Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Service gone to pot?
I am tired of hotels promising to go the extra mile only to have them refuse to go round the corner!

Hilton Hotels is the latest to fall foul of the “We will do anything for you” and then simply don't bother.

At 5.40 a.m I checked out of the Hilton Florence Metropole this morning. I was told there was no coffee available. But a quick walk to the breakfast room showed a continental breakfast was being served to airline staff who were crewing early departures. So I nipped in and got a cup of coffee.

“Oh you discovered the coffee," the night porter smugly commented. As if I had been Harry Potter delving into the Department of Mysteries.

I inquired why he could not have either pointed me in the direction or asked the concierge to get me a cup? A shrug of the shoulder and a “not allowed” followed.

So let’s boil this down to basics:

Firstly, Hilton, once coffee is made in the hotel, why don’t you provide some in the lobby for early departing guests?

Secondly, why don’t you tell your staff to use their initiative? There wasn’t a tour group of 100 checking out, only me!

This all comes down to common sense. Here we have an employee who is authorized to remove 360 Euros from my credit card but not authorized to get me a cup of coffee?

Remember Hilton, I have Marriott, Intercontinental, Hyatt and Wyndham cards in my wallet...

I am not angry. I am just disappointed that, once again, a hotel has tried to convince me it will move heaven and earth to ensure I am comfortable when, in reality, it won’t even pass me the coffee pot!


A response from Hilton:

Having now spoken to the hotel, as promised an explanation regarding your experience at the Hilton Florence Metropole.

Breakfast at this hotel is served between 7 a.m and 10 a.m (11 a.m weekends); however should guests require an earlier breakfast, then we would normally request notice the evening before to allow us to prepare something for them.

Whilst we do provide an early breakfast service to airline crew, this is done through a special arrangement in which we provide a continental style breakfast for an agreed number of people. On that basis it is difficult to accommodate further ad hoc requests at that time in the morning as we simply haven't catered for additional people prior to the guest breakfast service commencing at 7 a.m.

Staff on duty were correct in saying that the normal breakfast service was not available (preparations for normal breakfast were just beginning), but it is clear that they could have and should have been more flexible by offering to organize refreshments and pastries for you. We will be briefing staff to be more flexible in their approach to ensure that ad hoc requests such as yours will be accommodated going forward.

Trust this helps clarify things.

Nicola McShane, Hilton Hotel
Glad that Hilton is briefing their staff on this issue (assuming that will actually happen), but let's be clear about this:

The guy wasn't asking for some chef to prepare him a multiple-course breakfast with all the trimmings. He wanted a cup of coffee. Period.
There was coffee being served to guests in the breakfast area, so clearly a pot had been made.

Why can't staff be bothered to fetch a cup -- especially when it's already been made?

It boils down to laziness.
Very poor, Hilton. Very poor.
It's just a cup of coffee that he was asking for... and the fact that instead of being apologetic, Ms. McShane is reasoning it out dosent really help. 700hrs or 100hrs, the point is, its "just" a cup of coffee and I would have certainly expected more out of a brand like Hilton.
In most sectors of service industries - hotels included - real service as in a decade ago has gone out the window.

Lots of smiles, very fussy front desk, and not much else, staff people standing around everywhere.

My most recent -I hate eating soup with small spoons. But love good soup. In a very expensive Four Seasons I requested a bigger spoon in the dining room - the waiter acted like he did not know what a spoon was, then brought me a teaspoon ... telling me that was all the kitchen could provide.

After calling a supervisor I got my big spoon ... such a simple request, geez.
What a wonderful business opportunity for a hotel group to actually provide real service instead of just lip service.
a shocking embarrassment for Hilton: As if making coffee could actually be construed as a coordinated service, or a special request. Its a 30 second process to fill the hopper with coffe grinds and flip a switch. To even rationalize their innactivity is an insult in itself. Im sure the staff has a pot of coffee brewing every 30 minutes for themselves that early in the morning. Perhaps their executives' financianl bonuses require the rationing of coffee worldwide?
Wow. What a terrible response from the Hilton. I guess I'm glad that I stick with the Marriott!
Big deal! So you couldn't get a cup of Joe at 5.40am while you were checking out of your Hilton hotel room.
I personally think there are more important issues facing the world than this.
Sure, staff were probably being lazy, but we no nothing about the interaction you had with the night porter. And we are supposed to be shocked by this and sympathize with you?
Squandering 360 euros on a hotel bill when you could have probably got a hotel room (with better service) elsewhere for half the price - and no, I'm not talking about using Marriot, Intercontinental, hyatt or Wyndham cards - at a local independently run hotel is more mind blowing to me.
Money does not get you everything and nor should it.
I expect Paris gets breakfast in bed but then she's far better looking than Richard Quest!
poor hilton simply poor
As an employee of Marriott for 8 years, it sounds to me that this hotel suffers from a lack of initiative as well as being too literal. It should matter not that there is no formal coffee service at 5 am, the staff is paid to have a "yes" attitude, even if they have to think outside the box. I do not blame the night porter for failing to rise to the occassion, as a hotel's service mentality begins at the top. Notice the response from Hilton was quick to point out that the guest was in error, while not once even apologizing. I suspect Nicola McShane will be shopping for new jobs in the near future.
Well, let's hope they really make an effort to improve as opposed to watching out for " the man Quest"- who can write a really embarrasing blog read by millions- and sc**&&ing everyone else!
What an absurd response. It wasn't a request for refreshments and pastries - it was a request for a cup of coffee. The attitude and response simply indicate the general attitude of hotel staff these days -- not only at the Hilton but at many others as well. It's a sad state of affairs when a company cannot empower their employees to go a bit out of the way to provide excellent customer service.
I think the "whilst" explains everything.
The business motto of the 21st century is, "What you can get away with." You can see examples of this all the time in the news.

