Do we really care? Rejecting reservations How hotels & restaurants loose money.
Update 2019 - Original article posted 2017
Getting a new client – getting a reservation is the aim, the final goal of all Sales Marketing and PR efforts. Finally taking a reservation is the success and beginning of making profits in hospitality.
And than we often fail!
A lot of money is invested in Sales, Marketing and PR but when it attracts the business and the guest wants to spend his money we sometimes fail badly. When a person on the telephone of an international hotel or restaurant can’t speak English you might loose already. Loosing a reservation means wasting money, energy, time and training.
With an Italian restaurant chain we tried to make a reservation over the webpage. There was no e-mail so we had to use the phone number provided. We called! No answer! No business! Simple! You could have saved the money for advertising and creating a webpage!
Another challenge in times of big Mergers in the industry is for hotels to minimize cost, take advantage of companies size but not to loose identity of the separate brands.
In a recent article by Deanna Ting this problem was touched.
“BRAND DIFFERENTIATION BECOMES CRUCIAL FOR MARRIOTT AND ACCOR HOTELS. Perhaps being bigger isn’t always better, at least when it comes to luxury hotels. When you’re bigger, the challenges can be, too. With size, you can lose the essence of the business and the DNA of the brands.
Differentiation of brands is crucial. Anthony Ingham, global brand leader of W Hotels, added: “The business has to be stricter about differentiation. Every word and image counts.”
The Marriot - Starwood Merger was the biggest up to now. Many people were wondering how this will effect the individual brands. Here is one example how it does.
The following is a true story and I still have all original mails. I took the names of the staff involved out as I know that they did nothing wrong. They just followed the Standard Operating Procedures. I like Ritz Hotel but the name and the Marriot name I have to mention as otherwise it does not make sense. This can and will happen in every chain.
A Reservation Odyssey
I remembered that I promised my wife a visit to the xxx Bar in the Ritz Hotel. We tried before but at that time they were closed for renovation. Now – my birthday approaching - it was time to make good on my promise. It was the 27 September and to my birthday on the 2nd October still 5 days to go so I was hoping there was a table free. We just wanted a table in bar so nothing to complicated.
I visited the Ritz webpage trying to find a way to reserve a table. That was already not easy. So I worked hard to find a way to communicate my wish for a reservation. ( First question: Do I have to work hard to make a reservation ? As a guest ?)
But here it was. The wonderful contact e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.That was touching. I felt in good hands.
Here is the short story of an entertaining journey through the personalized service world of big hotel chains. This is what happens if people are trained, have a handbook on the shelve and maybe even in the head but there are no supervisors or managers who can coach them, who can deal with the situation themselves and lead their staff to development and success.
It was fun – enjoy!
The first e mail
--------------- Original Message ---------------
From: busch busch@xxxx]
Sent: 9/27/2016 3:38 PM
Subject: Reserve in xxxBar
You do not make it too easy to book in one of your outlets ! I just would like to make a reservation for the 1st of October for your xxxBar - 2 people - Birthday celebration - 1 table - 11 pm - approx 2 hrs.
Please let me know if that is possible .
Title & City
I had to mention that it wasn’t easy to book – some hotels even read and consider this guest comments and review if they can improve the webpage .
The message - quite clear and precise – all details there.
“Name -date - time – location – no of people – duration of stay – occasion” – even the subject headline made it clear - they just had to say yes - I thought.
I wrote it from my business e-mail, with title as some times they do not like that you hide your titles when you are in the same industry. I wanted to play by the book.
According to surveys the expected respond time by customers is approx. 26 min for e-mails. The response came – surprisingly - only 2 days ( 2880 minutes ) later :
The second e mail
From: Wecare Ritzcarlton <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday 29 September 2016 19:02
To: Stephan Busch busch@xxxxx
Subject: RE: Reserve in xxxBar [ ]
Hello Stephan Busch!
