Customer Service – Two Short Stories

Delta and Marriott


Customer service is something that we cannot think about enough.  It’s applicable whenever we (or our companies) interface with customers, whatever the nature might be.  This post describes two such customer service interfaces I encountered on a recent trip to Minneapolis to deliver a speech.  One was good and the other was not so good.

Delta Airlines

The other day, I was scheduled to fly on Delta from Memphis to Minneapolis via, you guessed it, Atlanta Hartsfield.  Don’t you just love to fly south and east in order to get north and west?  It is psychologically hard on me!

I arrived at the airport for my 7 am flight right at 6 am.  I was checking a bag (unusual for me!) and I wanted to be sure there were no issues with time.

I walked up to the Sky Priority area and identified myself.  The gentleman behind that counter welcomed me and thanked me for my Gold status (I was Diamond for years, but that’s a different story related to the dehubbing of Memphis by Delta).

After looking at my record for a few seconds, the gentleman asked, “Mr. Mercer, would you like for me to shift you to the direct flight to Minneapolis?  It leaves well after your 7 am flight and arrives in Minneapolis an hour earlier.”  My response was immediate, and I said “Please book it!”  He then told me that I’d have a better chance of being upgraded on the direct flight.

Well, I wasn’t upgraded, but I had a good seat in the Comfort area and arrived in Minneapolis on schedule.  I was glad, because I  had a chance to sit in on a great morning session and have lunch with the group.

I was a satisfied Delta customer that day.  There was no requirement or need for the attendant to offer to change my flight in a way that was beneficial to me, but he did.  It changed the dynamics of my entire day.

That was an example of good customer service.

Marriott Hotels

I took an Uber ride from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport to my hotel.  In short order, I arrived at the Marriott Minneapolis West, the venue for the Best Banks in America Super Conference 2018, where I was to speak the next day.  For perspective, I’ve participated in this conference for the last three or four years, and it has taken place at the same venue, the Marriott Minneapolis West, every year.  I felt like I was arriving at a familiar place.

But things can change quickly.  Feeling really good about my early arrival, I walked up to the front desk.  The attendant looked at me blankly, and I said, “reservation for Chris Mercer” as I handed my driver’s license and credit card to him.

He looked at the computer screen for about a minute and asked me, “What is the address of your hotel?”  Since I’d been there before, I told him the address was that of the Marriott Minneapolis West, 9960 Wayzata Boulevard.  He stared at me.

He then said, “There’s another hotel nearby.  Maybe your reservation is there.”  I told him that I was sure that my reservation was at the Marriott Minneapolis West because that was the venue for the conference.  He looked at the computer screen again.

I then asked, “Where is this hotel?”  He said, rather vaguely, that it was down a hall, and pointed to a walkway.  I asked again how far it was.  I was, after all, loaded with a large bag and my usual backpack full of computers, documents and more.

He told me, and he was rather irritated when he did, “It is down through there.  You can go there and find out if that’s where you are staying.”  I wasn’t too happy with that level of uncertainty since I knew that I was scheduled to stay at the event’s venue hotel.  So, I said to him, nicely, of course, “No, you can call over there and find out if my reservation is there so we will both know.”

He rather scowled at that, but he picked up the phone and he called the other hotel.  After being on the phone for a minute, he told me, “Your reservation is there.”  I again asked him how far it was to the hotel, and he said something like, “not too far.”  I thanked him for his help and left to walk down the mysterious hallway he had pointed out.

It turned out that the hallway was not very long at all, and it opened into the lobby of what appeared to be the lobby of another hotel.  I walked to the front desk and saw a sign indicating I was in the Courtyard (Marriott) Minneapolis West hotel, which had been built adjacent to the Marriott Minneapolis West.  I identified myself and was checked into my room in the brand new hotel.

Fortunately, my stay at the Courtyard Minneapolis West, which, from a customer’s viewpoint, is part of the same hotel as the Marriott Minneapolis West, was fine.  And they had figured out that guests could charge for food and drinks to their rooms at either facility.

My experience at the Marriott Courtyard West and the Marriott Minneapolis West, which had undergone a significant renovation over the last year, was fine.

The stay though, could have started a bit better if one clerk had recognized that, from my viewpoint as a customer, there was absolutely no difference whether I stayed at the Marriott Minneapolis West or the Courtyard Minneapolis West.  From a customer’s perspective, they are the same hotel. In fact, here is what they say about the two:

Courtyard Minneapolis West joins the reimagined Minneapolis Marriott West to create two premier hotel destinations in one convenient location. The Courtyard by Marriott Minneapolis West features an innovative lobby space as well as Courtyard’s latest modern room design. With a direct connection to Minneapolis Marriott West, the two hotels share a spacious fitness center and indoor pool. Guests also enjoy multiple dining options from quick, convenient offerings at the Bistro, in-room dining, to local pub favorites at Kip’s. The two new event spaces at Courtyard Minneapolis West overlook the inviting outdoor patio and are a welcomed compliment to what is already available at Minneapolis Marriott West. This brand new hotel provides flexibility and choices that allow guests to optimize and elevate their travel and meeting experiences. (emphasis added)

Perhaps one of the managers at the new dual venue will read this post and do some basic training to let the staff of both know that the Marriott Minneapolis West and the Courtyard Minneapolis West are one and the same place from any customer’s viewpoint.  If so, they can reduce the uncertainty and anxiety I felt when I arrived at their very nice venue.

This second customer service experience was not so good.

Closing Thoughts

So how is your company’s customer service?  Remember that customer service opportunities occur at every juncture where your customers and prospects come into contact with your company in any way.

May your next customer service experience be a good one!

In the meantime, be well!


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “Customer Service – Two Short Stories

  1. Chris, Excellent reminders for all of us! And, for the Marriott, if the “two” hotels are essentially one, from the customer perspective, you should have been able to check in at the first desk you approached, whether it was the “old” or “new” part of the hotel. It can work that way for an over priced beer in the fridge, but not the basics of checking in(?)!!! Be well. Hope to see you at a future conference. Nick