In the past six months, I have visited four high-end hotels where the waiter informed me that they were out of English Breakfast tea, the beverage that provides the perfect cup of ambition to start my day. Instead, the waiters advised I try Earl Grey tea.
Earl Grey tea takes its name from the second Earl Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830s, who reputedly received a gift of tea flavored with bergamot oil from a Chinese nobleman. The Earl brewed some of the heavily-scented, flowery- tasting swill and remarked, “I say. This is rather nasty.”
No one has drunk Earl Grey tea since, but thousands of these tea bags remain. When they can’t offer hotel guests English Breakfast tea, waiters desperately try to schlep the Earl’s quaff. When I asked the waiters why they didn’t have my preference, they replied, “English Breakfast tea is our most popular tea, so we often run out of it.” No technology needed. Those waiters knew exactly what the customer wanted and then explained politely that she couldn’t have it.
Yet, the surveys persist. Each day I receive an assessment inquiring about my rental car experience, hotel reservation-making event or oil-changing incident. I don’t want to stay on the line, receive a card in the mail or answer an email because the company wants me to think they are committed to quality when things don’t improve. Surveys are a ridiculous waste of time roughly equivalent to the following:
“We at the Bates Motel hope you enjoyed your recent stay with us. Please give us your feedback.
Press one if you want to complain about our food service. Press two if you didn’t like the maid. Press three if you wish we would quit murdering people in the shower. Press four if you’d like this menu in Spanish.”
Leaders in hospitality and all other industries should stop surveying and start listening. If the young woman checking me out had inquired, “What is one thing we could have done to make your stay better?” and then typed my response into the computer, two things would have happened: the manager would have known they were still out of their most popular tea, and I would have been impressed with their customer service.
The people who work for you know what clients want. If they don’t, you have a talent problem, not a customer service issue.
It’s often one thing that stands between adequate and superlative customer service. Why don’t you just ask people face-to-face what that one thing is?
Now, that’s my cup of tea.