The Incidental Tourist

Surveys aren’t always a pain…

We’ve all seen them, the email after your stay at a hotel, or after renting or using some service.  The “How did we do” survey mail that comes a day or so after your trip.  Mostly, we ignore them, deleting them along with so much other cruft that builds up in our inbox.  But not all surveys are bad. Some, in fact, can turn out rather well.

For one thing, people often complain when things are not as they had expected, but rarely do people fill out these surveys and praise a good hotel staff, or talk about the good things a company did to make your trip better.  I tend to always fill these out because I do want to give props where props are due.  That excellent bartender? Mentioned.  The super comfortable bed at the Aloft? Noted.  The great service I got at check-in at the Grand Hyatt Taipei? Definitely passed along in my survey response.

But also, surveys are good for bringing up things that didn’t go as well, but you have to remember to use tact.  Yes, you may not have been happy, but it’s been a few days, you have calmed down a bit.  Now’s the time to explain what didn’t meet your expectations.  But there are a few rules you should follow, and I’ll give you an example of why you want to follow these in a moment.

Rule 1: Be polite.  That’s just common sense.  Don’t curse, don’t fill the response with vitriol. Don’t be insulting.  Be polite.

Rule 2: Explain fully.  Don’t just say, “The room sucked.”  Tell them WHY the room sucked.  Tell them exactly what happened at the front desk that made you unhappy.  Or why you didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  Just don’t tell them you were unhappy that your escort couldn’t make it up the key-carded elevator. That’s all on you.

Rule 3: Offer suggestions.  Sure, something may have pissed you off, may have made your stay no fun, but don’t just complain. Offer a suggestion (a reasonable suggestion) of how they can fix the situation.  I try to be constructive in my criticisms.  They may or may not take your suggestions, or may not even be able to actually fix the issue, but it never hurts.

So to highlight this a bit, we recently spent a night in Charlotte at the Crowne Plaza hotel downtown.  We were in town for the ACC Fooball Championship game at the Carolina Panthers stadium.  I’d stayed at Crowne Plaza hotels before and always found them to be rather nice, not five star, but not budget either.  I’d consider them, in general, the lower end of upscale.

Turns out we had two chief complaints for our stay, which I stated in the survey they sent out.  The first was that when we returned from the game, wanting to have a couple drinks in the bar before heading to the room, we discovered that the bar had been closed for some time.  This was rather disappointing, as the Crowne Plaza Charlotte is about as far as you can get from BOA stadium in Downtown Charlotte, and we passed a LOT of bars heading back.  So I very politely explained why this was disappointing, and suggested that on Friday and Saturday nights, especially on event nights such as NASCAR or Game nights, they keep the bar open later. It shouldn’t take much, one extra staff for a few hours.

The next issue is really something they couldn’t fix.  The walls in our room seemed thin and we were subjected to the conversations of people on both sides of our room until the wee hours of the morning.  Unfortunately, nothing short of gutting the rooms and rebuilding the walls would fix this, but I did explain that I had stayed in Crowne Plaza hotels before that were MUCH quieter and that I didn’t really enjoy laying in bed at nearly 3 am listening to my neighbors.

I also, however, made it a point to highlight that beyond these things, the Crowne Plaza Charlotte was a decent place to say and I wouldn’t let those two issues dissuade me from choosing them again at a later date.  I did not at any time, curse, spout epithets or go on emotional vitriolic rants.  What I DID do was send constructive criticism based on my expectations and my experiences staying at similar class hotels around the world.

So what was the end result of this?  Today I received a personal phone call from the Operations Manager for the CP Charlotte.  We discussed my comments, he thanked me for offering suggestions and ultimately gave me his personal cell phone number with the promise that if we choose the Crowne Plaza Charlotte the next time we’re in town, he will personally give us a ridiculously low rate as well as put us in a room that will, hopefully, be a lot quieter and restful than the one we had.

As they say, you catch more flies with honey than sugar.  The point is, be polite, be constructive and just don’t be a dick.  You’d be surprised how often any business will go out of their way to make up for something, if you only approach the issue like an adult, rather than a tempermental child.

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