Note from Charlie – own your mistakes

March 9th, 2017 Charlie Funk
Charlie Funk

“Take care of your customers and those who should be.”

For more than 82 years, this has been the simple mission of our company. We spend a considerable amount of time and money training all of our associates to provide excellent customer service. We also talk about “service recovery,” which is the name given to efforts to “rescue” a customer when we (the bank) have erred or provided less than stellar service. Data shows that when service recovery is performed well, customer loyalty actually increases.

My wife and I had an experience recently where both good and bad service recovery took place during the same sequence of events.

We were scheduled to attend an industry conference and had reserved four nights at the convention hotel. At least, that is what we thought. To understand the dynamics of the hotel, please understand that two large hotels under a common “flag” (brand) exist on the same property. We checked into hotel A on Saturday evening. The desk clerk took his time, went back to talk to his manager, and then came back and rather abruptly told us that we had (erroneously) reserved the prior night and when we did not show up, the hotel, without notifying us, cancelled the entire reservation. Of course, I asked “so what are we supposed to do tonight?”

Answer: “I can get you a room at “Hotel B” next door tonight.”

“What about the rest of our stay?”

“I can’t answer that, you will have to talk to Hotel B about that.”

“Will I be charged, then, for last night since you cancelled my reservation without telling me?”

“Yes, you will be charged.”

Did I mention that we have “Platinum Elite” status with this particular brand? Obviously we were not treated as high value customers.

So, we gathered our bags, put them back into our rental car and drove to Hotel B. There, I am happy to report, things began to improve. Keep in mind that Hotel B is part of the same hotel umbrella as Hotel A.

The desk clerk cheerfully checked us in but informed us that this hotel could only board us for one night as they, too, were at full capacity for several days. It wasn’t long before the manager got involved. He looked me in the eye and said “I am going to do everything I can to help you, Mr. Funk.” The manager did several things that were productive. He called Hotel A and had the charges reversed. He confirmed that what had happened “was unusual but not unprecedented” (these, I believe, were code words for “we messed up”). He found a hotel room for us that was a few miles away and reserved it for us. He could not have been more sympathetic and accommodating.

We were not excited about the prospect of “commuting” to the conference, but under the circumstances, this was not a horrible resolution.

There is a happy ending. I contacted the trade association that was hosting the event and this association had more than 1,000 rooms booked at Hotel A (this is code for “they had a lot of influence!”) By 10 a.m. the next morning, I had been moved to the head of the stand-by list and soon thereafter had a room. The rest of the conference was much less eventful than the first 18 hours!

The moral of the story? Good customer service matters. Problems will happen and in this case, I had made an error with my reservation and was partly to blame. But Hotel A took no ownership of the situation and did not see fit to help a very good customer. Hotel B went the extra mile to find the very best possible resolution.

Mistakes happen. It’s how we deal with them that makes all the difference to our customers.

Charlie Funk

About the author

Charlie Funk is President and CEO of MidWestOne Bank. He works with the MidWestOne team to oversee the daily operation of the bank.

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