The other day, I found myself in Marlborough, Massachusetts for one of our Business of Eyecare Forum events. This program, a one-day practice leadership "university," is loaded with lessons on how to deliver a lasting and memorable patient/customer experience. The event was held at the Best Western Plaza Hotel and Trade Center, apparently about the only facility available in the area and large enough for our event.
This facility is on a large property, so the driveway is quite long. As I turned off the highway into the driveway, I'm met with a large BANG! My first impression of the hotel is a pothole. From the sound, I was convinced that it was the size of a Volkswagen and that I'm now in need of a front-end alignment. As I proceed up this quarter-mile long drive, I begin having to reach back to my country-road driving experiences; dodging pothole after pothole. The driveway is a virtual obstacle course. Needless to say, having just bought a new car, I wasn't very pleased with the fact that my expensive high-performance tires were taking a beating. Worse, though, was my concern for the 200 participants of the Forum.
This first impression set the stage for my entire hotel experience at the Best Western Plaza Hotel and Trade Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts. If management/ownership is so blase about their driveway, the very first thing that a visitor encounters, what else were they missing. Well, I certainly began noticing all that was wrong with the physical plant (yes, it's old and tired). And, in spite of the good service by attentive staff, my overall impression of this facility and it's management was very, very poor.
My negative perspective of the hotel was exacerbated when I placed a call through the front desk and tried to meet with the General Manager, Mr. Rick Skinner, to share my concerns over the driveway. In spite of the fact that we were the only significant customer at the hotel that day; and in spite of the fact that we were spending tens of thousands of dollars at his hotel, Mr. Skinner chose to respond to my query with what amounted to "I'm busy…have him speak to someone else." Now, Mr. Skinner had the entire afternoon to respond to my query and chose to do otherwise. Like the potholes, his attitude didn't sit very well with me. Perhaps he was busy filling potholes or making arrangements for their repair, but I don't think he was demonstrating very good leadership…to his team or his customers.
Yes, I had the choice of speaking to another hotel employee about my concerns. I also had the choice of not doing anything. After all, I'm sure that Mr. Skinner and his owners are aware of the potholes and the overall condition of their hotel. But, instead, during my morning workshop on Secrets of High Performers (and likely during the 20 or so similar events that we'll have over the coming year), I used the hotel's condition and Mr. Skinner's approach as an example of how important it is to maintain a quality environment…to see your facility through your customers eyes…and to be open to listening to your customers.
And, of course, I'm now using this experience as a lesson on brand-destruction for my loyal readers.
In the old days, a negative experience was thought to have been told to about 15 people. In this particular case, I'm sharing it with over 30,000 readers. Blogs, Facebook, Yelp, etc. have totally changed the power of your customers ability to impact your brand; both positively and negatively.
First impressions count. Listening to your customers counts.