She flipped the word in my general direction as if it came off the back of her hand as it shooed me away.
I stood in the lobby of the four star hotel amazed at what had just happened. As a guest of the hotel, especially a nice hotel, especially a nice hotel in the downtown area of a major U. S. city, especially from the front desk manager of a nice hotel in the downtown area of a major U. S. city.
I expected more. I expected more than just “Sorry. We can’t help you. You don’t fit our boxes of the way guest problems should be worked out. Sorry. We won’t help you. We choose not to make an exception, to get creative, to find a way to make this right. Frankly, you’re not worth the time and energy and potential risk. Sorry. After all, I’d be putting myself on the line. I don’t know what my boss would say. Sorry.”
It’s an incredible irony that only days before my interaction with this manager, the CEO of the hotel chain said these words, “We believe in taking good care of our people and believe that if we do, they’ll take good care of the guests and the customers and they’ll return.”
Somehow the top leader’s message didn’t filter down to the everyday leaders of the company who are closest to the guests of the hotels. The real failure here was not simply a failure of customer service. The real failure was a failure of leadership.
At some level every follower, whether it’s the SVP of some important sounding function or the newest recruit to the housekeeping staff asks the question, “Why should I care?” And unless their leader gives them a compelling answer to this question they will fill in the blank themselves with, “I shouldn’t.”