I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to teach a variety of social media related classes in my time at Central Penn College and am fortunate this term to be teaching a social media marketing class.  I get to show my students how to listen on social, how to create a content calendar, and this week’s topic, how to deal with customer comments.  The irony is that I had a situation last memorial day weekend that provides a perfect case study for what we are speaking about in class this week.

The situation:  My wife and I took a much-needed mini-vacation to Pittsburgh over Memorial Day weekend.  From my time at Slippery Rock, I still have friends in the area that we usually stay with.  The years however have caught up with us and my friend now has two young children, so staying with them isn’t an option.  We decided to stay at Motel 6 at 2834 Banksville Road just outside of the city, mainly because it was the closest to his house.

The room and hotel itself weren’t bad (you get what you pay for in the hotel industry more than any other) and certainly would have been sufficient for our one evening stay.  The issue arose when I went down to get coffee in the morning.  I went to the lobby to see if they had a continental breakfast of some kind.  Unfortunately, they didn’t.  This wasn’t a major issue because we had early lunch plans anyway and they did have coffee.  After I got my coffee, I needed to use the bathroom and went to the attendant at the front desk to ask where the bathroom was.  She proceeded to question that I was a guest in the hotel and that the bathroom was only for guests.  This was shocking to me.  When I told her that I was a guest and then showed her my room key she then told me that I should “Go upstairs to my room and use that bathroom”.

I want to preface the rest of this piece by saying that I have worked in the service industry from the time I was 15 years old until just before I started teaching about three years ago, so for the better part of 15 years.  In that time, I worked at every sort of restaurant you could imagine and even in a hotel.  Treating a guest in this fashion is absolutely unthinkable.  I could understand if I wasn’t a guest in a large city I suppose, but telling a guest to walk upstairs to my room to use the bathroom is unthinkable.

This is not the main issue for me though.  The main issue that I encountered was the lack of response that I received from their customer support and via social media.  The lesson that we are discussing in class this week is how to deal with comments that a business receives via social media and the importance of timely responses.

Here is the aggravation that I went through regarding this complaint I made:

#1 – The day of the incident, I immediately emailed their customer support (around 8:30am).  I received an automated message saying that their customer service department was open seven days a week from 9a – 10p, so I expected to hear from them later that day, which I did not.  In fact, I’ve yet to receive an email from them four days later.

#2 – Then I decided to take to Facebook.  I sent them a message explaining what happened and again did not receive an immediate response.  It took them nearly three hours to contact me back and when they did, all they did was to give my the number for customer service.

Let’s think about it this way:  If I’ve already emailed them and sent them a message on Facebook, do you think that I want to spend time on hold waiting for them to respond to me again?

#3 – Finally, they sent me a message that said that if I provided them with my information that they would contact me immediately.  I did so at 1:30pm and here it is five hours later with still no response.

The point I’m trying to make here is simple:  Businesses have an obligation in the day and age of social media to respond in a timely fashion to customer complaints.  According to research, it takes 7 times as many resources to convert a new client than it does to retain an existing one.  They very easily could have reached out to me at the beginning of this exercise and tried to make the situation right.  If they did a good job, not only would I have remained an existing customer, I may have then taken to social media or my blog to discuss how wonderful of a job they did in taking care of the situation.  Social media has changed the way that customers do business and companies that don’t recognize this now are doomed for failure.

So, at the end of the day, Motel 6 took an opportunity to professionally take care of a situation and make me a life-long customer and tossed it aside.  All I really wanted to know is that I was heard and that the situation was going to be handled with the respect I was due.  Unfortunately, this did not happen.  So I encourage my network to please reconsider staying with Motel 6 until they shape up, or at least make this situation right.

And then of course, this happened just after my stay:  http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2015/05/26/undercover-sting-on-prostitution-at-hotel-on-banksville-road/

I will update this situation should they respond.

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