Customer Service and the Butterfly Effect

In many of his books, Andy Andrews talks about the butterfly effect, a theory put forward in a doctoral thesis by Edward Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist.

Butterflies in a Field of Sun Flowers - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/diane39, Image #473728

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/diane39

In short the butterfly effect states that a butterfly can flap its wings on one side of the world and set in motion molecules of air that in turn set in motion other molecules of air and eventually create a hurricane on the other side of the world.

Ridiculed for a generation, the butterfly effect was eventually proved by scientists and given the status of a law: ”The law of sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” It basically means that everything you do—and don’t do—matters. It has a bigger impact on the world than you can possibly imagine.

I got to thinking about the application of this law to customer service this weekend. Sometimes, we underestimate the impact our actions have on our customers and ultimately the health of our organizations.

This past weekend, Gail and I attended the Women of Faith Conference in Dallas, Texas. This is a conference owned by Thomas Nelson, and we always look forward to going. We arrived on Friday afternoon and checked into the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Dallas.

Because my last name is Hyatt, I always feel a sense pride in the Hyatt hotel brand. I usually have fun with the front desk clerks when I check in. And until this past weekend, I always enjoyed staying at Hyatt hotels. But this time was not so pleasant. The trouble started when we got to our room.

Usually, the first thing I do when I get to my room is setup my computer. I had worked through my email inbox on the flight from Nashville and had a couple of dozen messages to upload. However, I could only get a weak wireless signal. Gail couldn’t get any signal at all.

I thought to myself, No problem. I will just hook my portable router up to the ethernet connection, and we’ll be fine. Except there wasn’t an ethernet connection.

So, I called the front desk. The clerk acted liked this happened all the time. “No problem, Mr. Hyatt, we will send someone right up with a wireless booster.” I told him we would need two, because my wife was with me.

Ten minutes later, a bellman delivered the boosters to our room. I plugged them in and the signal was as weak as ever. We still could not get on the Internet. I rebooted. Still no joy.

Next I called the tech support number on the booster box. A very helpful technician worked with me for about 30 minutes. He couldn’t get either box to work and pronounced them both defective. He told me I’d have to go to the front desk and get two more. By this time, I had to push the pause button and get ready for the evening’s event.

Meanwhile, Gail noticed that the bathroom sink wouldn’t drain, and the toilet wouldn’t stop running without manual intervention. These weren’t a big deal but were annoying, given the Hyatt’s reputation.

When we arrived at the event, we notified Erika Greene, our Vice President of Operations for Women of Faith. She is responsible for booking our conference hotels. At this one hotel alone, we had booked 400 rooms. As a result, she was confident she could get our problem fixed right away. I was, too.

As we left the conference to return to the hotel, Mary Graham, who runs our Women of Faith conferences, told me that we should have a cheese plate waiting for us in our room. Nice, I thought. I am ready for a little evening snack. I also assumed that the other problems would be resolved as well. Not so much. The problems were not fixed and there was no cheese plate. So, I sent an email to Erika. I knew she would want to know.

The next morning, Erika spoke with the hotel. They apologized, promised to fix the problems, and call me with a personal apology. They also promised to have a cheese plate in our room Saturday when we got back from the conference.

I’m sad to report, that when we got back to our room late Saturday evening, nothing—not a single thing—had been fixed. I am not a complainer by nature, but, again, I thought Erika should know. Our organization had spent a lot of money with the Hyatt. If I was getting this kind of treatment as the CEO, it made me wonder how our other guests were being treated.

Erika got the message and evidently made a call or two. At 9:30 p.m., we had a technician show up at the door. The front desk also called and offered to bring up a cheese plate. Since by this time it was late and we were already in bed, we declined both offers. Too little, too late.

