Sometimes a simple, sincere “Thank you” is the best part about working.
As regular readers of this blog know I work parttime, two night a week at a small hotel in downtown Lewes, Delaware. In my previous life, I worked as a trust operations manager at a major Philadelphia bank. Since retiring ten years ago I began working parttime as a hotel front desk clerk.
Those of you who work with the public know that it can sometimes be frustrating. Sometimes I wonder “Why am I doing this?” Yet there are other times like this evening when I knew exactly why I am working in the customer service/hospitality business. It is because my nature is to serve and please.
The way a stand up comedian get reinforcement by the laughter from his audience from a joke he tells or an actor receives applause, I get my reinforcement from a guest who looks me in the eye and says “Thank you very much Ron.” Why it’s almost as nice as a raise. (“Almost”, I said. I’ll still take the raise.)
This afternoon when I came in on my shift at 3 p.m. I got a call from room 304. The guest told me she didn’t have any glasses in her room. I apologized for the oversight and told her I would take two glasses to her room right away. She also asked if she could have “some milk or half and half” for her coffee. I told her I would also take that up to her.
A few minutes later I knocked on her door. After what seemed like an interminable length of time, she opened the door. I handed the tray to her with the two glasses and the covered stryofoam cup of half and half. I told her it was “half and half.” She said “Whatever.” Uh oh.
When I returned to the front desk I asked my co-worker “Is there a problem with 304?” (we usually refer to our guests by their room number – hotel talk). He said “She’s not happy with her room.” I said “What’s the matter with her room?” He said “She doesn’t like the view, she wants a clearer view of the water.” Note: Our hotel is located next to the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and not all rooms have an unobsturcted view of the water/canal.
These guests were staying four nights and we are full this weekend (The Lewes Car Show) so I couldn’t offer them another room.
Later on, as I was passing through the lobby, I saw the couple sitting in the lobby reading newspapers. I asked them if they had dinner and how was it. The lady put down her newspaper, slowly looked up at me and said “It was fine and thank you very much for asking.” She seemed somewhat surprised that I even asked her.
I went back to my front desk and noticed that a room with a better view was available the next three days. I offered the room to her (at no increase in cost, the room is more expensive because it is on the top floor with the best views and a king sized bed). She looked at me again and for the first time I saw a smile come to her face like the morning rising sun. She said “What is your name?” I told her “Ron.” She said “You know Ron, you’re the first person since we’ve checked in here that has shown an interest in our situation. You’re the first person who cares. I thank you for that.”
I was a bit taken aback by the unexpected compliment and momentarily at a loss for words. After all, this is my job to take care of our guests and to make sure they have a pleasant experience during their stay at our hotel.
I thanked her. I told her that I operate on the theory that I treat the hotel guests the way I would like to be treated when I am a hotel guest. To me this is a no brainer. She said “You are the exception. Most people in the customer service world don’t seem to care.” I told her that I’ve experienced the same thing. I also told her that when I did receive good customer service, it was a rarity instead of the rule.
She was reluctant to move to a differnt room because they were already settled into their room. I offered to have one of our staff move their things to the new room with the better view. Her eyes perked up at my suggestiong. She said she would get back to me after she asked her husband.
A few minutes later she called down to the front desk and said “Yes, we will move.” I said “Good! I’ll take care of everything.”
About fifteen minutes later I heard the elevator bell ring as it opened it doors on the first floor. The same guest I was just talking too exited the elevator with a smile on her face. She said “I just happened to look out our window and saw that my car light were on. I’m glad I looked out. There is a God!”
She turned off her car lights and came back in the door by the front desk. She looked at me, again with that same smile on her face and said “Thank you for everything Ron and have a good night.”
And that folks is why I work.