publishing-topics-and-style/

Photo courtesy of: http://dublfirm.info/calling-batman-button.aspx

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Cancellation Catastrophe

Phone Rings…

Me: Thank you for calling Bad View by the Sea, how may I help you?

Customer: Hi, I need to cancel our reservation.

Me: Ok, what’s your reference number?

Customer: 666

Me: Oh, I see this is for one of the cottages. Since you’re cancelling within 14 days of your reservation, you will be losing your deposit at this point.

Customer (outraged): WHAT?! You can’t do that! Where does it say that will happen?

Me: I’m so sorry you didn’t realize that. Our policies are clearly stated on our website, our brochures, and on the confirmation you received.

Customer: That’s ridiculous! We’re cancelling with 7 days notice! I want to speak to the manager!

Me: I’m so sorry about this. Unfortunately, I am the manager and there’s nothing else we can do about this. We do our best to clearly display our policies.

Customer (with attitude): Well, I don’t think you’ve done a very good job. I am going to be sure to tell all of my friends on facebook that your company uses sneaky business practices.

Me: I’m so sorry ma’am, we do our best to make out policies as transparent as possible. If you have a suggestion as to how we can make our policies more clear, please let us know.

Customer: Whatever! (and hung up)

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Now I am scrambling to try to fill this cottage that only rents by the week, Saturday to Saturday, unlike most of the other regular hotel units which rent nightly and weekly. While Craigslist is great for general advertising, I haven’t had too much luck with last minute bookings through that site. I figured I might as well make use of our facebook page! So, I posted the last minute opening with a link to the unit on our facebook page. Two hours later the phone rang:

Me: Thank you for calling the Bad View by the Sea, how may I help you?

Customer: Hi! My friends just called me to tell me that you posted about a last minute cancellation and have a cottage available for next week – is it still available?

Me: Yes! It’s cottage number 111, it sleeps 4 with a queen size bed and a queen size pull-out sofa.

Customer: Oh, we’d really prefer two beds. Do you have any cottages open with two beds?

Me: Unfortunately, we do not. All of the cottages have been booked for months at this point, this one just opened up due to a rare, last minute cancellation.

Customer: Fine then. I guess we’ll take it.

Me: Great! (and then we process their reservation)

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Customer service by itself is not easy, and facebook and other social media options can be both helpful and troublesome to companies depending on the specific situation. As we saw in the first example, the customer was using facebook as a weapon to harm Bad View by the Sea on a social networking level. However, the speedy results from the facebook post regarding the cancellation prove that social media can actually be a great tool in increasing business for the hotel. In this situation, taking my brand socially was certainly financially beneficial for me, and it also allowed a brand new customer to try out the hotel and have their “best family vacation ever” at a “clean and friendly place”, as they stated on their customer comment card.

In addition to my example above, Nathan Mendenhall explains other pros for companies taking their brands social in a recent article. He explains that bands who use social media increase their frequency of appearing in Google searches, increasing brand awareness. He also describes that using social media enables brands to create relationships with their customers, commenting that “studies show that the more time that a person spends with a brand; the more likely they are to buy from them” (Mendenhall, 2013). He also points out that content found on social media can be re-used. This was demonstrated above in the second phone call because the customer’s friend had actually “shared” our post on her friend’s facebook wall. Lastly he points out that brands are able to focus on niche networks which can increase awareness and profits in the long run, and we all certainly want to increase profits (Mendenhall, 2013)!

Mendenhall, N. (2013, February 8). Pleading the case for social media: The pros and cons. Retrieved from That Agency: http://www.thatagency.com/design-studio-blog/2013/02/pleading-the-case-for-social-media-the-pros-and-cons/

Photo Courtesy of http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/e4/07/e0/e407e0e32b563798aa605cec7dac6b41.jpgImage

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The customer is NOT always right… or maybe I just need a day off?

Customer: “I know check-out is at 10am, but can we leave our car here longer? We’ve had a great few days in Yourtown Beach and at Bad View by the Sea, and are not quite ready for our vacation to end.”