So what does this have to do with the Butterfly Effect? Everything. The people at the Hyatt made lots of little decisions along the way:

  • Someone made a decision not to install a enough wireless routers to make sure that every room had wireless coverage. I’m sure this saved a few thousand dollars.
  • When people complained, the hotel made the decision to invest in wireless boosters. These probably cost a few thousand dollars, but, from my experience, didn’t solve the problem.
  • Someone chose not to report the sink that wouldn’t drain or, if they did, someone decided not to fix it. My guess is that eventually the housekeeping staff gave up. Maybe all the sinks are like this. You have to wonder.
  • Someone chose not to report the toilet that wouldn’t stop running or, again, if they did, someone chose not to fix it. It’s a small thing, but pretty annoying if you are paying what the Hyatt charges.
  • Someone chose not to order the cheese plate or got busy and didn’t send it up. Who knows. (I could understand missing it the first night, but the second?)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Lots and lots of small decisions. Seemingly insignificant decisions. Unfortunately, for them, these decisions added up.

I don’t illustrate this to toot my own horn, but to demonstrate that your customers or constituents are probably more connected than you think. For example:

  • I will think twice before ever staying at another Hyatt. (That’s probably 10–12 room nights a year.)
  • I will tell my Travel Department to avoid booking the Hyatt for traveling employees. (Admittedly, our people are usually staying in cheaper hotels, but this could be another 50–100 room nights a year.)
  • I have already suggested that Erika find another hotel for our 2009 Women of Faith event. (That’s another 400–600 room nights a year.)
  • I was on a conference call today with the the board of our trade association. We are planning a conference in Dallas next spring for 20,000 attendees. He began discussing hotels. I said, “I don’t care which hotels we book, but I would urge us to avoid the Hyatt Regency downtown.” (That’s probably another 1,000 room nights.)
  • And, of course, I am blogging about it now. I have about 15,000 readers (give or take).

The point is that all of these decisions made by Hyatt employees seemed small. But, unfortunately, they have led to some big consequences. And the ripple will continue for some time to come. These decisions set things in motion.

It made me wonder about my own company. Are our employees truly empowered to solve customer problems? Are we responsive? Do we fix problems immediately? How much business have we lost because of seemingly small decisions?

This example should be a sobering reminder to every leader that everything matters.

Update: Steve Vissotzky, the General Manager for the Hyatt Regency Dallas, emailed me Tuesday evening at about 6:00 p.m. That was about 24 hours after I posted my blog. We connected by phone Wednesday morning. He apologized. He also explained that they were re-wiring the rooms. That project should be complete shortly. Every room will then have both wireless and ethernet capabilities.

He also said that his internal “logs” indicated that a repairman spent 45 minutes in my room on Saturday, fixing the sink and the toilet. I assured him that they were not fixed, nor did I get a call from anyone at the hotel confirming that the work had been done. Mr. Vissotzky did tell me that they had removed my room charges.

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  • http://questtowrite.blogspot.com WordVixen

    Are Hyatt’s franchises? An experience like this may be something that the head office would like to know about.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @WordVixen: I’m sure they will hear about it. If they are like us, they use Google Alerts to track information that appears on the Web about their company.

  • http://www.wmarkwhitlock.com W. Mark Whitlock

    You wrote: “It made me wonder about my own company. Our our employees truly empowered to solve customer problems? Are we responsive? Do we fix problems immediately? How much business have we lost because of seemingly small decisions?”

    Thanks for turning the careful eye of a bad experience onto your own company. That’s good leadership.

  • http://www.duffbert.com Thomas “Duffbert” Duff

    An excellent example of how *every* customer needs to be treated as if they have a forum to tell the world about their experience. Because with blogging, in effect they do.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and your thoughts.

  • insideout

    I have been waiting on a topic like this. This is commmon in just about every company from TN to Timbuktu. I would imagine the Hyatt staff where you are staying might be feeling overwhelmed by their spouses recent layoffs, maybe their lack of health insurance for their children and maybe their ineffective management team. But… customer service is thriving for some companies… how?

    ROLE MODELS- their managers, directors, supervisors, and I would imagine after reading your website for several months now, your company is thriving. Why? Becuase not only do you want to be profitable now but to continue to succeed, your employees will drive that success… case in point: your blog about your recent layoffs.

    To really have, REALLY good customer service, top to bottom- bottom to top: transparency. ” I AM WHAT I AM!”

  • http://www.skstewart.com Susan K. Stewart

    An organization I speak for has been using the Hyatt in Long Beach. Again, probably 200 -300 rooms over the course of five days. We had similar experiences this year. I booked an extra room, and the bill for that room hasn’t been straighten out. (I was there nearly six weeks ago.)