What they are getting away with is, lack of good nature, lack of common sense, cutting every corner to increase those huge annual bonuses for the fat at the top. And let’s talk about those big salaries and big bonuses. Those CEOs justify these outrageous amounts because, and I’ve heard this over and over again, they make all the big decisions and take all the big risks. What risks ? Some make 6, 7 or 8 figure annual salaries and just as big annual bonuses. So, if they lose their job, they’ll have no food on the table ? No roof over their head ? With what… 6, 7 or 8 figures in the bank ? Where’s the risk in that ? The guy/gal making minimum wage who is living paycheque to paycheque (Canadian spelling) is taking all the risks. Mess up once and he/she doesn’t eat.

Regular employees don't care about anything because they aren't paid enough to care. They just want their shifts to end so that they can go home. It's all lip service. It's all about saying one thing but doing something else. At a young age, I was taught that was called lying. But now they have other, more politically correct terms for that.

The sad part about Nicola McShane of Hilton Hotel, is that she demonstrated just how far the Hilton hotel chain is willing to go to cut corners. They obviously count every piece of fruit in their “continental breakfasts” and every drop of coffee. I guess they think they can get away with it. Maybe many of them already do – we just don’t know. Now, if Nicola McShane could just be “let go”, her freed up “diminutive” salary might have been able to cover that poor guy’s cup of coffee without all that lip service and nonsense rationalization. Ejecting those “suits” is where they should be saving money.

In the 21st century, it's all about, “What you can get away with.”
No, we don't know anything about his interaction with the night porter. No surprise, then, that the Anonymous back-biting corporate kiss-up who posted comment #6 at 2:42pm couldn't find the stones to leave a name. Fitting that this individual should gallingly defend mediocrity as if it were a way of life.
Yes, Nicola McShane of Hilton Hotels, it clarifies that you don't give a stuff.

You gave an excellent bureaucratic, non-customer-oriented, political answer.

It only confirms Richard's premise.
Nicola's response was worse than no response at all. She only served to show how today's travel service employees have lost their duty to serve the customer. She proves "We will do anything for you" is only a tag line from the advertising agency.
Bonjour Monsieur Quest !

I don't know if you got coffee this morning, but I know you got some chocolate ! I was so surprised to see you today in Geneva, I just had the time to offer you a little sample of our contry treasure, hope you've enjoyed it ! How funny to read you on this blog and suddenly to see you live. As I said to you, "je suis une de vos fan !" Cynthia Althaus.
Hey Richard,
sorry to use comments for email, but I saw you in the street of Geneva today, coming out of a cuckoo clocks shop (what else ;)
I just wanted to offer my help if you need assistance to move around the city and find stories. I run a yearly conference here and know most of the new tech folks if that's an angle you'd like to cover.
have a nice stay :)
Odd, and more than sad, that the concept of "customer service" has gone from "the customer is always right" to company reps explaining to customers what their rules are and then offering a small concession if the customer is lucky, as if to underscore that the company doesn't actually have to do anything at all... Hilton is hardly alone in that "new and improved" attitude.
When you go to a chain hotel, you are basically paying extra for all those high priced management consulants that think up these penny pinching policies in the first place.

The irony is that it's only high priced management consultants that can afford to stay there now.

What goes around comes around.
"difficult to accommodate"?? You're private enterprise, you're supposed to be perfect!! At least that's what you tell us in government. Aren't you in the private sector always whining about how you are so much more efficient than government? Yet here I am, working in government, and my JOB is to accommodate the public -- MY CUSTOMERS -- all day long. I don't see YOU doing that, Paris Hilton. Where is your Tom Peters "In Search of Excellence" credo? Wasn't that all the rage in the 80s? What happened to that idea, putting the customer on a pedestal?

