And How to Win a Customer

A corollary to Keith's ADT story: The other day I traveled to New York for a party celebrating our June issue on design, and because there were no hotels in the city (What's up with that, New York?), I booked a room at the Crowne Plaza by the airport. I didn't arrive until 11pm, at which point I learned that I didn't have a room after all. A big federal agency that had been staying at the hotel for weeks extended its stay at the last minute. I got the boot.

Before I could protest -- or start composing a letter to the CEO (Keith isn't the only one with this hobby) -- the front desk clerk told me she had already booked a complimentary room for me elsewhere. A car was waiting outside to take me. Since I would miss grabbing a late bite, she threw in a meal as well.

Now I wasn't the least bit happy about getting bumped in the interest of a bigger customer and staying 15 miles farther from the airport and losing sleep after a long day, but I found myself surprisingly mollified. The staff acted genuinely apologetic, and they recovered quickly, satisfying both the feds and the little guy. As much as I wanted to be miffed at Crowne Plaza, I couldn't help but be impressed: A travel nightmare became a positive experience -- one I've been telling people about ever since. Talk about customer service paying off for a business. Where have you experienced this sort of service recovery? Or perhaps a failed attempt at recovering?

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  • Mira Furth

    last December my husband and i were booked to stay friday and saturday night at Seaport Hotel in Boston. Friday night, while we only had to travel from cambridge to Seaport Boulvard in Boston, due to terrible weather (very strong winds and heavy rain), horrible traffic and useless road signs what couldn't be more than 15 miles took us three hours! as we checked in I just had to tell someone the nightmare of the recent hours. the women cheking us in was kind enough to listent to me. we had to leave for the Wang center for a performance soon after arrival and didn't get back to the hotel until after 1:00 am. in our room we found on the dresser a box of Godivia chocolat truffles and a card saying that they hope I will never have such a terrible travel experience again. and they didn't even have anything to do with my 'travel misadventure'! to me this was customer service above and beyond excellent!

  • Jason Womack

    So, it was at Harvard Business School, I had been invited to deliver a one-day presentation (Getting Things Done). I arrived late to the campus, and somehow found the building I was to stay in. Although the offices were closed, and most everyone had gone home, I knocked on an office window and a woman came to it. I introduced myself, and asked if I could use a phone.

    She let me in, and we found the package (with a map and key) that had been left for me. Then, in a tour de force, she even found me dinner, and a glass of wine...which at the end of this particular day was a nice and special treat. Thank you HBS, you all are great!