Are your ducks in a row?

by Thom Hiatt

“Don’t be intimidated about having to write articles for your web site,” we tell clients, “You can just write about the best or worst thing that happened during the day / week.” Occasionally we recommend that a client blog about things he or she has learned and would like to share with others.

We follow our own advice. And once in a while we even write about things that just blow us away.

Over the past few days I have had an ongoing experience that warrants a blog post. It occurs to me that companies that have their ducks in a row are simply more successful… Or at least their customers THINK they are more successful.

My situation has to do with a hotel room I have been trying to book for an upcoming event in October. And the problem comes from the fact that the hotel’s customer service, management, and sales departments are clearly not on the same page.

(Please, take this article as advice, and not so much a gripe session. Sure, it could go either way, but read it for your business’ own good.)

One week ago, the event organizer let me know by email that I was to call a specific hotel and ask for the ACME Company room block rate, for the specific night. So I called, and the front desk had no knowledge of the company, the block, or the rate.They suggested I speak with the Sales Manager, but said he was out.

I called the next day, asked to speak with the Sales Manager, and was put in his voice mail. I left a message, and did not receive a return phone call.

The next day I sent an email to the hotel manager, simply requesting help booking the room. I did not hear back from her.

I called again to the front desk and put a temporary reservation on a room, pending their confirmation with the Sales Department of the rate. The agreement was $119 for the night.

The weekend passed, and today I called again. The front desk still had no information about the event, the block, or the rate. They patched me to the Sales Manager, and again, I was put into voice mail.

I waited 30 minutes. And decided to go online. I found a web site offering a better room in the same hotel, for less money than the $119 I had originally been given as part of the “discounted group rate.” I booked it, knowing from the web site that I could cancel at anytime with no penalty. I felt this was a good idea since I was still waiting to hear back from the hotel’s sales manager.

Another 30 minutes passed and the Sales Manager called me back. This is where it got interesting:

  1. He had information about the event, and had the event organizer’s name.
  2. He asked ME for the organizer’s phone number because he said, “The number I have does not seem to be going through. I must have written it down incorrectly.”
  3. He had no idea where I would have gotten a better rate for a better room. He claimed that, “These 3rd parties come up with the craziest stuff.”

The good news is that I am booked (thanks to a crazy third party) and my needs are met.

The bad news is that others are likely dealing with this nonsense as we speak.

A few questions come to mind:

  • “Why do we all get suckered into these block room rates when often they are not as good as just booking it ourselves online?”
  • “With the systems and technology available these days, how can 5-7 business days pass and a major hotel in a major city does not have its ducks in a row?”
  • “How is it even possible that a front desk operator cannot look up a group event and answer a simple question?”

Are the ducks in a row at your company?

  • Do customer service reps know about your marketing programs? Do they know what you are currently promoting? And are they equipped to handle a variety of likely incoming questions?
  • Are your account reps and managers trained to reply to incoming messages quickly and effectively? Remember that even a 15-minute delay can cause you to lose a sale.
  • Are you working to make each customer transaction as quick and painless as possible, with the fewest opportunities for snags and errors?

Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comment form below. Thank you for reading.