I’ve always held the view that we all make mistakes, and perfect delivery each time is damn hard. My maxim, however, has been that, when you screw up, how you respond to the mistake or customer’s complaint does matter and may make the difference. If you get a second chance, then use it well in dealing with a complaint or addressing the product or service malfunction. Customer service 101, I guess.
To err is human
In the journey of internal brand-building, the world is seldom perfect and, as hard as we try, it does go wrong from time to time. Leading brands such as Toyota have had assembly-line defects that have necessitated major model recalls to correct the problem and you may recount the false poison scare experienced by Pick n Pay some years back that resulted in a range of products removed from shelves as a precaution. Consumers are forgiving in situations such as these and it’s one of the benefits of a strong and credible brand — the capacity to bounce back from problem situations or trade through tough economic cycles.
This shouldn’t be confused with poor leadership and immoral behaviour, such as the VW emission scandal as example. No consumer is likely to easily forget or forgive that from a leading motor corporation and it’s very different from a legitimate operational or manufacturing error.
A second chance well-used
This article is being prepared on the patio of African Pride Mount Grace, where I have experienced exactly that — a second chance well-used. Following a weekend visit earlier this year, I sent an email to hotel management to inform that the experience was disappointing and off-brand, when compared to the reputation the destination holds out and the brand promise that it makes.
It hinged upon a number of service issues and the general experience in a hotel undergoing some refurbishment activity and witnessing an extremely busy weekend, with multiple company conferences taking place at the same time, mixed in with the usual weekend guest quota. It was evident that we may have caught the hotel at precisely the wrong time, but I nonetheless forwarded my grievance in the interest of feedback and, I suppose, my brand-promise preoccupation.
Rising to the challenge
To its credit, I got a call, within hours of despatching my email on the Monday morning, from the deputy general manager. She offered a huge apology, without feeble excuses and without being defensive on any of the issues. She listened attentively to my gripe, took time to understand my point of view and openly acknowledged that, if this was how I felt, they had failed in meeting expectations. She concluded the call by offering us a complimentary night for a return visit once the refurbishments were completed, with the ‘counter-challenge’ of re-experiencing the destination as promised and assessing whether that was more in line with expectations.
This article concludes the return visit and precedes my note back to her to comment on the visit again and, more importantly, to thank her and the hotel team for clearing the air. Everything ran like clockwork again this time around and we experienced outstanding service, were totally pampered in an upgraded room, and were welcomed by a small gift and personal message from the GM and his team — small and special touches that make a real difference.
Even if you argue that this is reactive and over-the-top treatment, the effort stands out and has done a lot to restore our view of a facility that we have visited often over the years but, more importantly, has demonstrated how exactly to respond to a customer problem or complaint, as this was.
Surprisingly, and by contrast, I’ve not heard a word from kulula following my column in September 2016. Admittedly, I didn’t log it directly with the company, but it does say something about its social listening skills, or lack thereof, as I had comments from a number of other interested parties on social media following that article.
Compare that, in turn, to the story of Tim at an Engen forecourt in a previous column, too. It was a positive story but was impressively picked up directly by the Engen social media team, who responded immediately with a note of thanks and, what’s more, prompted the franchisee to do likewise; and ensured a follow-through extension of the message to Tim himself for the exemplary service feedback, while reinforcing the message that this is what the brand aspires to, rather than resting upon its laurels for the positive feedback.
It’s a wrap
African Pride Mount Grace Hotel & Spa has had other brand-related issues to consider in its transition from the Protea Hotel Group to a leading global hotel group under the Marriot International banner, but that’s for another day. In the interim, well done to the hotel for living out its brand promise and completely setting the record straight, given the opportunity to do so.
In signing out for 2016, may your holiday season be filled with service delight and amazing experiences; and your 2017 filled with growth and prosperity!
This article was originally posted on Marklives.com