Monday, February 2, 2009

Good customer service

My trip to the ALA Midwinter conference wasn't exactly fraught with peril, but winter travel is always time consuming and never predictable. After arriving in your hotel lobby an hour before midnight, after spending 15+ hours in airports and on planes, the last thing you want to hear is that the hotel is overbooked and you have to go somewhere else.

I was very cranky with the Hyatt Regency, and with traveling, and with the conference, which I wouldn't have attended this year if my life had worked out in happier ways, more than five months ago. I was tired, self-pitying, and disappointed (but hopefully polite) as I took myself off to the room at the Comfort Inn that the Hyatt arranged for me that Friday night.

The next morning, as I returned to the Hyatt, it became clear to me that this place does customer service right. First, their manager admitted to making a mistake, then he apologized for it, sincerely and thoughtfully, letting me know that they new it wasn't pleasant for a customer arriving late in the day to encounter an overbooked hotel. They gave me access to the Regency Lounge (free breakfasts!), sent another note of apology with fruit later Saturday evening, and didn't charge me anything for Friday night's reservation. All nice things, but what still sticks with me is the sincerity of the apology I received. No one at the Hyatt knew how ambivalent I was about attending Midwinter this year, or that I haven't been the happiest of campers lately. But they recognized me as a human being and valuable customer; they took responsibility and made amends. They not only did the right thing, they made me feel better.

How often, in Libraries, do we make mistakes, admit to them, and make things right for our patrons? How often do we do this graciously and thoughtfully? It takes a lot of bravery to do this. To do this right, I think it takes a sincere desire to serve people well. I am now looking to serve my patrons better and more thoughtfully.

Thank you, Hyatt. I'll be back.

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