Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

The Best Available Room

I recently checked into a hotel in Chicago. The front desk clerk was so enthusiastic. Upon checking me in she stated, “I’ve put you in the best available room.”  I was only there for one night, so I thought she was upgrading me. To match her enthusiasm, I responded, “I bet that room has a view of the ocean and the beach!” Of course, there’s no ocean or beach in Chicago. I was just joking.

She then said, “Oh, you’re looking for a view. You could upgrade to a room with a view, if you would like.”

I was surprised and said, “But, I thought you told me you were checking me into the best available room.”

The conversation about the room ended when she said, “I meant the best available room in the category you booked.”

Well, I was a little let down. So, here is the point. Don’t make a statement to a customer you can’t deliver on. Don’t try and sell a “half-truth.” If you get caught, it isn’t a half-truth. It’s a lie, even if it is a meaningless lie.

This is about managing expectations. Tell me you’ll give me the best and I’ll expect the best. The word best is a powerful word. If you refer me to an Italian restaurant and tell me you that you had the best spaghetti and meatballs of your life, I’ll accept that it’s your opinion and your experience. But, if I go to that same restaurant and the chef tells me that he promises this will be the best spaghetti and meatballs I’ll ever have, well then he had better deliver.

One is a friend’s opinion. The other is a business owner’s promise.

In business, we should be careful of the superlatives we use. If a company promises the lowest prices anywhere and I find it for a lower price elsewhere, they have broken their promise. Did they do it intentionally? Maybe not. Maybe it’s their intention to be the lowest price leader, but if they aren’t, well, they aren’t. They broke their promise and failed to meet the expectation.

So, be careful how you phrase your promises. Being known for having competitive prices is just slightly different than claiming to have the lowest prices. While subtle, it puts across a similar message without making a promise that may not be kept.

The point is not to over promise and under deliver. It’s a dangerous strategy. It sets expectations that may or may not be able to be met. You may get the customer once, but they may not come back when they realize you didn’t keep your promise.

So, if you’re going to promise me the best available room (or anything else), don’t give me anything less than the best.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

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  1. I really enjoyed reading this, I had a similar experience when I was travelling to New York – I was staying for a few days, made really good friends with the staff, and unfortunately had to be moved rooms at short notice. They said it was the best room they had, but what they meant was it was the best room they had available at the time. It’s just subtle differences like that in language that bug me a little!

    I put it down to a customer service issue, as they’ve probably been told to emphasise everything they have to be the best and once-in-a-lifetime, whereas I would rather just have honesty, at least I know where I stand! I recently sat in on a training session that my husband was attending at work, just out of curiosity, and it wasn’t half bad! (https://www.righttrackconsultancy.co.uk/customer_service_training/) I was very impressed with the honesty message they put across!

    Do you believe companies should be honest or should they just keep to what they’ve been doing before?

    • If a company wants to gain the trust of a customer, they must always act with honesty and integrity. It is OK to get excited about the product or service that they offer, however they should not exceed expectations by over exaggerating.

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