Having been in Public Relations for more than seven years (with an additional ten years of customer service experience) I have seen my share of good PR, bad PR and just plain “I can’t believe how this is being mismanaged!” PR. Hailing from the South, where we’re famous for our world-class hospitality, I belong to the school of thought that crises are not only managed through framed statements, press releases and social media, but through good old-fashioned person to person customer relations.
Case in point; I recently stayed at a small boutique hotel for the President’s Day weekend. This romantic get-away was a Christmas gift to my boyfriend and, like most people do, I did my online research to book our trip. I was elated to stumble upon this seemingly perfect Spanish Colonial-style villa; the photos made the place look stunning and the list of amenities made me want to get in my car immediately and leave the world behind just to get to them. Despite the steep prices, the glowing customer reviews sealed the deal for me and my reservations were set. So, what went wrong?
When we arrived at the hotel, I was so disappointed I could have cried. The softly lit and charming Spanish Colonial haven I had been looking forward to for months turned out to be nothing more than a glorified motel. Our room was tiny. No, I mean REALLY tiny. That too was misrepresented in the photos. The courtyard pool and Jacuzzi looked questionable at best and the parking area was nestled in an alley way that made both of us question our safety.
The other thing was that on Saturday night, we were awoken by a man screaming for his life somewhere nearby. Nothing is more disturbing than hearing multiple blood-curdling screams for “HELP!” at 2 a.m. Trust me on this. Now, you must know that I’m not one to complain about service unless it’s really bad but all of these things added up to one thing for me; providing a detailed account of my disappointment to the hotel via their online survey and email. So, upon returning home, I did just that. Can you guess what happened? The hotel responded to me within 48 hours with an email and a phone call with their apologies and a complimentary night’s stay at any one their properties.
I have to say this changed my entire perspective of the place, and I am willing to give them another shot simply because they made a personal connection with me. They took a proactive approach to customer service, which can go a long way to keeping me as a guest of their hotels….that along with more realistic photos. :/
To sum up, make sure that systems are in place to respond to crises in person and make that part of your overall PR and Communications strategy.
Public Relations Manager