The Best PR of All: Good Customer Service. And why don’t people get that?

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

People often ask us what’s the best PR a company can do? The answer is simple: provide good customer service. No matter how much strategic communications planning you do, how much great media you earn, or how much of a buzz you’re generating, bad customer service can come back to haunt you. Case in point: I just returned from a seminar in Las Vegas. The conference was great. The hotel was an entirely different story. Never stayed at Caesar’s Palace before and was really looking forward to it. The place looks over the top fabulous. Rooms are very nice. But the customer service? Terrible.

There was a large conference of about 2,000 young hairstylists checking in at about the same time I arrived. Total chaos in the registration area. I was informed by Caesar’s personnel that they “hadn’t expected” all the people and they were “slammed.” Strange, considering they have a conference center. I was repeatedly told to come back in an hour and things would be better and I could check in. They never were better. Three hours later, after talking with several personnel who were directing the registration traffic, I was finally allowed to check in at the preferred guest desk.

Then I dropped off my luggage ticket at the bell desk and was told the bags would be at my room in a half-hour. And so the wait began. Every hour I called. If the bell desk didn’t answer (which it often didn’t), I called the front desk. Every hour I was told the bags were on their way. After four hours, I had it and went to the bell desk, politely but firmly stating I wanted my bags NOW. Amazingly, they were able to find them in ten minutes. No apology and no offer to take them up to the room. Just an “explanation” that they sometimes have a glitch in their system which indicates the bags are being delivered when they aren’t. OK….four hours of hourly calls and they had no idea there was a problem? And what happened to the front desk guy I talked with (twice) who said he was looking into it?

Next stop: the manager. Explained to him what happened and he said he was surprised that no one had alerted him to the problem. (It wasn’t like I didn’t try letting someone know). He said they were looking into a new way for handling check-in when there were conferences and was unaware of the baggage issue. He never offered an apology or asked what he could do to make it right. So, I asked for him to comp my room and provide a dinner voucher because I had: a.) lost a half day of work since my computer was in my bag in the luggage hold and b.) spent the evening in my room waiting for my bags while friends went out to dinner. He told me he didn’t have the authority to comp my room but could offer me “something” for the spa or a meal. I challenged his inability to comp my room and he said he could do a night but no more. After a seven hour ordeal you think he would have apologized and OFFERED something to make it right.

This set the tone for the rest of the stay. No in-room information about property amenities, restaurants or check out procedures. Calls to the bell desk or front desk that either weren’t answered or took a long time to answer. Being charged a dollar a page, plus Internet time to print out my return flight boarding passes. No final bill under the door on the morning of check out.

No surprise that when I returned home I posted about my experience on several social media sites and my Facebook page. How many people see that? And I can tell you it generated comments and some phone calls from friends who said they had similar experiences there. Bad PR? Absolutely. Could they have made me a fan despite the problems? Absolutely. Apologize. Ask what they can do to make it right. It’s really not that tough.

Love to hear your customer service stories; the good, the bad and the ugly. Have you encountered a bad experience only to be won over by a firm or person who got it?