Customer 'service'?

As every businessperson knows, if a business doesn’t answer its phone, it won’t stay in business very long. But too many businesses seem to think they can away with ignoring their e-mail. Why?

I first experienced this phenomenon when planning a trip to Amsterdam in 2009. I was considering several hotels and reached out to them via the e-mail link provided on their web sites. Usually, it was something generic like In several instances, those inquiries went unanswered.

Now, I’m in the throes of planning a trip to Germany … and I’m experiencing the same thing!

I sent two e-mails to the Hotel Hessischer Hof – one to the public relations contact and one to the manager – to the Jumeirah Frankfurt, the Hilton Frankfurt Airport, and the Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt as well as the Hotel München Palace and Hotel Schlicker in München.

The Hotel München Palace, the Jumeirah and the Hilton responded promptly, and the Hotel Schlicker responded after I sent a second e-mail; the others have not.

I have given these hotels several days before writing this post. I sent the e-mails on Monday, Nov. 11, and am writing this on Friday, Nov. 15. This would account for a situation where the person charged with answering the e-mail has days off in mid-week.

That’s an initial response rate of only 50%. And while batting .500 is a good thing, imagine what would happen if only half of all hotels answered their telephones. I strongly suspect that, before too long, there would be 50 percent fewer hotels in business.

Here’s how I view the matter: I believe the “little things” like answering e-mail – or answering your phone promptly – are an indication about how the bigger things will play out. If you don’t bother answering your e-mail, how can I be assured your staff bothers changing the bedsheets between guests? While that might seem like an extreme example, I believe they are both an indication of the same thing: these establishments are not doing what they have said or implied they will do.

An e-mail link on the “Contact Us” page implies that they’re going to answer when they receive an e-mail, just as publishing a phone number implies that they're going to answer the phone when you call. If a hotelier can’t be bothered to answer incoming e-mail, I can’t be bothered to stay with them. There are too many out there to choose from.

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