Monday, May 5, 2014

When Customer Service Saved the Day

I am traveling this week.  Destination - Perry, Iowa.  Population - a bit less than 8000.  Nearest airport - Des Moines.  Which means small airplanes all the way.  Now if you know anything about me, you know that I detest flying on small, crowded airplanes.  Add to that a layover in Chicago (I also hate layovers), Chatty Cathy seatmates (I prefer to be left alone when traveling, thanks) and then a 45 minute drive from the airport to my hotel and you know that I was less than happy when I checked in. 

I really wasn't expecting much from the hotel.  I mean, I am out here in the middle of nowhere.  And the PR for the hotel I was staying at mentioned their "themed rooms."  When I made my reservation, I was told I had the "marching band room".  I was envisioning a cheap Disney knockoff. And what kind of hotel has a bowling alley on site - right next door to the spa.  But I was tired, hungry, and ready to crash almost anywhere.  So imagine my surprise when I saw the room and it was anything but cheap.  It's adorable, as you can see from the pictures. But it was going to take more than a cute room to make me feel better.  I was still hungry and tired and pretty irritated that I was going to have to make a 200 mile round trip drive on Wednesday, a fact that I had just discovered.  I decided to check out the hotel restaurant and then come back to the room to see if I could find a place to stay Wednesday night rather than make that drive.  I hate making travel arrangements at the last minute but 200 miles was a bit more than I wanted to do in one day. 

I went down to the hotel restaurant to see what they had to offer.  To my dismay, they were closed.  Very hungry and irritable at this point, I turned around to go back upstairs.  That's when I met Shane.

Shane is the bartender here at Hotel Pattee.  When he saw me leaving, he asked if I was wanting dinner.  I said yes.  He told me the restaurant didn't open for dinner until 5:00pm but if I wanted to wait in the bar, I was welcome.  Since I hadn't seen anything else promising on the drive in, I decided to wait. 

Shane quickly got me seated in the bar and brought me a glass of wine.  We made the typical hotel small-talk - where are traveling from, what brings you to town, etc.  I answered his questions with the shortest possible answers.  And then he told me I looked tired.  How perceptive of him, I thought.  I told him I was very tired.  And here is where the magic started.  He asked if I was ready for dinner.  I reminded him that it wasn't yet 5:00 but yes, I couldn't wait to eat and go up to my room.  He asked if I liked steak.  I said yes.  He asked how I liked it cooked and I replied rare.  Then he said to make myself comfortable and he would see about getting me a steak dinner right here in the bar so I wouldn't even have to move.  And while he was at it, he would get me another glass of wine.  I wasn't driving, was I?  Only up the stairs to my room, I replied.  And a steak did sound good.  And so I proceeded to settle in with another glass of wine and waited to see what Shane would bring.  I still wasn't expecting much but anything would taste good at this point.

True to his word, Shane soon appeared with a plate with what was probably the best steak I have ever tasted, smothered in onions and mushrooms, along with fresh broccoli and a big baked potato.  While I ate, he hovered close enough to be attentive to my needs but not so close as to be annoying.  As I ate this fabulous meal, my mood improved, thanks to the food and a couple of glasses of wine!  Shane asked if I was feeling better and I said yes, much improved.  I told him how surprised I was by the quality of the food and by the room.  He laughed at told me I was not the only one.  He proceeded to tell me a bit about the history of the hotel and the town.  (Lots more history here than I expected!).  He said he was glad that I had enjoyed the steak and I confessed to being a bit of a foodie.  He said he was too and we talked about food for a little bit.  Then he asked if, foodie that I was, I had saved room for dessert.  I was feeling satisfied at this point, but the steak was so wonderful, I was curious to see what they would do for dessert.  Shane handed me the dessert menu.  Nothing spectacular jumped out at me.  The usual bread pudding, brownie sundae, crème brulee.  Noticing that I didn't seem very interested, Shane once again stepped up.  He offered to see if the chef could come up with something special for me if I was interested.  Once again, he disappeared into the kitchen, only to reappear a few minutes later to ask if I would be interested in a chocolate fudge cheesecake.  Fudge and cheesecake in the same dessert?  Absolutely! 

Shane quickly brought me a piece of scrumptious cheesecake.  He asked me if I wanted another glass of wine.  I said no, but asked if I could get a cup of tea.  He brought me a pot of hot water and then a box with a selection of teas.  I took one teabag and he told me to take one more so I could have one back in the room later tonight if I wanted. 

I finished my cheesecake and tea, paid my bill, and was getting ready to leave.  Shane asked how long I was staying and I told him I would be here at least one more night.  He asked if he could expect me for dinner again tomorrow.  I said probably.  He asked if it would be around the same time.  I said more than likely.  He said great.  He would have a glass of wine and my salad ready when I got there, to which I replied great!

Now, I'm pretty sure that the chef didn't cook a steak just for me.  And I'm equally sure he didn't bake a cheesecake just for me.  But the point is that Shane made me feel like it was possible.  He made me feel like I was the most important guest in the bar.  And that is the point of customer service.  Stellar customer service can often make up for a less than stellar product.  Customers that feel important will return again and again.  I know I will.  Which is why I came back to my room and wrote this post rather than look for a place to stay Wednesday night.  Because I will be coming right back here where Shane takes good care of me!



Larry said...

What an awesomely detailed post, Melodiann! It's much as we say we want "stuff" we actually want to feel a certain way. Looks like this guy figured it out. :)

John Logan said...

This is exactly what PR is all about and Shane has it down beautifully. I think your statement that he was right there but not enough to be irritating was key. Very nicely written as to make us want to read the whole interesting evening. It is amazing how some figure out this amazing process of making someone feel right at home without being overbearing. I loved your honesty of being tired and hungry.

Debra Jason said...

Way to go Shane! He took fabulous care of you, made a lasting impression, and a loyal customer (should you ever venture that way again).
Thanks for sharing your story w/us. Kind of goes to show that we shouldn't be too quick to judge.

Jenni Ryan said...

What a wonderful story and great customer service. Sounds like someone I would want to work with .

Brian McDaniel said...

Great read and thanks for sharing your experience with us. It's always nice to get great customer service... and a great lesson for us to learn HOW to give great customer service!