OR … How to get more value for your money, have great customer service, and improve the brand and product experience for the next guy (who actually might be you), just by being a great and responsible consumer… (no coupons necessary!)
Reality check: Unfortunately, the actual hotel lobby does not quite resemble this crisp, bright and cheery photo featured on the Marriott website.
Courtyard by Marriott – Tremont , Boston, Mass, USA
The hotel sits in the Boston theater district, a landmark building with a lobby reminiscent of opulent glamorous days with vast entryways, tall ceilings slathered in detailed carvings and adorned with crystal chandeliers. Wow, this is going to be really nice! There’s a steady stream of families buzzing about who have come for a college visit weekend. Boston, which has more colleges per square inch than any other city in the world, gets pretty busy during these college event times, which is why we booked our hotel way in advance, and why, after the first impression wears off, the hotel’s glaring signs of wear-and-tear and dingy tinge we notice are disappointing but understandable given this barrage of constant college traffic and the age of the building. But rather than dwell on the frayed carpet and furniture that’s reminiscent of a 1970′s movie set, we keep our focus on the beautiful architectural details in the lobby and high hopes for a comfortable room.
During our check-in we asked our usual favorite question: are there any further discounts we might not be aware of that we might be entitled to? We were told we were getting the best possible rate with AAA Members and local university discounts. Okay, now on to the room.
Again, given the age of the building, and the fact that we’re in town to tour the college, not to luxuriate in the room, we are willing to make do with some of the emerging additional minor glitches: rattling elevators, no wifi (just plug-in, but at least it was free), some funky caulking in the bathroom, more of the B-movie set furniture, dull beige something-or-other colored walls, the sprinkler pipe sticking out of the wall with an intrusively large “do not use a hanger on this” sticker posted next to it, and the security latch lock on the door was dangling off the wall with screws sticking out.
When we return to the hotel late that evening, the lobby was filled with a pounding and rumbling sound which we assumed must be a train or subway nearby. Nope, no train… no subway… dance clubs… three of them surrounding the building. No problem, we’re on the 7th floor. Wrong. Pa chong, pa chong, pa chonga..till the very very late hours (or early hours). The next night the same thing, only louder.
Okay, so where am I going with all this? Yep, you guessed it…Ask. Ask for the service provider to stand by their service agreement to you. Ask for compensation, ask for consideration, just ask politely for a remedy. (see SLTV’s blog entries: How to Get Great Hotel Service and Save Money, Too! and The Single Most Helpful Tip for Shopping)
At check out we brought the broken latch to the front desk, politely brought up the noise issue, and pointed out that we had booked the room well in advance to ensure having a room, but now hotels nearby are offering even lower rates, and asked for some compensation for the inconvenience of the broken lock and noisy conditions. And… we received an $80 credit.
This isn’t meant to be a review or pan. We’ve generally found Marriott hotels to be an excellent value, and we were really surprised by this facility. We do appreciate that the Marriott front desk staff was willing to listen and empowered to offer reasonable amends. This speaks well for Marriott’s customer service policy, and is why we will continue to patronize Marriott.
The fact is that other than the broken latch lock, we never even brought up the general state of disrepair. We were willing to completely accept many of the inconveniences. But we also have our limits. The noise was our tipping point, and keeping this to ourselves would not only have been a disservice to us, but it would also have been a disservice to future guests, and to the hotel as well.
What you pay for and what you expect in return is, to a large extent, an ‘agreement’ between you and the service provider. It’s their business to serve you, but it’s up to you to negotiate those parameters. Service providers need to hear from you about what’s working or not working, if you will or will not be returning, and why. This ensures that you and others will benefit by getting better service, more value, and better opportunities for deals in the future. One of the most effective and positive ways you can advocate for yourself , keep your service provider in the know, and receive benefits is to simply ask ask ask! Politely asking is also a way of politely informing.
And, take it one level higher by using social media to let companies (and everyone else) know how your experience was, and how responsive they were or weren’t. It’s a great way to ensure future value and quality. (see SLTV’s co-founder, Michael Fishman’s blog entry: Using the Social Web to Maximize Customer Experience)
Being budget-conscious does not mean you need to compromise on service, and being a good customer never hurts.
Be a Customer Who Gets What You Want - Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneur and marketing guru, comments on how consumers benefit from being good customers.
Keep Your Customers! - Ryan Lee, business marketing specialist, gives excellent concrete tips for any business to keep their most valuable asset, their customers, coming back for more.
Cost Effective Marketing for Small Business - Joe Polish, President of Piranha Marketing, reveals invaluable top techniques to market your business more effectively & efficiently.
How Behavioral Economics Can Boost Your Bottom Line - Dan Ariely a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, explains how we perceive value
PS: Please indulge me as I take a brief slightly off-topic break: This post wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to the absolute highlight of the hotel: The Encore Lounge, a piano bar off the lobby (Courtyard by Marriott – Tremont , Boston). Amtrak train conductor by day, musical comedy Dame by night, Colleen Powers had us completely enthralled with her impeccable timing and spot-on observations (no one escapes her keen and cutting wit). Jimmy on piano followed her every cue and didn’t miss a beat when backing up the locals taking a turn on the mic. The entire scene - was completely entertaining. And, now to bring us back on topic: It’s a tremendous entertainment value, with no cover charge!
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