Stop the Sabotage

I’m not sure why I find myself talking about hotels again is a disdainful manner, but that’s just the way it goes I guess. These are places which are supposed to hold the highest regard for customer service – it’s what much of their success is based upon.

So today I witnessed one of the worst cases of business sabotage I can ever imagine. It literally put shivers down my spine to think of my staff ever doing something similar (I know you wouldn’t by the way guys!!)

I’m standing at the reception of a well respected and fairly top end hotel in Exeter. There is a well-to-do lady talking to the man behind the reception desk. I’m not really a nosy person but I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. This is where the unimaginable happens.

The lady is asking the guy about hotel rates, she’s foreign by the way. The guy, seemingly uninterested responds ‘well it’s cheaper in the week than at the weekend’. The lady responds politely, ‘thats understandable, I’m enquiring for my daughter who would like to stay for quite some time’ – BINGO – Music to anyone’s ears surely…not this guy. He asks how long she’d be planning to stay and the lady responds ‘at least three weeks at first’. This is where it gets really silly. The guy then says to her: ‘Oh if its that long you better do it online as you might get a better deal there’!!!

Folks lets analyze this for a minute – you have a potential punter standing in front of you with their wallet open and ready to sign themselves up for a very long time – I’m guessing this is worth thousands of pounds to this hotel and what do they do, tell them to look online as it might be cheaper. Jeez – If it were me and it really were cheaper online (and by the way I doubt it very much) I’d walk them to the hotels computer and help them look myself. My guess is that it was too much work for this guy, perhaps he’d had a bad day or couldn’t be bothered with this one lady as it sounded like a bit too much work.

My guess is this woman (clearly in a foreign country) will not bother going online but will probably walk down the road to one of the many other great hotels in town. I know I would.

That guy has potentially cost his company thousands of pounds and doesn’t even care. As business owners, what can we do to make sure that our staff are not doing the same to us? Do they care about your business? Do they worry about losing money making opportunities as you do or is it just another job?

Watch out folks – I bet this hotel didn’t even realise that this was going on. Are you certain it’s not happening to you?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Could I be going OTT because I’m naturally a sales person and can’t stand to see a sale lost?
  • What measures do you have in place to stop this complacency in your business?


  1. Graham White on 23rd September 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I had a similar incident on holiday this year. We were heading out to the local castle to book a medieval style banquet they ran every night of the week. Upon arrival we were advised by the staff to book online as rates were significantly cheaper. We attempted to follow their advice but the web site didn’t work and we couldn’t book that way. We emailed the support team but heard nothing back. Consequently they lost 2 seats at the banquet that week because we refused to book in person given the knowledge we were being ripped off. If the staff had simply taken our booking we’d have been none the wiser and probably enjoyed a nice night out there.

    For me there are some morality issues in here. I can understand certain companies giving cheaper prices if they’re solely based online or even companies giving a discount on *some* products online in order to attract people to their web site. However, I can’t understand a blanket rule that says it’s always cheaper onilne no matter what. All things being equal the staff are paid for by the business so either they match the rates in person or they don’t. Definitely a risk of losing business if you play with your customers in this way.

    • Banksy on 23rd September 2011 at 5:26 pm

      Thanks Graham and great example of a similar experience.

  2. Nick Watson on 23rd September 2011 at 3:20 pm

    One thing worth considering as well – have the management actually empowered the employee with the capacity to make deals for people like this lady?

    Is he fed up because he gets this a lot and feels unable to help the lady, which frustrates him.

    Two lessons here:

    1. Employees should be empowered with the ability to apease clients and make deals where necessary (even if they’re made accountable)

    2. Employees should feel able to feed back to the management that they are unhappy with a situation and policies reviewed as a result of this.

    • Banksy on 23rd September 2011 at 5:31 pm

      Good lessons in general Nick so thank you for them.

      I have to say that in my opinon the way this guy dealt with this lady was unacceptable however he felt. The hotel are better off without him 🙂

  3. Jamie Banks on 23rd September 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Interesting one Alastair, and I share your horror at the way this hotel’s business is being put at risk!

    May I play devil’s advocate with your conclusion however?

    There is much we don’t know about the background, so it’s dangerous to draw too many conclusions, but the fact is that management ought to know what is going on in its business.

    That means that they have to be seen on the shop floor. There’s a lot they’ll pick up by simply watching what’s going on, and it sends out a number of powerful messages to employees, as well as being an often under-valued motivating force.

    Nick may well have a point in suggesting that the hotel manager’s delegation process may be wanting. Managers can, and should, delegate authority, but they always retain responsibility. That’s uncomfortable for managers who want to stay in their offices and leave it to their supervisors to execute instructions and take the blame if there are misunderstnadings and things go wrong. The blame in such cases inevitably finishes up being passed down to the lowest level, in this situation potentially to the man on reception who put revenue and profit at risk. Would it be his fault if the smart hotel for which he works loses business? Possibly, but if so, it’s only up to a point and he would share the blame with the hotel management.

    I remember starting my first works management job and being given a tip by the man who was handing over to me, who suggested that I should keep a periodic eye on the scrap skip. He was right. It wasn’t only where expensive scams and fraud operated in other similar operations, but it was also where sloppiness and waste showed up. The messages sent out by the Works Manager personally taking this sort of interest were that he might look anywhere, and that kept people on their toes, as well as encouraging waste reduction and efficient use of materials. That was a factory environment, but there will be equivalents to ‘looking in the scrap skip’ in every industry, including hotels.

    I think that there’s a strong probability that this hotel’s management is too remote from its ‘shop floor’, and Nick’s second point may be valid if they don’t have a good two-way channel of communication, although I doubt that’s a root cause of this problem. In additon, one wonders what store this hotel management puts on customer care training.

    Of course you may be right and there is a possiblity that the receptionist is temperamentally unsuited to the job and should never have been appointed in the first place. Alternatively he may have become unsuitable. Both of those possibilities however, raise another series of questions!

    • Banksy on 30th September 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Jamie, Thank you for such an indepth reply. I love the ‘look in the scrap heap’ analogy and wholeheartedly agree with your comment regarding training and being on the shop floor. I read once that Donald Trump still walks around his various buildings getting involved in everything including the cleanliness of the place – if it’s good enough for him….. 🙂

  4. Dan Cave on 25th October 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Is this hotel a “destination” place? If so sometimes these places will not be keen to do long term arrangements as its closes the doors to a lot of ‘new’ passing customers which the destination trade relies on.

    However! There is no excuse for bad customer service, even if there was no long term deal to be made there was scope for other avenues of business… who was this woman? where was she from? did she know a lot of other people who she may refer the hotel to.

    Without having a proper conversation with the woman the hotel will never know anything about her and without a proper explanation of why the hotel may not be interested in a long term arrangement they may be sending an influential person back out into the world with a negative view on your business!

    Just a bit of food for thought.

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