Thank you for contacting Marriott Customer Care. I want to respond to your message. At your convenience will you provide the name and location of the property you are considering.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Marriott Customer Care
Besides the point that my request was totally ignored – and not read – a few things made me wonder:
firstname.lastname@example.org? With all this so called individual properties I am contacted by another hotel group ? Yes I know they bought Ritz long time ago (does every guest has to know this?) but aren’t they supposed to talk directly to a guest who takes the pain to directly contact them?
Do I want an answer from Marriott when I contact Ritz? At least the e-mail address again suggest that they all care!
“Subject: RE: Reserve in xxxBar – the headline was still right so somebody with a brain could have figured out what I want.
“Thank you for contacting Marriott Customer Care” ? Did I ? Wasn’t my intention ! I need the Ritz !
“I want to respond to your message” – you want ? - you just did - but it was of no help.
And than the last sentence where I am ask to state what I want: I stated already at my convenience, she even used it as headline of her own e mail and I was ignored !
Signed by xxxx from Customer care. I can’t help to assume that this is a computer response. No usefull content – no sense. A nice lesson how to treat a guest with personalized service.
“I hope to hear from you soon.” Aha - okay ! That means – my turn – I – the guest - have to respond again if I want something !
Okay – here we go – same day response from my side ! I just thought I ask some general questions to identify myself as a paying guest. If they want to know details they could refer back to my original message – which was still there – just scroll down ! Lets see – they are the Ritz ! Or Marriott ? Never mind - do I care about identity loss ?
Still two days to go to my birthday. Not all hope is lost !
The third e mail
---------- Original Message ---------------
Sent: 9/29/2016 11:17 AM
Subject: Re: Reserve in xxxBar [ ]
Great can you give me some suggestions ? Nice quite Bar atmosphere , Champagne and some snacks ?
Title & City
Note : All hope is lost – next answer comes 3 days later - 1 day afterthe requested reservation date.
The fourth e mail
2nd October 2016 , 9:55
Hello Stephan Busch!
I have forwarded your request to Ritz Carlton. Someone will contact you soon. I apologize for the delay.
Marriott Customer Care
Someone ? You are in the personalized business caring world and you do not have a name ?
Xxx again – the computer did it again ( my car navigator is called Katy – I am getting used to those things and she also sends me sometimes in mysterious directions ) – but I still was hoping to reach the personalized service world of Ritz Hotel .
“Safe travels” – at the end – as greetings ? I wasn’t travelling – never mentioned it ! I was only travelling in cyberspace between Marriott and Ritz wecare.com mails. Strange greetings.
And the next message came :
1 day after the requested reservation date!
The fifth e mai
From: <RC>, Concierge <rc..email@example.com>
Date: Sunday 2 October 2016 12:30
To: Stephan Buschbusch@xxxxx>
Subject: The Ritz-Carlton
Dear Stephan Busch,
Warm greetings from Concierge team of The Ritz-Carlton.
It is our pleasure to assist you with any requests you may have.
Please consider the following nice places: ddd Rooms, yyyyy Bar, zzzzz bar.
Kindly find two files with our best restaurant and clubs recommendations in the attachment.
If there is anything else we can assist you with, please do not hesitate to contact us.
address and phone number http://www.ritzcarlton.com
xxx reached me ! A person ! Okay – 1 day after my reservation request and also a pre written text (personalized service ?) – but at least the Ritz! How did I get there?
As the birthday celebration was anyway over already we went to another nice place , enjoyed it and also spend 500 Euros – just not with the Ritz -
I thought I challenge the Ritz – or Marriott or whichever cyber world I was communicating with – to read my original message. In all the correspondence the original message for the reservation was included. Clearly xxxx did not read my message either. So I wrote :
The sixth e mail
2nd October 2016 , 19:01
Dear Mr xxxxx
Thank you very much for your message and the information. Also of course thanks for all the messages from Marriott.
With so many people caring I would like to request one service from the Ritz Hotel.
