Reputation or financial performance?
May 1, 2017
Telling your story
May 1, 2017

Handling that ‘oops’ moment

A few weeks ago I was staying at a 4 star Novotel in London, not far from Tower Bridge. Very late Saturday evening, I was having a coffee in the lobby, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a dark shape whoosh across the floor. Hmm. Maybe my imagination I thought… until one of my friends pointed out the large, insolent rodent mooching about by the bar. Eweugh, not good.

Now there are things in everyone’s business which is the equivalent of a ‘rat in the bar’ moment. I’ll leave you to think of your own examples.

But how would you react to a customer mentioning them? Because that is what is likely to happen. In my case, I spoke to the night duty manager; and his reply was a perfect example of how to handle that ‘oops’ moment.

  • He looked me straight in the eye.
  • He apologised with sincerity.
  • He acknowledged how that must have made me felt, and how one would not expect that sort of thing in a 4 star hotel.
  • Then he explained that they were aware of the problem and had alerted the local council and the health and safety officers, and were taking steps to eradicate the problem.
  • He said he would escalate the issue to the day time duty manager.

I don’t think he could have done more. It certainly diffused the moment.

The following day, on checking out, true to his word, the day-time duty manager asked to speak to me, apologised, and pretty much ran through the same sentiments as had been conveyed the previous evening. This was followed up, a day later, with an email from a more senior manager, offering a discount and an upgrade if I chose to go there again. Impressive customer service.

If you are unfortunate to have a ‘rat in the bar’ moment, here these are my words of advice:

  • Without any prevarication, confirm what has happened
  • Acknowledge how this might leave people feeling
  • Assure them of what steps you are taking (usually that you are working with relevant external authorities) to prevent this happening again

Customer service isn’t rocket science. It’s doing what you say you will do, to the standard that is expected. If there are any problems (and let’s face it, in business these do sometimes happen) man-up about them, apologise, explain how things will be put right. And then make sure they are.

PR is not always about press relations. It’s public relations.

Don’t let your ‘oops’ moment lose you a customer.

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