    This organization already had a 2009 contract, but are looking for somewhere else in 2010.

  • Dean

    Thanks for the candid report. I go to Dallas often and will not be staying there.
    All levels of an organization should be accountable to the customer and all levels should have a sense of ownership.

  • Anne Lang Bundy

    Mr. Hyatt, I’d like you to know that when I contacted Randy Elliot and Maudine West of Thomas Nelson last autumn (concerning copyright permissions), their courtesy and promptness was exceeded only by their kindness. Few businesses, Christian or otherwise, have so impressed me. As I’ve become better acquainted with the publishing industry in these intervening months, that initial contact has shined all the brighter amidst publishing’s agonizing pace.

    When the Word of Promise Audio Bible NKJV received the ECPA Book of the Year award for 2008, I immediately obtained a copy. Again, Thomas Nelson exceeded my expectations. (The book of Revelation is a must hear!)

    Your drive for excellence is well-evident. Your organization and the people who make it what it is are to be commended for the impact they are having on the world.

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    Great post, Mike! I travel quite a lot too, and I try to blog about good and bad service too. I think hotels and businesses are going to find out that the butterfly has even more effect in this blog era!

  • http://www.worldtravel-directory.com/ Ahmad

    The point is that all of these decisions made by Hyatt employees seemed small. But, unfortunately, they have led to some big consequences. And the ripple will continue for some time to come. These decisions set things in motion.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/1218236009s4731/ Eric S. Mueller

    I avoid plenty of businesses based on bad customer experiences. I’m sure the problems at that Hyatt have to do with training and communication, but the chain needs to hold somebody accountable for it.

    I’ve had other businesses where I will drive extra distance and maybe even pay a little bit more because I know I will get a better experience and I can trust the service.

  • http://www.angelaposeyarnold.com Angela Posey-Arnold

    Seems as though this butterfly effect started with the first flutter of the wings of someone who does not have a servant’s heart.

  • http://www.emergingintofaith.blogspot.com Dr. David & Lisa Frisbie

    Lisa and I are “road warriors” since the early 1980′s — we feel your pain. Your Hyatt stay was a surprising synergy of bad news and missed opportunities. Honestly I wonder if key hotel personnel were on vacation during this conference? But if so they are not training their staff well.

    Stay in a Hilton, any Hilton, next time. They seem to grasp the value of honoring the customer.

    We are frequently and usually treated as though our net worth is substantially higher than it actually is. This behavior from Hilton induces extreme loyalty in us: we given them the majority of our travel stays. We are Diamond Elite with them now — a direct result of the way the Hilton family of properties has cared for us during our travels.

    • forazw

      In our case with the Paris Hyatt, we spoke with the managers, several times. “Polite” listening, on a limited basis, but nothing improved, promises were not kept, etc.
      Hyatt, worldwide, is at the top of our “strongly avoid” list now.

  • Christine Jones

    Mike,
    My job during college was as the head hostess at a waterfront seafood restaurant in downtown San Diego. It was not uncommon for us to have a wait of 2 hours on a summer weekend evening – you can imagine that customer service was key. That organization was driven with the undercurrent of empowerment and it could not have thrived without it. Everyone at every level was empowered to do whatever was needed to keep the customer happy. I have had a difficult time since then in taking positions with companies that work on a top down management methodology. If the people doing the jobs are not empowered to do whatever it takes, customer service will inevitably fail. Having to talk to more than one person to solve a problem is a failure. Your one person should have the solution or be able to get it for you. Hyatt’s employees don’t sound as if they are conscious of strategies to exceed expectations with regard to customer service. Great questions about our own organization – how do we ensure that everyone at Thomas Nelson feels responsible and able to do what it takes and that we, the employees, have the tools to make that happen?