The only service from the Ritz Hotel that now really would totally impress me is ;
if you could fulfill my request for a reservation for the specific time and dates as requested in my first mail. ( if you scroll down you fill find it ).
I am looking forward to your reply
Title & City
I checked and my original message with all details and information’s was even included in all previous mails – mine and the responding ones.
Of course they couldn’t fulfill the request as the date was over but I enjoyed more and more to communicate with their computers and pre written messages of hotels that praise themselves for guest service – human to human interaction. And I did not have to wait long for an answer.
This time answered right away by Ritz Carlton – the persons that were in copy from the concierge – with no title but with very useful information’s.
The seventh e mail
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you very much for your e-mail. I am out of office with limited access to my mailbox. To ensure your questions are answered in a timely manner, please contact xxxxxx at firstname.lastname@example.org . It will be my pleasure to assist you , when I am back in the office on October 3, 2016
Wait ! Game is not over - hope came back to me - next answer came also right away from the other person in copy – again with very useful information’s
The eight e-mail
Thank you for your e-mail. I am out of the office with limited access to my mailbox. To ensure your questions are answered in a timely manner, please contact xxxxxxx, Director of Rooms via email@example.com. I will be pleased to follow up with you to ensure you have all information you require when I return on the 3rd of October 2016.
The Ritz-Carlton http://www.ritzcarlton.com
Quality Manager? Am I lucky? Lets see how it continues!
All this trainings in hotels where we get trained to be efficient, guest oriented, sales driven - and now I continue getting responses after the business is lost? The business, the revenue was taken somewhere else ?
I want to attend a Marriott , Ritz Hotel Guest Relation , Service, Marketing Training next time . I must have missed something !
On the 3rd of October –D Day minus 2 – xxxx the Manager responsible for the Quality wrote to me.
The ninth e mail
Dear Mr. Busch,
Warm Welcome from The Ritz-Carlton!
My name is xxxx, I am a Quality Manager.
First of all, let me please apologize on behalf of all The Ladies & Gentlemen of the hotel. Actually, we received your request on the 2nd of October from <firstname.lastname@example.org> distribution and immediately replied to you. I will personally reach out my colleagues from wecare to find out the reason of this delay.
As far as I can see in your first email, you asked to confirm a table in xxxBar for the 1st of October. May I assist you with a reservation for another date?
Thank you and have a wonderful day!
The Ritz-Carlton http://www.ritzcarlton.com
She told me now that she received the message only on the second of October.
So its not her fault ! She answered immediately – she did everything correct !
Must be my fault ? I believe I should have send it at least 14 days earlier ?
The “others” did it ! Blame the co workers !
Does a guest want to know this ?
To close the case I answered right away .
The tenth e mail
Thank you for your message. As mentioned in my first message it was a birthday celebration and those are normally connected with a fixed date. We went to a very nice restaurant ( not under the Marriott umbrella as reserving with Marriott I now find too exhausting ). We enjoyed that evening very much that’s why we do not need any reservation with Ritz Hotel anymore.
May I suggest to look into the answering procedures for all the email@example.com e mails as actually reading and responding to them might increase business and would be a sign of caring ! It might be also beneficial to keep the brands separate . Just suggestions !
Thanks a lot and best regards
Title & City
The last answer that follows now was very nice but also just promises and a lot of missed chances to capture a guest.
The eleventh e mail
Dear Mr. Busch,
Thank you very much for your kind reply.
Please accept my sincere apologies once again. I will definitely follow-up in order to avoid such kind of issues in the future.
I am happy that you had a very nice evening in xxxx (even not under the Marriott umbrella).
Mr. Busch, it will be my pleasure to be your personal contact during your future stays at any Marriott or Ritz-Carlton hotels. Kindly, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be glad to assist you with any arrangements starting from the room reservation and to any additional requests you may have during the stay. I will personally ensure that you feel comfortable in our property, so that you can enjoy every moment of your stay.
Have a wonderful day!
