I spend a lot of nights on the road each year, and like many frequent hotel guests, I have left several things behind in my room during my stays. In the past year alone, I have forgotten power cords, a ski boot charger, a journal and a kid's retainer.
In each of these situations, the hotel has never contacted me about the missing item. Rather, I have had to call and chase down the item with housekeeping or security. I've experienced this with several major chains and high-quality independent hotels alike, including places where I hold top loyalty status.
I am aware that I'm responsible for my own lost items, but this is a significant customer service failure.
Contrast this behavior with the story of a young girl who lost her Elmo doll at the Ritz Carlton. The Ritz team sprang to action, returning the doll, and even creating a photobook of Elmo "vacationing" at the Ritz--lounging by the pool, playing Xbox, cooking with the chefs. The result was a national story.
World class customer service and going above and beyond pays off in the long-term with loyalty. This broken process at hotels shows and three common services mistakes many businesses make.
Having a lack in departmental communication.
This is a classic example of how disconnected departments can lead to unideal results. When companies operate in silos and teams and departments don't communicate, errors in all facets of business are more likely, including customer service.
Housekeeping teams must do a difficult job quickly, and they are often just following the established process: bring a lost item to lost and found, tag its room number and move on. Other departments are not looped in.
The room number is saved, but guests often don't remember what room they had after departing. The front desk, which could log missing items and match them to guests, is also not notified. From there, a simple phone call could proactively tell the guest about their lost item before they leave town, saving the aggravation and cost of mailing it. It would also leave the guest with a great memory of their stay.
By creating a process that requires communication across teams and departments, any business can deliver better service to customers.
Missing an ownership mentality.
Working in silos often leads to a lack of ownership. Many times, after calling the hotel to find an lost item, I have been passed from team to team--from the front desk, to housekeeping, to security. It quickly becomes clear that there isn't a single person or team taking ownership of returning the forgotten items.
Customers want to know somebody in a company is invested in solving their problem. Ritz Carlton created a Loss Prevention Officer position to help solve their problem. This position establishes a person who owns the problem, and who guests know are committed to returning lost items.
At my company, we always give new clients a single point of contact to interface with--it proves that we value their business and clarifies who they can reach out to for assistance to solve their problems. Don't make customers figure out your business, just give them confidence that the problem is being solved, and get them the outcome they seek.
Not using data to help better service customers.
If you've ever been on the phone with a customer service rep, you probably know the frustration of having the call disconnect and needing to call back and go through the switchboard again. Even though the representative has your phone number it is extremely rare for them to call back after a dropped call--the burden falls on the customer.
This is inexplicable, because today companies have more data than ever about their customers. For example, a hotel could easily ship a lost item to the guest's home without even picking up the phone--especially to those in loyalty programs.
The best companies use data to their advantage--they know the preferences of their VIP clients and take steps to give the best possible service to them. With a wealth of data at their disposal, companies who don't use that information to enhance their customer service are missing a significant opportunity.
Business leaders never know when getting a small detail right will retain a customer for life, or when an extra mile of customer service will become a national story.
So, I encourage all businesses to do better. Follow this example and give your customers the service they deserve.