  • Christina Berry

    Thanks for this post. Perhaps it will serve as a wake-up call for those who were asleep at the wheel.
    I’d like to add that since good customer service seems so rare these days, everyone who experiences it would do well to comment on it. I know, it seems silly to offer praise when people simply do their jobs, but when common courtesy is the exception rather than the rule, affirming it might increase it.
    I make it a practice, when store clerks are particularly pleasant or helpful (these days, that means greeting me, smiling, and asking if I’ve found what I need)to send an email comment or complete an online survey and mention them by name. Sometimes, I get a response telling me the person was recognized and rewarded — maybe the butterfly effect works…

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @Christina: I agree with you completely. That’s why I hate to complain. Sometimes it’s warranted. But I do believe you get more of what you notice, focus on, and reward. Thanks.

  • http://AndyAndrews.com Andy Andrews

    MIKE!

    I very much enjoyed this post. I suppose that the Butterfly Effect could also be referred to as “The Law of Unintended Consequence”. Like any other principle, it works whether we are aware of it or not.

    Curiously, as I read your blog this morning, I am in the Hyatt near Reagan National in DC. I was up early because I recieved 4 (FOUR) wake-up calls. I tried to assure the Hyatt employees that I was indeed awake, but to no avail.

    When I got into my room yesterday, I called the front desk to let them know that my shower door was missing. “Which shower door?” I was asked.

    “Is there supposed to be more than one shower in this room?” I responded. “You know…the shower in the bathroom…”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Yes, ma’am,” I replied, trying desperately to keep the smartaleckness out of my voice, “I am sure. You see, I have seen a few shower doors in my time and if this one were there, I am confident that I could have spotted it.”

    “Where do you think it could be?” she asked. “Have you checked around the room?”

    I paused, but couldn’t resist. “No ma’am, I haven’t checked the entire room, but if you’ll give me a minute, I’ll look in the drawers under the television.”

    “You’re kidding, right?” she asked with not a lot of certainty in her voice.

    “Yes,” I said. “I am. But only about it being in the drawers. I really don’t have a shower door in the room.”

    And I never got one either.

    I am here speaking for the fifth time this year for Tech Data. They are 105 on the Fortune 500 list…23.4 billion last year but the executives couldn’t get the coffee pot refilled for their clients this morning and they didn’t like it.

    Mike… Somehow, I think this all could have been avoided if your last name was “Carlton”.

    Yours,

    Andy

  • http://thetuskarcave.blogspot.com Al

    Having been on the other side of the customer service desk, the cashier side, I have to say I agree with Christina. A little kindness to a sales clerk goes a long way. People are just plain rude, and after getting yelled at, cursed at, and talked down to, you start to understand customer service is a learned skill. Now there is no excuse for bad customer service, don’t get me wrong, but next time you feel like treating a clerk like your slave, or saying that biting remark, remember that they are people too and you literally have the ability to either make their day for a job well done, or ruin their week because of your bad attitude.

    Mike it sounds like you handled the situation with tact – with patience even. Sounds like a simple case of them getting it wrong, and just plain bad customer service – which is unfortunate, and as I said, there is no excuse for. I know I’ll seriously reconsider next time I’m faced with staying at a Hyatt.

    • forazw

      In our incident with the Paris Hyatt, we were infallibly polite, and painfully patient. I am disabled, and even, with great pain and difficulty, went down to the desk myself several times, also waiting in the lobby several times, to try to help get the problems resolved.
      I was mostly ignored, or barely listened to, and they rarely followed through on fixing anything, or doing anything they “promised.”

  • Deb Hix

    Mike – This is the information that I have asked for from our travelers for years. I do get remarks on a hotel, car or air vendor once and awhile just in passing, but putting your experience down for others to see and bookmark is so helpful to those of us that do book travel for our associates. I’ve been told that I have a hard-nose attitude, but you know that is what it takes to make sure I am taken serious and I want the service that the vendor had promised me up-front to be awarded my business in the first place. Any one can ask any of our Corporate Vendors that we do business with and they will tell you that I am tough but at the same time I give credit due for an execellent job done and show our loyalty in return. The relationships we build between vendors is a very powerful tool for both sides. The Butterfly effect can be very harmful or very successful in any business. I have been in the Travel atmosphere for 20 years and I have seen customer service drop to it’s lowest in the past 8 to 10 years in every aspect of travel. I firmly believe this is a sign of respect for one’s self and their upbringing. It’s a sign of the times in our World that we need to get back to basic manners and appreciate what each person contributes to make the World a better place, not to mention the organization that they work for and should be proud to be a part of. I know it’s hard to manage every oops that occurs while a traveler is on the road and it’s hard to recoup the bad experience after the fact, so that’s where the hard-nose attitude comes in place of making it right after the first instance or that’s when your “Butterfly Effect” will begin.