When you read the word "RESERVATION" it means it is sold. Somebody wants to reserve. You don’t need to advertise , convince or sell anymore ! Just take the reservation , confirm . Guest happy , Hotel happy. Revenue in.
As this story shows it takes a lot of effort, energy and time to turn this business away and loose the revenue.
When you read BIRTHDAY, Anniversary or something pointing to a special occasion mentioned by the guest (you even don’t have to ask - the information is provided ) than this is a chance to up sell. Offer more. Flowers , Champagne , etc. . Another chance missed here .
When you have a guest complaint – and you can not solve the problem anymore – ( the date is over) do something to get the guest back. Make him come to your hotel and let him give you a chance.
Be a little attentive and notice that this person is local. Lives in your city – can be a guest at anytime and bring his guests and events to you. Not the tourist never to be seen again. You don’t have to find the guest and make him interested in your hotel – he just introduced himself to you and showed interest. You turned him away!
After all this messages nobody noticed that I am living in in the city.
That means nobody really read the message or was interested in the person. Just in the case itself. The e-mail had to be answered. That is the SOP. Because we care. It was answered. Job done ! Personalized Service ?
Notice that this guest is from your industry – from Hotel business- another point to make a connection.
You should offer something different that you can deliver. Maybe a glass of Champagne – cost nothing but you can get the person invited into your hotel and establish personal contact. Where are the famous 200$ that every Ritz employee can spend on guest? A Glass of Champagne ( cost 10 $) and a nice conversation in person would have done the job.
Do you notice how much time your staff spends during working hours on Facebook , instragram and other webpages ? They can google the person – check Linkedin or any other social platform. In this case they would have learned that this person is even a former Ritz employee ! Another point to connect
Up to the last message there were only promises not fulfilled. The Ritz did not deliver ! They did not meet my expectations. Don’t they praise themselves for exceeding guest expectations ?
But no. After all promises not fulfilled there are only more promises. The word empathy is used a lot by hotels such as Ritz. See the world through the guests eyes. Now – if you would be in my shoes - would you be happy with only promises ?
Do not over promise !
email@example.com - change your e –mail name ! It is an over promise that you do not fulfill ! Keep it simple and come back to this nice names when you are ready.
If you are so much in service why do you not answer the question the guest ask but just give a standard computerized answer to questions that were never asked ?
Don’t train your staff to answer e – mails! Train them to read the e - mail ! Train reading and understanding first ! You have to start with the basics before you can go higher. There is still a lot to do !
Have a senior staff to evaluate and coach how to deal with different guests. I wasn’t difficult or nasty and that was the trigger for taking it easy by the staff.
Main reason why I did not get more attention was that I was too friendly and too polite.
If I would have behaved differently – angry , nasty , even rude ,threatening with trip advisor , letters to Head office or the GM I would have gotten more out of it.
And that is another mistakes that hotel staff and managers do because they are afraid to deal with this guests. I don’t blame them - they don’t know better and have no one to coach them and are not empowered to make decisions. At the end the guest who behaves nasty gets more than the nice one. Why? Because we don’t coach our staff right. At the same time we set a bad example for other guests to follow this more profitable way and discourage our staff.
The guest who behaves well and is still friendly can be easily brushed under the table without any superiors noticing. The nasty guest we encourage to stay nasty as for him this means he wins.
A loose loose situations
My friendly behavior was caused by the simple believe that as a professional I owe a polite and respectful behavior to myself and the people working hard in the hotel business. I will not change this. The job in Hotel business is hard enough!
The easy solution would have been an automated message that would have just said: Confirmed!
Just in case somebody wonders if this story can be true – I have all the mails still in my company e mail folders !
Never mind ! We had a wonderful day !
My wife and I were also very much entertained and thankful to get so much first class training material for our students free of charge.
And to top it all a quote from Marriott that I read in an article one day after the last mail:
"It also reminded me that people don’t necessarily remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. And a positive attitude goes along way in the hospitality business."
VP Global Creative + Content Marketing, Marriott Intl. | October 2016