Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Guest Blog: Five Star Hotel, Minus Five Star Service

This week we feature an article by Tim Richardson who writes about a hospitality experience gone bad and then reminds us what must be done to provide a great guest experience.– Shep Hyken

Think about an incredible service experience you’ve had recently. What company or organization comes to mind? What about the service experience was extraordinary? Now think about a very poor experience you’ve had. My guess is that your poor experiences will be at least quadruple the number of extraordinary experiences. Most consumers expect a positive experience and yet companies continuously fail in customer experience 101. For years, I have used my experiences at or AAA Five Diamond hotels like The Breakers Hotel, The BroadmoorThe Ritz CarltonThe Four Seasons Palm BeachThe PhoenicianBlackberry Farm, and a recent experience at Platinum Club of America Boca West Country Club as examples when I am working with clients. Each of these fine organizations, regularly exceeds their guest or member expectations, often in some pretty amazing ways. Recently, I had an experience at a “Five Star/Five Diamond” hotel that was the antithesis of what I had experienced at these and other luxury hotels.

I arrived at the hotel in a downpour, perhaps a foreshadowing of what was to come. I left my bags, a dry-cleaned shirt, and suit at the bell stand and then headed to a meeting. Less than an hour later, my luggage and suit were MIA. It took three hotel staff members and more than 20 minutes to locate my things. When my luggage was found, my suit and shirt had been left in a pile, adding wrinkles to my “ready to go” dry-cleaned attire. A star dropped. Because I had a little time to kill before a meeting and inquired about a place I could do some quiet work. One of the staff led me to a conference room that was being used for overflow luggage that day. A short time later, another hotel staff person came into the room, looked around and left. He repeated this twice in a short time period. On his third trip checking on the room and its occupant, he asked me to leave. “I can’t have you in a room with our guest luggage,” he explained, leaving me with the feeling that he thought I might steal something. Another fallen star. I left a voicemail message with the director of marketing about my experiences and to confirm the comp room that had been tentatively offered, pending availability. I made a trip to this hotel to help me make a decision on whether to host a future client event there. When he called back a short time later, he told me that he could not accommodate me (even though there were more than a dozen rooms available). Instead of an apology, there was curtness and disinterest. The third star fell.

The stars continued to fall as a few other problems arose and along the way, I was treated rudely and disrespectfully by the hotel manager.

An organization is only as good as its worst employee and their management of the customer experience – that day I got the worst of both.

In my eyes, the hotel blew it on a number of fronts and had no desire to improve their guest experience. Stars, diamonds, and ratings don’t make an organization, people do. I believe it’s not rocket science to stand out in a mediocre market. When I was hired to help Five Diamond resort Ponte Vedra Inn and Club obtain that designation, I regularly reminded our management team (and since then many associations, corporations, and luxury private club clients), these three things:

1)   Hire great people (and do so VERY slowly)

2)   Train and treat them well

3)   Hold daily huddles, pre-shift meetings, line-ups, or pep rally’s to remind them of the BASIC3S (Better Teamwork, Attitude, Superior Service, Innovation, Consistency, Communication, and Care, and Stay in School (committing to lifelong learning). Almost all these attributes were absent at this “award winning hotel” which was a great reminder to me that details matter and it’s important to sweat the small stuff every day.

Keynote speaker and sales, service, and leadership consultant Tim Richardson works with corporate clients, associations, and the hospitality and private club industry to help them unlock the blocks to effective sales, service, and leadership.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to

Read Shep’s latest Forbes Article: Like Apple, You Can Excel In Engagement, Differentiation and Consistency

  1. Thanks, Shep! I’m still amazed at this experience. I never mentioned the hotel by name as I wanted to give them an opportunity to respond. I even sent this article to the hotel GM and never received a reply…there’s a whole new article on that brewing! Thanks for posting this!

  2. It’s interesting that the hotel achieved this high award but forgot about delivering the consistent service needed to maintain the specifics of how they originally received the award.
    Thanks for sharing and reinforcing some things we all may forget to do on a consistent basis.

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