  • http://www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.com Christina Berry

    I’m so glad the Christina Berry above left a nice, thoughtful comment! I know the publishing world is a small one, but it’s a little unnerving to see “myself” commenting on a blog I hadn’t yet read. Especially when an editor thought it WAS me.

    The funny thing is that I could have written it. :-) I often ask for the manager at restaurants when I’ve experienced good service. The flash of fear on the server’s face is unfortunate, but somewhat humorous.

    Christina, if you see this, contact me.

  • Troy

    My favorite quotes on customer service are: 1). “It’s not how much you do but how much love you put in to what you are doing.” Mother Teresa, and 2). A customer is the most important visitor to our premises.” Mahatma Gandhi.

    Two basic principles that this Hyatt hotel dropped the ball on (that go together):
    1). Great service goes the extra mile, and 2). Great service brings customers back.

  • http://www.consequentialvalue.com davidpleach

    Mike,
    Thomas Nelson’s author, Scott McKain, is arguably the country’s foremost authority on “customer experience.” His blog regularly critiques the travel and hotel industry. You and your readers can find him at http://mckainviewpoint.com/. His upcoming book, “The Collapse of Distinction” may be one of the most important business books we’ve ever published.

  • Jim Thomason

    There’s an instructional aspect to your blog for young people entering the workforce. Give great service to build a successful career. People are so unaccustomed to great service, because its so rare in American business (called United Healthcare lately?), that a bright young person with a smile and a servant’s heart can write their own ticket.

  • http://www.sabaifitness.com William Haynes

    I call this “Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”. They have everything in place… awesome reservations system, beautiful hotel, expensive chef… They are set for a win but instead so miss on a few very important things and end up with a loss. It’s an interesting phenomenon but not uncommon. Companies are often willing to do 95% of the job well but then don’t finish with the 5% that will take them on to victory. It wouldn’t work for those in the olympics to run 95% of the race and it won’t work for us either. We’re called to finish and finish well.

    Thanks for sharing a great example. I really enjoy reading your blog and it’s insights.

    • forazw

      Good customer service, including following through on your word, is part of a good foundation. A faulty foundation will never hold up well.
      Such was our case with the Hyatt Paris.

  • http://nicholsondrive.wordpress.com Michael

    Mike,
    I agree. Very candid post. One question, however: You have a very high profile position. Your blog is read by many. People respect your opinion greatly. What process do you go through to decide whether or not to slam a company on your blog? You must agonize over whether or not to use a company as an example, since I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if another CEO or public figure used Nelson in the same way without at least giving you a chance to fix the problem.

    Just a thought. And I agree with your post. I’m just curious about your process.

  • Mary

    “I’m sure they will hear about it. If they are like us, they use Google Alerts to track information that appears on the Web about their company.”

    I’m still wondering about that if they can’t even get the routers right!

  • John Young

    I guess they haven’t read John Maxwell’s book about teamwork. And I’m guessing you’re not in the mood to ship over a few hundred free copies. I don’t blame you.
    An odd part of this story is as Women of Faith is in city after city all year, Dallas is the home base of this unit of TNP, for Mary Graham, and most of the speakers live there now. Maybe in the off season they can poke around and see who the real players are in Dallas.
    Everybody has a travel nightmare story these days and perhaps this unit will learn that in the business of details they’ve allowed several things to slide.
    I always stay at Marriott and have no problems. I know Bill Marriott, and I know the weekly meetings they have reviewing comments, having customer reps walking around “looking for problems.” and never getting reports like this. Comparing this Hyatt to Marriott of their Ritz Carlton unit is like comparing FedEx to the post office. Different league all together.
    But a company who gets and addresses feedback regularly won’t have the list of problems this hotel did.
    Sadly the point may be missed, that a staff with potential wasn’t trained, motivated or empowered, and most likely will be blamed while the managers get a free pass. And Hyatt has a lot of managers on each shift.
    You’ll like Marriott on your next trip. In fact, when they see “Hyatt” registered, they might think you’re a spy and give you upgrades.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/paulmerrill/ Paul Merrill

    I may have missed it, but the Hyatt chain REALLY blew it by not commenting on this post. They should have had one of the first comments.