Keep in mind, we’re 100 yards to the beach, so customers are able to walk from here. There is also assigned parking, 1 car per unit, with no extra parking spaces.

Me: “Sure, I can let you leave it until 11am.”

Customer leaves, comes back at 10am to check out.

Customer: “So, can we keep our car here longer?” (As if I weren’t the same person that they spoke to 20 minutes before….)

Me: “Yes! As I mentioned before, you may leave your car here until 11am.”

Customer: “How about 12:30pm?”

Me: “Unfortunately, I can only let you leave it until 11am.”

Customer: “How about 12:30pm?”

Me: “Unfortunately, I can only let you leave it until 11am. We have a small housekeeping list today, meaning we will get rooms cleaned rather quickly. Therefore, we try to allow incoming customers the opportunity to check-in early, so we would need the parking spot to that room available.”

Customer: “Well, what am I supposed to do with my car if I still want to go to the beach?”

Me: “You can circle the free lot right over there” (pointing) “or you can pay to park in the lot right there and pay a fee” (pointing).

Customer: “What if I just leave my car here until 12:30pm? There’s not really anything you can do about it, right?”

Me: “Sir, if your car is still in the spot or anywhere on premise after 11am, I will have to have your vehicle towed at your expense.”

Customer: “I hope you’re on TripAdvisor, because I cannot wait to write about the horrible service.”

If only there were a website that allowed businesses to rate customers…

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When traveling, websites such as Expedia, TripAdvisor, local chambers of commerce, are extremely useful to consumers, especially when they are unfamiliar with the area. Having been in hotel management for six years and in hospitality for sixteen years, I have learned that the best piece of advertising is word of mouth from satisfied customers. The creation of sites that allow reviews has helped increase note just awareness about the hotels, but also the positive word of mouth about each establishment. However, there are cases like the one above where a satisfied customer can taint the reputation of an establishment, simply because the customer planned poorly. Customers should use mobile social media sites for good not evil!

Regardless, customers do prefer mobile social media sites, especially when they are traveling because they often only have their smartphone with them, rather than their home computers. TripAdvisor is a social media site that realized this and went mobile. Not only did they go mobile, but they are continuing to acquire other companies to increase their platform and capabilities. Recently, TripAdvisor acquired GateGuru, a mobile ap that provides real-time travel information. TripAdvisor realizes that it needs to continue to expand the services they offer to customers “as more people take to mobile and social networks” (Lunden, 2013). The author of the article about the acquisitions goes on to say that, “travel and mobile naturally go hand-in-hand, as does real-time information once a user is actually on the move” (Lunden, 2013).

If the customer in the above situation had used TripAdvisor for good and not evil, he could have looked up the area in order to find information about places to visit, park, and much more. TripAdvisor is a growing mobile ap that is doing their best to not just meet, but exceed customer needs and wants. Liberty Media noticed that TripAdvisor was on the right track displayed by the $300 million state they took in the company last December.

On a smaller scale, TripAdvisor allows us to be competitive with the big name hotels. Places like Hampton Inn and Motel six are large enough to utilize websites such as expedia.com and hotels.com as they are able to block off a certain percentage of rooms to sell to the booking websites. The smaller hotels, including the two I manage, are not able to utilize those sites because we cannot block off units and meet other requirements that the sites dictate. TripAdvisor gives the smaller, locally owned businesses a chance to compete with the big fish, which is great for exposure and word of mouth.

How do you, the reader, recommend hotels deal with customers who forget they had a great time and only post negative reviews once they can’t get their own way?

Lunden, I. (2013, June 19). TripAdvisor continues acquisition spree, buys GateGuru mobile App for real-time travel info. Retrieved from TechCrunch: http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/19/tripadvisor-continues-its-acquisition-spree-buys-gateguru-mobile-app-for-real-time-travel-information/

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Photo courtesy of: http://dondalrymple.com/the-customer-is-not-always-right/

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Code Brown

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Customer: “Um, I think there’s something you need to come see in the pool”

This is never a good sentence to hear as a hotel manager on a rainy day regarding an indoor pool. I went out to the pool, and the customer pointed out a little brown nugget floating in the pool, minding its own business. Unfortunately, even though this little brown nugget was not swimming up to people bothering them, it did require the pool to be closed. I put on some rubber gloves, scooped the little pooplet out of the pool and told everyone I had to close the pool. You would have thought I had cancelled Christmas by looking at the faces of all of the swimmers. I called the pool guy who came right down to shock the pool and let me know we could open in 24 hours.

