I spent much of this past week in New York City. While there I stayed at the Grand Hyatt New York, a nice hotel right next door to Grand Central Station (hence, the "Grand" component of the name). It's also is 1 1/2 blocks from my New York office so extraordinarily convenient.
To be honest, all hotels in New York are expensive, there is simply no getting around it. And with a brand like Hyatt, one can assume to pay a premium but also expect a premium in service. To me, that is the essence of their brand. But how fragile these perceptions can be when not aligned throughout every aspect of an organization.
I had two hours before needing to depart New York so I thought I would check my bags with the Bell Captain before checking out and paying my $1,998 bill. The Bell Captain station was at the far right of the front desk (a key point to remember for later in the story) and I rolled my bags into the line. When it was my turn the employee asked how many bags I had. Four, I said (two suitcases, a satchel and a small backpack). I was informed that it would cost me $8...
Now I do not know about you but in all of my travel throughout the world (literally, throughout the world) I have never come across a handling fee for storing my baggage- ever. And especially when about to pay a near $2,000 hotel bill.
Nevertheless, I proceeded to dig through my pockets and found that at that exact moment I only had $5 in cash on me (due to the $10 I left in my room for the cleaner as a token of appreciation). I told the man that I only had $5 and as such would like to put the charge on my room (which I had not paid yet). Nope, not an option. This was a cash only transaction and could not be handled in the system.
This struck me (and continues to strike me) as a very odd response. My bar tab, my food bill, my spa treatment (didn't have one, just making a point) all can go on my bill. Any service offered by the hotel can go on the bill. As these gentlemen were wearing Hyatt name badges and were at the end of the same counter that contained the check-in desk, I only assumed that they must work for the hotel. And as such, shouldn't this service be able to be entered into the system and placed on my bill as ALL OTHER hotel offered services are? Nope, cash only...
I told the man I only had $5 and asked what we could do. He said that I needed $8 to cover the costs of all of my bags. I responded, again, by saying I only had $5. He asked what did I want him to do (the line was getting longer and the tension was beginning to be, well, apparent). I said I wanted him to work with me to solve the issue. He said the only way we could do that was if I had the $8 required. It was at this point, based on his unwillingness to work with me to find a solution, that the manager was requested.
This is where it got even more interesting. After explaining the situation to the manager, he nodded with the appropriate feigned understanding and empathy and said he was sorry for the inconvenience but the systems were not equipped to handle this as a room charge and that the transaction had to be cash.
He then proceeded to tell me that, as a union hotel, an agreement was reached between the hotel management and the bag handlers whereby all the bag handling was to be cash and paid directly to the handlers themselves. And that by not paying the full $8 I would be taking money out of the hard working individuals that would carry my bags 14 feet and protect them with their lives. I appreciate that, I truly do. People need to be paid a fair wage for their work. And let's be clear- that was what I wanted to do. Option A was to put it on my room charge. Clearly not a possibility. Option B, which was never offered due to their lack of desire to work with me to find a mutually beneficial solution, was to take the bags and, upon my return (remember, they have my luggage... I am not leaving NY without them) I could pay them the full fee.
And then I made a comment that solved the whole issue. I asked the manager if he really wanted $3 to impact this consumer's impression of the entire organization? A consumer that was about to pay his company $2,000. He didn't like that... he didn't like that at all. As his attitude got a little more... firm... he indicated that he would take care of the whole situation out of his own pocket because he just couldn't "take my last $5.00." I offered to give him my $5- no. I offered to come back with all the cash when I returned for my bags- no. He was going to take care of it and that was that.
While the end solution he proposed did indeed meet my need (watch my damn bags for a few hours) it did not meet Hyatt's need of being compensated. So this was not a good solution. They took my bags, gave me my claim ticket, and would not take any money from me.
You'll be happy to know that after checking out I returned to the Bell Captain's Desk Manager and told him I would return with the full amount, plus tip, to pay the union-based bag handlers. He began to say that it was not necessary but I instructed him that the only thing I would accept from him was a "yes" which, after a few moments' delay, I got.
So let's dissect this story and find out where the Hyatt should have zigged instead of zagged.
Lack of systems integration- Not being able to have all services offered by the Hyatt on a room-charge ability platform is antiquated. There is no reason for it to be this way. As a consumer, the last thing I need to hear about is systems issues, union structure of employees, or anything remotely like it. What I need to hear are options that help me solve my problem.
Lack of systems integration II- While a $2,000 bill will not likely put me in the Grand Hyatt's Big Spender Club, it is a wad of cash. But I dug a bit further... in the past 5 years I have spent more than $11,000 at Hyatt hotels throughout the world (personal and business). I can imagine that my experience would have been quite different had they had access to that info. And guess what? Since the Hyatt does have the info about my prior visits with them they DO have access to it... and they have either not used it effectively (or at all) or they determined that I was not a profitable enough customer to deserve $3 consideration. Care to guess which one will prove to be true?
Nickel and dime-As stated previously, I have never encountered a hotel that charges for baggage handling and temporary storage. It has always been based on tips which I more than gladly participate in. After having breakfast delivered to my room and paying the higher per-plate costs, the $5 delivery charge, the $8 pot of coffee, and the built-in tip, I was a bit sensitive to being hit up for another nickel-and-dime fee. Yes, I know, I did not have to order those breakfast items... I agree. But I did and that does not equate into free license for the regal Hyatt, the leader of hotel customer satisfaction, to "incrementalize" me to the point of annoyance.
Black and white mentality-As I reflect on this story (which just happened yesterday) the issue that remains central to me is the absolute lack of effort to work with me, the consumer. This was not an issue of a hotel customer wanting anything for free. It was a hotel customer seeking assistance in solving an issue and being open and vocal about alternatives. In response, I received a black and white mentality which did not allow any flexibility, in systems nor in personnel. This is the behavior that exemplifies a customer satisfaction leader?
If I were to pose the following query to Hyatt management what do you think they'd do?
Get $3 now and get no additional revenue stream for the next 30 years from a single source OR forgo the $3 now and receive a revenue stream of $66,000 over the next 30 years (in today's dollars).
And by the way, this calculation is based on simply MY actions, not the actions of others who hear me tell this story in lectures, read this blog, or read about this as a case study.
And while I think management would clearly opt for the latter option, why has it not enabled these decisions to be made every day at every Hyatt location?
And in case you are wondering, I think I will stay at Starwood properties from here on out...