Bottom line here: think outside the box, folks. In a small 'mom-and-pop' hotel, the desk clerk simply walks over to the room where the airline crew is quaffing flagons of free 'joe', grabs the pot, and brings it out to serve our valued customer. Not "let's be bureaucrats" as seems to be Paris Hilton's Dad's motto.

And if you (Hilton) are going to set up some, uh, "special arrangement" with the airline crew, do it behind closed doors for gosh sakes. Have the good sense (again, private enterprise--perfect...) to realize, Ms. McShane, that if other guests see this, they will get upset at what appears to be unfair privileges accorded to a special group. Set up the airline crew in a separate room that the other guests don't have access to, or just darn well bring coffee and goodies to the hotel room of each of the crew! This isn't rocket science lady, even I figured this out!
And I'll bet Mr. Quest routinely sends meals back to the kitchen if they are not up to "his standards"... Well, golly gee, he couldn't get his coffee at 5:40am, isn't that a shame. If he had checked with someone as to when breakfast would be ready there wouldn't have been this problem, now would there. But the guidelines, information and "rules" are not applicable to Mr. Quest, he's got to have special attention, wherever and whenever he may grace us with his presence.

As a Hilton Diamond member, didn't the Hilton Florence Metropole, Italy provide a coffee maker in your room? I know maybe you wanted a cup of coffee when you checked out, plus the rate was quite very high, over 300 Euros. I wouldn't pay that for one night anywhere, unless a company was paying for it. But to the point, when leaving at 5:40am, the idea is to leave and not be accommodated by the hotel. I think the nearest Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts would be in better order for a few Euros. I'm surprised you didn't get Executive lounge access, either. They would have helped your 5:40am coffee.

I think you're traveling to the wrong places. Italy? For what exactly? I have a Marriot, Wyndham, Intercontinental and Starwoods cards too. But if you ever worked at Faulty Towers, you'd know how to not be bothered by Manuel.
The spokesperson made it clear to me that the hotel is insensitive and cannot even give an apology to its client . Customer service has fallen worldwide and the few businesses who still exercise it do well. Ill be staying somewhere else .
I travel a bit and have found that "service" is frequently better at the smaller, newer chains (the sort where you make your own waffle in the morning). I also refuse to be buggered for wifi at the more expensive hotels. It just doesn't make sense -- I pay more so I can pay more for what is free across the street? (For that matter, if your room is facing the right direction, you can sometimes hit the smaller hotel's wifi.)
Hi Richard, you definitely create a stir with your blog! Which I find great, good to be controversial.

Just a pitty that several making comments do not own up to their comments by staying anonymous.

Service at the major chain hotels in Europe and the US does not compare to the very high service level you will find in Asian hotels, and I am not talking about the perceived top hotels only.

Try to visit Hilton Kushing, Malaysia - they know what service is!

What really annoyed me, was Hiltons response. It has an air of "sorry not my table Mr. Quest, and if you are such a difficult guest who does not know when our meal times are, this is not really our problem"!

There are few of the larger hotel chains which foster a culture of staff taking initiative or ownership of any given situation, your example clearly illustrate that.

There is a reason why I stay at hotels where they have a coffee maker or espresso maschine in the room!
I define peoples expectations by noting there behavior in relation to Madonna's age.There are tose who are progressive and pragmatic, I call them post Madonna then there are people like your entitled self you are definately a pre-Madonna.
The fix is simple: Empower front-line personnel to solve customer problems and to provide great customer service, creatively, even if it involves other personnel, and compensate them for doing so. Hilton doesn't have to lose money on the deal. After all, exceptional service that clearly goes above and beyond the call of duty generates customer loyalty and return visits (amortizing the expense) and, at the same time, generates positive word of mouth from the customer.

NOT providing good service has generated this blog thread, which is now searchable on Google, making Hilton's reputation a little more sullied, and increasing the odds that people will choose competitors.

What's the cost of THAT?

I hope some calculators are being pulled out at Hilton right now. HINT: Look at the loss of net present value of future earnings from all the customers that will now be choosing other hotels. How much have you saved from not serving coffee? Subtract that from the loss.

Done! Hilton, you have your answer flashing on your calculator!
I take no sides in this case, as both sides are "right" in their own way. But I thought Hilton made a very poor response on the situation. The Hilton comment sounds more like it was prepared by the security chief rather than public affairs.
As an employee in the hospitality industry(which can be un-hospitable at times) I cannot fathom any property not having coffee available at any given time. For myself I always kept a fresh carafe of coffee ready. However in defense of front desk staff who often work for little dictators with tight purse strings, it is not always possible to accomodate everyone. Front desk staff is often poorly trained and under paid.On this issue however, I side with the guest. Coffee should be ready all hours-it is a great courtesy to all our guests.
Hilton's response closed with: "Trust this helps clarify things. Nicola McShane, Hilton Hotel."

