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Great people can’t trump a bad infrastructure – tales of customer service

Customer Service is Cold

Too Cold

I’ve been traveling around the country this last month, and have had some GREAT experiences…and some NOT so great experiences.  What’s been the difference? Previously, I would have answered “the people”  – every time.  But it isn’t only the people that can make a client/customer happy – there must be an infrastructure that supports delivering what the customer pays for.  I know that sounds pretty basic, but all too often the foundation for providing a product or service is faulty.  The best customer service people in the world cannot make up for that failure. I’m staying in a hotel in Alexandria, Virginia this week, to allow me to meet with clients in the Virginia/ Maryland/DC area.  My check-in was delightful – the front desk staff is friendly, accommodating, efficient, and kind. The hotel is a “renovated” apartment building, offering “suites.” Imagine my surprise upon opening my door to find that my room was ~58 degrees with the air conditioning blowing merrily.  I was able to turn off the arctic breeze, but no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the heat to turn on.  The maintenance man was dispatched immediately, and was very responsive and kind, only to tell me that there was nothing he could do for me since the entire building’s system was either on “heat” or “cold”, and it takes 3 days to switch it out.  He was very apologetic, and brought me a space heater. The heater, however, had no fan so was only effective if I sat 3 inches from it on the floor. Which I did for a while. But wait! There’s more! A team of young boys was staying along the same hall in which my room was located.  The running, jumping, and door slamming was tolerable (sort of) until bedtime.  I’m kinda picky about getting at least a few hours of sleep before important client meetings. I really hate to complain about the exuberance of good kids, but after 11 pm, I did. I unfortunately noticed no difference, but thankfully my ear plugs, white noise machine, and Tylenol PM helped. But wait! There’s more!

Customer Service Can't Help Bad Infrastructure

Too Hot

The microwave arced when I was heating my oatmeal. And there was REAL FIRE! OMG!!!!  The same maintenance guy came right away. And told me (again) that there was nothing he could do – they’d have to get an insurance adjuster in to take pictures before they could remove the microwave and replace it. And that would take a few days. He also offered to get room freshener to try to mask the burned microwave smell. I am leaving in the morning (I will forego any oatmeal!) or I would definitely change hotels. I do feel sorry for the employees of this establishment. But even sorrier for the guests.  The kindness, responsiveness, and friendliness of the people who work at this hotel do NOT make up for the cold room, the faulty equipment, the noise level, the fire, and the fear of staying in a room that is not safe. So there you have it. Basic infrastructure is necessary before any customer service can be effective. Leadership requires making the tough decisions to build or renovate basic infrastructure, establish policies that empower employees to fix problems, and do what it takes to provide what customers are paying for.


If you need a little help with building the kind of business that serves people with excellence, we’d love to work with you.  Contact Sandi@ExecutiveCoachAustin.com or call (254) 793-0101.

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