My panic alarm went off! Even though the weather called for clear skies later that day so customers of the Bad View by the Sea could return to the beach, I had to do my best to keep customers happy and also inform our twenty-plus pool members of the twenty-four hour closure. This would normally mean discounts, a few hours of phone calls, etc. I went into my office with my head hung low until I had an idea… FACEBOOK!

I had once recommended that all of our pool members “like” our Facebook page in case an event just like this arose. I posted a notice on our page about the closure and asked my members to “like” the status so I could be sure they saw and also to be sure to tell their friends (other members) about the closure. I then had the idea to use Facebook to create a hotel scavenger hunt for those customers staying with us to keep them busy and entertained. Fortunately, the housekeepers were still working and helped me carry out the game and aided in informing customers. I promised a $25 gift card to a nearby pizza place to the winning family (which I keep on hand to appease cranky customers, who seem to never be lacking).

The day went on with great success and because we were using Facebook, other fans of our page were able to see what was going on and asked if we would regularly do this. While we explained it would only happen if the pool had to close again in the middle of a busy summer day, customers were beyond thrilled. The day resulted in thirty-seven more “likes” and 13 shares of many of our statuses.  Overall, the day was a success in both customer satisfaction and increased awareness of the hotel.

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Implementing social media for maximum results has always been a struggle for me in promoting the hotels which I manage. I try to use the page to promote other local businesses in hopes of reciprocation, promoting hotels through social media is certainly a challenge. We have a Facebook page and also a constant contact account. We often post specials, the weather, and interesting facts about the area, as well as photos of room upgrades, the beach, and families having fun in the pool. We send e-newsletters about town happenings, hotel specials, and other useful vacation information. We are currently working on a TripAdvisor membership as well. Our competitor’s participation in social media ranges from nothing to having Facebook pages, twitter accounts, and TripAdvisor listings; however, I have noticed that many are not active users of any of these.

When I went on my first real grown up vacation last winter, I “liked” the resort we vacationed at on Facebook. Now I am constantly reminded of the incredible time we had every time they post a status update and am even more eager to return than I would be without the constant reminder of sun and warm sand… and all the food and booze I wanted to consume! It is important for hotels to remain active through social media in order to remind past guests of their wonderful experiences, as well as attract new guests through shared statuses and re-tweets.

Photo Credit: http://tylerhollywood.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/exposing-the-publisher-5/

My job should pay more… or come with a list of AA meeting times and locations…

Customer: “I saw on your facebook page that you have a few rooms left for this weekend, is that true?”

Me: “Yes! And thank you so much for ‘liking’ us on facebook! What specific dates are you looking for?”

Customer: “There are three of us”

Me: “Great! What specific dates are you looking for? Friday and Saturday?”

Customer: “It will be myself, my husband and our daughter. Do you have anything?”

Me: “Our availability depends on which exact nights you’re looking at; could you please give me the dates you’re interested in?”

Customer: “Do any of your rooms have a king bed? Facebook shows a picture of a king bed! We want a king size bed!”

Me: “Some of our rooms do have king beds. If you let me know your specific travel plans, I can let you know if I have any rooms with a king bed available.”

Customer: “When I went onto Instagram and searched for ‘Yourtown Beach’, I saw people in bathing suits and people in winter clothes; the area and beach look beautiful, but we just don’t know what to expect. What will the weather be this weekend?”

Me: “People post photos on Instagram all year long. Summertime in ‘Yourtown Beach’ is warm, I believe the weather forecast is calling for sun and highs in the mid-eighties through the weekend. Would you like me to check availability for you?”

