I recently trekked to Marshall, Texas for “Girlfriend Weekend,” the mega-event of the Pulpwood Queens, probably the largest book club in the country not run by someone named Oprah. During my stay in Marshall, I domiciled myself at the world renowned La Quinta Inn. Well, even if it wasn’t world renowned, at least it was the closest to the interstate.
My stay at the LaQuinta featured some highs—such as a Texas-shaped waffle iron—and some lows—like cigarette holes in my bedding and a rogue roll of masking tape in my shower. As is my way, I blogged about it.
The very next day, I received a message on my voicemail. “This is the general manager of the La Quinta Inn in Marshall, Texas. I’ve been informed that you were unsatisfied with your stay at our hotel. Please call me at your convenience so we can find a way to make this right. Thank you.”
I hadn’t the faintest idea how this particular hotelier would have come across my blog. When I called, it was the first thing I asked him. “Our PR department monitors all blogs on the Internet for mentions of La Qunita so we can make sure all of our customers are satisfied,” the manager told me. “And my total focus today is to make sure that you are a satisfied customer. Now tell me: what can La Quinta do to make that happen?”
“Well, thank you. Maybe you can tell me: what can La Quinta do to make that happen?”
“Well, sir, this works best if you can tell me the kind of thing that would make you the most satisfied with your La Quinta experience.”
Of course, I couldn’t answer with the kind of in-room experience which would have been most satisfying. “Maybe you can tell me the kind of standard things you do…”
“Sir, every situation is different and every customer is different, so just tell me: what’s going to satisfy you?”
I was impressed that La Quinta appeared to be the type of organization that wanted to proactively take care of its mistakes. All companies make errors on their frontlines, but it is a sign of managerial excellence to acknowledge this fact and embrace a system of processes and controls to rectify blunders quickly. I felt that La Quinta was this kind of company.
I also felt this manager was a like mob informant wearing a wire trying to get his boss to cop to various double- and triple-homicides. “So remember that one guy we had to take out because of the thing at that place? What was that guy’s name again and where did we plant him?”
“So, tell me, Mr. Dann,” the manager inquired again, “what are some of the things we can do to make this right by you?”
I decided to bite. “Well, you can knock two nights’ charges off my bill…”
“Done,” he replied.
Damn, I should have asked for four room nights…even though I only stayed three. I gotta regroup and NEGOTIATE.
“Well, you mentioned that this is a top flight hotel…and I’d like to experience the level of service you mentioned…so maybe you could send me a couple of room vouchers, or something.”
“Sure, we can do that, Mr. Dann.”
Damn, I’m leaving too much on the table here! Power of the press! Power of the press!
“Oh, and…uh…maybe a…” What to say? What to say? Oh…oh…of course! “And maybe one of those Texas waffle irons.”
“Um…well, sir…I’ll, uh, see what I can do.”
Check and Mate, La Quinta. Check and Mate.
* * *
I do want to thank the folks at La Quinta for making the extra effort to please its customers. As a close observer of many topflight business organizations, I must say, “well done.” Actually, “La Quintastic.”
And since I’m sure the La Quinta blog patrol will be checking this little missive out, I also wanted to say: I still haven’t received those room certificates…not that I want to be a pain or anything…
Oh, and also, how about that waffle iron, guys?