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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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