Customer: “Do you guarantee the weather? This is our first vacation in a long time, so if we’re going to be driving three hours to stay with you, we want to be sure the weather will be nice.”

Me (stifling laughter): “Unfortunately, we do not guarantee weather.”

Customer: “Are the rooms nice there?”

Me:  “You can see pictures of all of our units on our website so you can see exactly what you’re going to get. If you let me know your dates, I can let you know exactly which rooms are available so you can take a look!”

Customer: “Well, my daughter has softball practice from 10am-1:30pm on Thursday. It’s half an hour from our house. She’s really good you know! She takes after her father, he still plays in an adult league. Fortunately, he plays on Monday and Wednesday nights so we can go on Thursdays. I usually do my grocery shopping on Friday mornings, but I guess I could do it Thursday morning this week. Do you have something available?”

Me: “So you’d like to arrive on Thursday?”

Customer (with attitude): I think I made that clear!

Me: “Which day would you like to leave?”

Customer (clearly exasperated): “MONDAY! Didn’t I make that clear? We have to be back for my husband’s softball game!”

Me (cursing up a storm in my head but smiling to keep calm): “I’m terribly sorry I didn’t realize that. Please bear with me while I take a look at which rooms we have left……. We have one room left for those four nights, but unfortunately it does not have a king bed. Would you be interested in a room with a queen bed?”

Customer: “NO! Didn’t you hear me earlier? I want a king bed? Why did you write on facebook that you have rooms available, when you clearly do NOT?!”

Me: “I’m so sorry for the confusion ma’am. We do have rooms available, I just do not have any with a king bed available.”

Customer: “WHAT KIND OF PLACE IS THIS? YOU FALSE ADVERTISE AND CAN’T EVEN GUARANTEE THE WEATHER? HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO GET CUSTOMERS?”

Customer slams the phone down and ends the conversation.

Ten minutes later I had to delete a nasty (vulgar and inappropriate) facebook comment from our hotel page.

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While social media tools can be great at driving business, they also provide easy access for ignorant customers to post their frustrations to the public. Social media tools, like Facebook, allow businesses to increase awareness about themselves, while also inviting open feedback from consumers. While 99% of our comments and postings from our fans are positive, we also have to be open to and aware that there may be negative postings as well.

We also need to be aware that other social media tools that we’re not even members of, can impact our business as well. For example, we do not have an Instagram account, yet the customer in the example above used Instagram to do their own research in regards to their vacation and what they are expecting. Both tools are extremely informative and tend to be incredibly useful, but businesses need to be aware that both sites may be used for evil rather than good. Companies need to constantly monitor social media in order to be proactive, rather than reactive when this type of situation arises.

Photo Credits:

http://www.earthend-newbeginning.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/angry-woman-on-phone.jpg

http://www.wikihow.com/Meet-WomenImageImage

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On call 24/7

10:49pm phone rings (mind you this is my personal self phone because I am on call 24/7 and I am currently at home… in bed…. SLEEPING!)

Me: Hello?

Customer: Hi, I’m staying in room 666 at Bad View by the Sea

Me: How can I help you?

Customer: There’s a lightning storm and the lights were flickering

Me: Do you have power now?

Customer: Yes

Me: Are there any lights out now?

Customer: No, just the ones I don’t have turned on

Me: What can I do for you then?

Customer: We just weren’t sure if someone needed to know.

Me: Know that the lights were flickering, but that everything is fine now?

Customer: Yes.

Me: Thank you for letting me know.

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Welcome to the raging rants, tell-all tales, and fun facts about managing a hotel!

Welcome to the danger zone! For your own safety, I hope you have never been one of my guests that I may write about (completely anonymously of course!) While I will never reveal a name of a guest or business, I will do a bit of substituting in order to convey the humorous, often mind boggling situations I run into on a regular basis. I will do my best to keep this blog PG-13, but there are times where you may want to avert your children’s eyes from my posts.

Your thoughts, feedback, and comments are always welcome! Enjoy!Image

Photo courtesy of: http://blog.friendlyplanet.com/tag/funny-cartoons/page/6