Last week I was traveling on business and stayed at a hotel in Montpelier, VT. I got my key card and headed up to my room with my bags.
I slid the key card into the lock and pulled it out. No dice, the door stayed locked. I tried again. Nothing. I used the other key card. Still nothing. So, I lugged my luggage (hey, is that where that word comes from?) back down the small elevator. The desk attendant told me there had been problems with some of the keys and apologized, then made me some fresh cards.
He also told me that if I had any further problems there was a call button by the elevator so I wouldn’t have to come back down again. I grabbed my stuff and went back up to my room and used the new key. Nothing. Ditto for the second key. I tried both keys several more times, making sure that it wasn’t me.
I trudged back to the elevator and pressed the call button. The desk attendant answered, and I told him I still couldn’t get in. He told me someone would be up…shortly, and hung up.
Shortly. What did that mean? Was he hopping over the desk, skeleton key in hand to help me out? Or did 20 people just come in and demand his attention and he would get to me when he could?
I sat there, in the overly-warm hotel hallway, watching as the daylight–and my opportunity for a bike ride–slip away. The doors finally opened, but it was only another guest. After over 5 minutes (this was a hotel of probably under 100 rooms on a quiet Monday evening) I finally buzzed again.
“Yes, was someone coming up to help me get into my room?”
“Yes, we’ll be up there shortly.”
Shortly! The bane of my existence.
“OK, because I’m still waiting here.”
“We’ll be up shortly.”
The front desk attendant arrived a couple minutes later. We walked down the hall together and he asked for one of my cards. He put it in and…nothing. Then he put it in again and sloooooowly pulled it out, with a slight pressure upwards as he removed it.
Click. The door unlocked. Then he gave me this look that said, “you couldn’t figure that out on your own?” Then he said out loud, “you need to pull it out slowly and lift up as you do.” Thanks, that would have been really helpful information when you first handed me my key card.
Lesson Learned: Don’t let your customers wonder. Because of poor communication, I wasn’t really sure what I should do. Should I just wait there? If so, for how long? Should I go down and see them at the front desk, or did that make me seem too aggressive? The longer I waited in that hallway, the more irritated I became because I wasn’t sure what my role was.
Not knowing what’s expected of you as the customer is an incredibly frustrating experience, especially if you don’t know if the next move is yours or the vendor’s. The more uncertainty there is, the more dissatisfaction the customer feels.
Take a look at your own process; is there a point (or two) in which there’s often customer confusion? If so, what can you do to fix that? Is there a place where communication goes down a black hole, like the call button near the elevator?
Bonus Lesson: Don’t make your customer feel stupid. I don’t travel a lot, but I have enough experience to work a key card. If your key card needs a ninja move and a flick of the wrist to work, you should a) fix the locks, or b) give people a heads up that sometimes the locks are finicky.