Are You There, Holiday Inn? It’s Me — Phil

Most recent books on marketing and customer service recommend that companies monitor what’s being said about them on the Internet, and respond quickly to unhappy customers who express themselves there.

Some companies are doing a great job of this. Today I’m going to find out if Holiday Inn is one of them. This post is going up on Friday after noon — I will update it if I get a response. Here goes:

Dear Holiday Inn,

I just completed a stay at your Sioux Falls City Centre location, and I have a bone to pick with you. Here it is:

You promise free “high speed internet access”. In reality, there are two levels — “basic” access, in which the access is free, but is anything but high-speed — the connection is slower than dial-up. There is also a “premium level” that is supposed to be much faster.

On Thursday evening, I finally broke down, pulled out my credit card, and paid $8.95 for the “premium level.” It was just as slow as the free version. After 20 minutes on the phone with Ibahn Tech Support and another half hour of rebooting, I concluded that it wasn’t going to get any better, so I went down to the front desk to ask for my money back

There, your front desk people told me that:

1. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We usually tell people not to pay for the upgrade.”

2. They didn’t know how to give me a refund.

3. The manager (no need to publicly embarrass him by naming him here, but his first name is Tom) wasn’t in, and they didn’t know when he was coming back. “He might be in tomorrow, but he might be on vacation. We don’t really know.”  They suggested calling and leaving a voice mail.

That’s when it got really interesting. The manager’s outgoing message voice mail message said (I’m paraphrasing here)

Today is Thursday, and I’ll be out of the office this afternoon and evening. I’ll be back on Friday, so please don’t leave a message — just call back tomorrow.

I must admit, I’ve never heard that one before.

Rather than inconveniencing him by expecting him to call me back, I thought I’d try to reach someone who cared. Here’s what I’d like to suggest that you have your local managers do:

1. Empower your employees to make an $8.95 decision without having to seek help.

2. Have a manager available, or at least tell them when he/she will be back.

3. Take the trouble to accept messages, promise to call back, and do so. Don’t make your customers do all the work.

4. Either have decent free wi-fi, or skip the free stuff and just charge for a good connection. Don’t bait  and switch.

And, Holiday Inn? One more thing:

I’d like my $8.95 back.


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