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A Tale of Expectations

Posted on : 16-12-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Customer Service, Social Media

Tags: , ,

2

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A tweet says so much yet may not provide clarity. A few days ago I tweeted about two experiences over the past week with hotels. The more I think about the tweet the more I realize it is a tale of expectations. We tend to tweet or post to Facebook items we are passionate about or the extremes of our own expectations. This is the story of both extremes of my expectations.

When it comes to service I typically have very high standards and I am frustrated often by poor Customer handling. At the same time I have come to expect poor service. It is a sad state of affairs for the service industry. We were attending a wedding at a resort in Atlantic Beach, Florida (near Jacksonville). I had low expectations for the hotel. I knew it would be nice based on the Internet pictures, but I never expected to be wow’ed by the experience. I can count on one hand how often I was wow’ed by a hotel. Anyway the One Ocean Resort was not only able to wow me, they have moved to the top of my list for hotels. It all started upon arrival. We decided to drive down from New Jersey. The plan was a few days for the wedding and a few days in Disney prior to driving back. Due to a police incident in Virginia, we were stuck on the highway from 11:00 PM until after 2:00 AM. At that point stopping at a hotel seemed a waste, so we drove straight through, arriving at the resort around noon or 1:00 PM. We pulled up to valet, introduced ourselves to the attendant, and let him know we first wanted to see if the room was ready before off loading. He turned to us and said “Mr. Eliason, not only is your room ready, I have your key right here. There is no need to check in, let me take your bags right up”. It was a tremendous start. The hotel room had a beautiful view of the ocean and loaded with snacks to meet any tastes. The hotel, prior to arrival, also emailed asking snack and drink preferences. The room was loaded with our selections. What a great touch. During our two night stay we were greeted by name from many of the staff members. The wedding was beautiful and a brunch we threw for the wedding guests was perfect. I loved One Ocean!

After the wedding we took the few hour ride to Orlando to visit Mickey and all the Princesses. This was my third trip to Disney and the other two were magical, so I had very high expectations. This time, using credit card points, we were staying at the Grand Floridian. It was just going to be one night, so why not. During the few hour drive and after reviewing the weather, we decided to extend our stay 1 night, if the hotel had availability. So we arrived at the hotel. The guard was exceptional directing us to the front of the hotel to leave our bags before taking the car to self park. The bellhop was really nice as I have come to expect from cast members. We then drove to self park, which was full. We then found ourselves in cast member parking, which did not seem right, so we drove back and did valet. As we went past the security guard again he did let us know we could have parked in cast member parking but I decided to valet instead. Finally made my way to check in. Again another nice gentleman greeted me. I asked about extending the stay. He checked me in then had to call the reservation desk to see if they could extend (why he could not do it seemed disjointed to me). He then informed me that the reservation was not done through Disney but he could add a night at a different rate. I was fine with that. That night we attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. It was a magical, although wet experience. It was great being in Magic Kingdom with less of a crowd. The next day I got up and the first thing I did was work with the concierge for the girls to attend a dinner with Cinderella. I then went back to the check in desk because I realized our car pass had the incorrect date. The woman at the desk was confused by the reservation and was telling me it was not right. She made some changes and said that should fix it. It was at this point I started to expect problems ahead. Anyway it was time to head to Animal Kingdom to start the day. As soon as we arrived at Animal Kingdom I made a purchase at the gift shop (waterproof bag after the wet evening before) and charged it to the room. We then went in the park. I love Animal Kingdom, especially for the character access. After meeting a few characters we went to make another purchase. This time charging to the room was not going to happen. Our card was deactivated. I called the number on the card. The first person was very nice and listened carefully, she then had to transfer me to the hotels front desk. The next person seemed confused and had to connect me with someone in the back office. I am not sure what she did, but I found myself back in the queue and about 20 minutes later back at the front desk. I hate loops! Needless to say the new person had no clue, so I reiterated the story. Instead of reactivating the cards, she issued new keys that they would keep at the front desk. If I wanted to make any purchases, I just had to tell the person to key in the code at the bottom of the key and change the last two digits to 07. I would guess they can not reactivate existing keys. There system, to avoid risk, creates trouble for the Customer. Not uncommon but very frustrating. When we finally got back to the hotel, shortly before the scheduled dinner, I went to the front desk to pick up the keys, again explaining my frustration with the experience. Instead of getting the keys already cut, they printed new ones and handed them to me. I provided my wife her key and suggested she shop and I would take the kids back to the room. The hotel is spread over multiple buildings, so heading to your room can take time, especially with 2 girls. I finally made it there and you probably already guessed, the key did not work. This most likely meant my wife could not make purchases or get in the room if she beats me back. I made my way with the girls back to the front desk. I again explain the situation and my frustration. He seemed to think it was about charging back to the room an hands me back the key and says now you can charge. I said great, of course my goal now is getting into my room. He then reviewed a few things and said he had to go back and check with his manager. He then came back and printed another key and promised that one would work. All the other keys were now useless. I was fine by that. I was surprised that if he went back and relayed the story to the manager, I would have expected then to come out and apologize for the trouble, but none of that happened. Well the key did work, the bill seemed correct and the rest of the trip was as magical as I expect from Disney. I have seen similar key trouble in many hotels, but I had higher expectations for Disney, especially the Grand Floridian. I did not see the empathy from the staff as I would have expected. I loved the trip to Florida and I know I will be back to Disney but maybe next time my expectations will not be as grand.