Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

We’re the Front Desk, Not the Shipping Department

The short version of my story is this: At a recent conference, the client gave their speakers a gift – a backpack filled with swag that included fancy water bottles, fleece pull-overs and more. This wonderful gift was a little large to fit in my suitcase, so I decided to box it up and mail it to my office. As I was heading to the FedEx office, one of my fellow speaker-buddies told me he took his to the front desk of the hotel where they conveniently accommodated his request to ship the gift to his home. I decided to do the same, but my experience was the antithesis of his.

Just like my buddy, I took my gift to the front desk. When I asked about having it shipped to my office, the gentleman behind the counter said, “We’re the front desk, not the shipping department.”

At first, I thought he was joking, but when it was obvious that he wasn’t, I was shocked by his answer. It turns out he was very serious about not wanting to take the package. I explained that my friend had been there earlier that day, and whoever it was working at the front desk took care of him. He finally acquiesced and said, “Okay, I’ll take the package and hold it for when someone from our shipping and receiving department comes in later, but I won’t be responsible if it’s lost or stolen.”

With that comment about his lack of responsibility, I put on my best smile and told him that I didn’t want him to have to worry about the package and that I’d find a different way to ship it home. I calmly walked away and decided to try again later.

The next morning I gave it another try. I approached the front desk where a young and enthusiastic employee greeted me with a smile. She listened to my request and responded, “I’m new here, but I know we do this all of the time. Wait here for just a moment.” In less than two minutes she was back and asked me to write down the shipping details. She took the package and told me she would text me the shipping information. About fifteen minutes later she texted me a picture of the shipping label.

This is a classic example of a lack of consistency, which comes from a lack of training. I had a chance to talk to the hotel manager about what happened. He was horrified at what I experienced. He assured me that this is a common request, and he would have plenty to talk about at the next team meeting.

Too many times I’ve asked a customer support rep a question and didn’t like the answer. So, I politely ended the call and called back to see if a different employee would give me the same answer. I’m amazed at how many times I get different answers. So, which one is the correct answer? For the customer, it’s the one they like the best.

If this is happening in your organization, it’s time to put a stop to it. Inconsistent answers lead to customer confusion and a lack of confidence. And, without confidence, you can’t have trust. Customers need to know when there are problems or they have questions that they are dealing with knowledgeable and smart people. I preach customer service and soft skills training. But, this is all about the facts. This is about employees knowing their product and sharing consistent information. Anything less and customers may move on.

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

  1. I chuckled as a read this, Shep. It’s amazing that the manager of this hotel doesn’t have your picture behind the counter with instructions that say “Please provide this man with consistent customer service.” In all seriousness, great post!

    • HA! That would have helped! I’m always thinking to myself (would never say it out loud), “You have no idea who you’re dealing with!” Hope all is well in your world!

  2. I really like this story for many reasons.

    One, it’s always interesting when an employee plants their stake in the ground and insists they are right when they are not. That’s an issue I believe goes beyond training. (I know, customers often do the same, but that’s a different story!)

    The second is your story is an example of how customers develop expectations. Your friend (another customer) was the one who suggested you go to the front desk. We often develop service expectations without the company’s input!

    Finally, I thought about the gift itself. Gifts are very nice and appreciated, but they can also backfire a bit like your did. I wrote about that here:

    • Hey Jeff – As always, thanks for your kind words and comments. The hotel probably hired the wrong guy for the job. He might be better in the shipping department versus the front desk – where there are lots of procedures and RULES to follow.

  3. Some times the people well trained and knowledgeable but are either too lazy or just don’t care to do their jobs properly.

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