Good and not-so-good customer service….

February 21, 2016 at 11:57 am 1 comment



Increasingly companies are using technology as part of their customer service mix. Often, it feels like “lip service” rather than a genuine attempt at driving improvement, or genuine interest, or reward.

The London hotel I stay at every week, and have done so for 18 months now (and who shall remain nameless for now) send me a web survey after every stay which I complete diligently. But the bangers and mash still look like something the dog has thrown up, and I still have to ask for an iron. It is as if that responding to the survey should make me feel better. It doesn’t. But, an ironing board or an occasional gourmet sausage might!

Similarly, Virgin Trains periodically survey me, but their wifi still disappoints and “train rage” still ensues regularly as a result of the failure of their seat reservation system. But, at least they have now begun to automatically compensate me when trains run late….

But recently, I have experienced two extremes of customer relationship management technology being used – one which pleased; the other which amused.

I used to stay at the Rotterdam Hilton pretty much every week for six years, but that was 8 years ago. Back then it was very tired, with noisy rooms, and the food was awful. And it was in Rotterdam – Stoke with modern art architecture. Even back in the day they would attempt to placate me – I had Platinum status – by upgrading me to a slightly less tired and noisy room and a plethora of Hilton branded gifts, such as rubber ducks, pens and picture frames, which were difficult to shift even at a Wythenshawe car boot sale.

But that was 8 years ago. Imagine my surprise on returning to the hotel after such a long time and to see the transformation of the lobby following a recent refurb. It was as clean and shiny as a shiny clean thing.

Imagine my even greater surprise to be greeted at reception by one of the same easy-on-the-eye, bubbly receptionist from 8 years ago who warmly declared “welcome back – you haven’t changed!”

It was only a little lie, but one that made me smile and made me feel special. Imagine my even greater greater surprise to be told “this is your 75th stay in this hotel” (the 74th being 8 years ago) and we would like to upgrade you to the Presidential Suite. That made me smile more and feel more special.

Now, I have only ever been upgraded to a Presidential Suite once before, in the Taj Hotel in Cape Town. But, that was a case of mistaken identity, and I still wonder where the South African Vice President of a gold mine spent that evening. But, in Rotterdam, this was a genuine reward for loyalty.

The Presidential Suite was beautiful, immaculate, and spacious far beyond my needs and stacked with gifts of champagne, cakes, savouries, and a personalised towel (which now resides in a box marked “car boot sale” due to its Hilton branding. I just need a coincidence of a same-named Vice President of a South African gold mine visiting a Wythenshawe car boot sale, and I am genuinely quids in…..).

And, it didn’t stop there. At the bar I was treated as a special guest and the housekeeping staff were very forgiving when I couldn’t find the hairdryer in any of my myriad rooms and cupboards.

While I do like to think that, even after 8 years, I live long in the memory and can still catch the eye of an attractive hotel receptionist, I am aware that Hilton has systems which can track attendance. But this was technology well deployed and customer service at its absolute very best. Although, I did make the point that if 8 years ago, on my 74th visit to the hotel they had told me I was in for such a treat next time, then I may have been back somewhat sooner.

And, upon my return home I received an email from Waitrose, inviting me to take a web survey to tell them what I thought of the vegetables I had recently purchased. Really? “Upon getting my courgette home, I realised that it was a little too green…..”. “My moussaka would have been much better if I had used potatoes like mom used to do, rather than the aubergine I acquired……” “My purchase of sage, was in retrospect both unwise and inessential….”.


Seriously? Only when Waitrose allows me to add Cabernet Sauvignon to my personal picks will I truly feel rewarded for my loyalty.


Entry filed under: middleman. Tags: , , , , , , .

Stress purchase….. Learn the lessons of history….please!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Anonymous  |  February 22, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    You must submit the vegetable reviews “hasty and inessential acquisition of sage” is a classic! However, I must object to the views expressed re aubergine which are both narrow and ill-informed



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