Tale of Two Surveys


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It was the best of stays, it was the worst of stays. Well ok, not the absolute worst. There was that motel on Sunset Boulevard back in 2003. And, no it wasn’t an hourly hotel. I had my travel agent to thank for booking that one for a business trip. My business. Not THAT business.

More recently, I had the chance to experience two diametrically opposite lodging stays. Because, I’m not here to bash brands, I won’t give up the name of the hotel where I stayed in Reston, VA for Paul Greenberg’s Social CRM Summit (A gratuitous plug. If you missed it, get to it in Atlanta). The second was last week at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills.

Without going into the details of the stays, as that’s not the point here, I’ll just say the Virginia hotel was in a state of remodel where the entire lobby was gutted. I understand this happens. But without any advance notice and in the midst of a blizzard, there were no food and beverage services. And, the staff offered no alternative solutions for me and my family. The Sofitel, on the other hand, delivered an outstanding experience, from decor to the attentive staff that serviced my every need – all for $250 a night – a bargain in Beverly Hills.

When I received the email surveys from each property, I filled them both out completely. They were strikingly similar in content. So, I’m assuming perhaps they might even use the same survey firm. If you’ve been stopping by here occasionally, you might remember I’m on a mission to fill out every survey I receive this year to figure out exactly what companies do with the information.

The Virginia hotel? So far, I have no idea what they do with it. But I’m left to assume not much. Because, if I were the senior executive responsible for this brand, and such a poorly rated survey was submitted by a frequent guest, I would expect it to make it directly to my inbox for action.

After providing a glowing feedback, from Matthew Bernard, the Director of Guest Services at the Sofitel, I received a follow up letter the next day. While I’m guessing this might be a form letter, it included the following line:

“I have reviewed your comments and concerns, and I want to assure you that I take them very seriously.”

He reviewed. He took action. That is all customers want to hear. Now, I didn’t have any concerns; except for the fifteen dollar can of cashews from the mini bar. But, I didn’t include that in the survey.

So, whats the point?

When you survey your customers, you set an expectation, several expectations. Your customers expect that you’re listening. That you care. And that you actually might do something with the information that they took time out of their day to provide. They expect action. And most of all, customers expect communication. Even if the Virginia hotel does take action on my suggestions, how will I ever know? It’s unlikely that I will every return to that property on my own. So, without any type of follow up telling me they heard me, how will they incent me to give them another shot?

So, if you don’t intend to follow up and take action, don’t bother with the survey. A survey delivered to a customer is an invitation to engage in dialog. If the customer answers, answer him back. There are plenty of people we meet in life that ask a question yet never stop to listen for the response. If I wanted a place to just complain for the sake of complaining, I could have done that right here.

“If you could say, with truth, to your own solitary heart, to-night, ‘I have secured to myself the love and attachment, the gratitude or respect, of no human creature; I have won myself a tender place in no regard; I have done nothing good or serviceable to be remembered by!’ your seventy-eight years would be seventy-eight heavy curses; would they not?” I would say, the hotel in Reston certainly did nothing good nor serviceable. Memorable? Yes. They didn’t listen. And that’s the unfortunate part.

Barry Dalton
Telerx Marketing
Consumed by the pursuit of delightful service. Into all things customer loyalty and technology. My current mission is developing new service channels and the vision of the contact center of the future.


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