In my mind, the guest pointed out a service area that Hilton can clearly improve on. The guest is not the one in need of clarification!
"It's just a cup of coffee that he was asking for... and the fact that instead of being apologetic, Ms. McShane is reasoning it out dosent really help. 700hrs or 100hrs, the point is, its "just" a cup of coffee and I would have certainly expected more out of a brand like Hilton. "

This is exactly the point. The number of times i've had people "explain" the hotel rules to me and with explain I mean read them up word for word as if they are reading to an 8 year old.

Unbelievable that Hilton would send such a response, or maybe not.
While I don't doubt the validity of the claim I have to say that is an exception and not the norm at Hilton. We've stayed between 75-80 nights in the past 5 months at several Hilton family properties (Hilton, Hampton etc) and I have to say the service for the most part has been excellent. The best being the Hilton Americas in Houston where we are currently staying - head and shoulders above the rest, followed by Hilton Vegas (the vacation one on the strip). The worst was Hilton New York (53rd & 6th) for surliest staff. But overall our experience with Hilton has been very positive.
I have traveled a fair amount and generally been treated well at most hotels I have stayed at. A few times I ran into surly employees and had less than desirable levels of service. No matter what policies a hotel puts in place to insure their customers are well treated, once in a while poor service is bound to happen. Perhaps the employee you dealt with had a fight with his or her spouse that day or had other distracting personal issues. It’s difficult to tell. Things like that will happen no mater how well trained the staff may be or how well intentioned the management might be. I’m not suggesting that in this particular case that the employee was well trained or that the hotel management really cared about superior customer service. Just that even if all of that were true, mistakes still happens.

On the other hand, when such things do happen it’s not the mistake I get concerned about, it’s what they do about it that matters most. In this case Hilton failed to do the right thing. Their response to this issue was to whine about the inefficacy of providing a simple service. Instead of saying anything about correcting the problem, they merely suggested that your request was unreasonable and left it at that. Shame on you, Hilton.
Richard, I agree with you completely, and the defenders of mediocrity should be ashamed themselves!

Let me be clear; I do not usually expect star treatment myself, but nor can I afford to stay at the Hilton when I travel. My wife and I recently returned from a business trip in Italy ourselves where we stayed exclusively at two-star hotels. We neither expected nor received "extra mile" service, and that was entirely appropriate.

In the rare occasion that we can "splurge" however, we want to get pampered for our money. After all, service and amenities is what the Hilton is selling, and if they refuse to deliver, one would be better off staying at a two-star hotel.

Alas, this seems to be a growing trend in many western businesses who are foundering because they've focussed their efforts on slogans, marketing and advertising rather than improving their core product. The American auto industry is a good example. They, like Hilton Hotels and countless others deserve to go bankrupt unless they learn that you have to produce products worth buying before you can sell what you've made.
Hi all International Hotel Lovers & Travelers
I just think it is really shocking and unacceptable how too large cooperate hotel companies, and Hilton is just one of them take advantage and don't pay attention to the special service delivery anymore. I work in the same industry and I used to work for that sort of companies and I just have to totally agree. Good old Quest is just a 'little dot' on top of the ice mountain!
Mr Samoht / Singapore
So what? A Blog about not getting your coffee at 5:40pm. Man, you're a spoiled sissy. Sure, you probably paid a lot of money, but c'mon.

Some people have real problems. Stop whining and be thankful that you're not one of them!
Thank you very much, Richard, for printing Ms. McShane's reply. While bureaucratically "absolutely correct", it does a beautiful ob of demonstrating the way that the Hilton company is now run: by accountants and not by hoteliers.
I found Nicola's response quite precious. She probably did not feel your pain because the times that she stayed at her company's hotels, she probably got right-royal treatment including bed coffee. She could have cut out the top 2 paragraphs (you were not saying that the employee was wrong) and just skipped to the third one where she says "We will be briefing staff to be more flexible in their approach to ensure that ad hoc requests such as yours will be accommodated going forward." As SIMPLE as that! Empathy is all it takes.....
Having traveled quit abit, I have discovered that it you want a plesurable experience forget the large name brand we care hotels. Why pay 150 and up for pretty shabby treatment, while being charges for everything that is not nailed down.

The lower prestige chains provide internet service (without extra charge), parking (without extra charge), coffee in the lobby (without extra charge or time constraints), free breakfast (where they expect individuals to be early risers) normally starting by 6 am, but with coffee already brewing, newspapers (free of charge and depending on the chain delivered to your room or avaiable at the front dresk) granted its limited noramlly to USA today and the local newspaper but irt works.

Bottom line, major chains have developed a bit of smuggness about themselves. After all the hours of breakfast are from 7-10 am during the week. Why should we be expected to bend our ways for a guest.
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