    They lost again.

  • http://michaeldmiller.wordpress.com mike millwe

    Mike great post! How true the butterfly effect on CService.
    I know the hotel well I lived in Dallas for many years.
    Sorry but they do have a reputation for that kind of poor customer service.

  • Lara

    Mike
    While on vacation last week, my family stayed at a Hyatt resort, but it was not a resort experience.

    We too, had a leaky toilet when we arrived. Thankfully, we had a repairman that cared. He actually had to make two visits to repair the toilet, but it was done and he left with a smile.

    However, there were other subtle things that could have been so much better. First, the towel rack in our bathroom broke. It was weak when we arrived. Despite a daily cleaning by the housekeeper on staff, it just stayed on the toilet where we left it during our entire stay (fyi…we never made a service call about this). Second, I did not bring shampoo and conditioner on our trip. The “free” shampoo was only restocked once during our four night stay even though the bottles were nearly empty. Thankfully, my husband had some stashed away in his travel set.

    Most of all, it was not what people did or said while we were there, it was what they did not say. I stayed in the Marriott Nashville Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, I was greeted by every hotel employee I passed and they had a wonderful hostess greeting everyone in the hotel lobby and providing answers to those who needed help. It got me to thinking I never experienced that while on our family vacation stay at the Hyatt. I’ve always had much better experiences at Marriott than at Hyatt. Let’s just say the Hyatt brand has fallen even further down on my list. I had high hopes, but was not “Wowed”, as you say, during our Hyatt stay. Marriott will be happy to have my business going foward.

    And I expected someone from Hyatt to post to your blog. I’m disappointed.

  • Mark Mobley

    Michael, I’ve become a fan of your blogging over the past year and think this post is relavent for todays business professional. However, in reading the comments, I think that many have missed the boat. Obviously we will all take a second look at our travel plans when a Hyatt might be involved. But the “Butterfly Effect” has much greater implications than customer service. Angela Posey-Arnold (in an above comment) sums it up, we must treat one another with a servant heart. Whether in our business or personal lives we can and do have a profound impact on those around us by the manner in which we serve them. St. Francis of Assisi said “Preach the Gospel at all times, and sometimes use words.”

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @Michael: You asked a very good question, “What process do you go through to decide whether or not to slam a company on your blog? You must agonize over whether or not to use a company as an example, since I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if another CEO or public figure used Nelson in the same way without at least giving you a chance to fix the problem.”

    I did agonize over it. In fact, this is the first time in about three years I have spoken negatively about another company. I always want to do everything I can to give the benefit of the doubt and give the other party and opportunity to rectify the situation.

    In this particular instance, our people worked with the Hyatt for three days. They had numerous opportunities to fix the problems. They could have moved me to another room. They never even offered this. In fact, after I posted this blog, it took the Hyatt 24 hours to contact me. And even that was because Erika gave the General Manager a copy of my blog. I just don’t think it was that high a priority.

    As you can see from the comments above (and several emails I have received), the problem appears to be systemic. My experience wasn’t unique.

    I am writing a follow-up article this one that I hope to post tonight.

    Stay tuned,

    Mike

  • Wanda Brewer

    I serve a local not for profit organization. An executive in frustration shared how so many of the organization’s employees just “don’t get it” when it comes to customer service, i.e., getting to know members by name, taking initiative to resolve a complaint and the likes. I asked, “What is the average age was of these employees who aren’t getting it?” “23 years” was the answer to which I responded, “This is the DIY Generation, they pump their own gas, use an ATM for banking, shop online, check themselves out at the grocery and hardware store, use a kiosk to ship packages and check in for their flights, and, there is a chance they have not been greeted by a live receptionist in quite some time.” Don’t get me wrong, I am all about customer service and going the extra yard whenever possible. My point is, the challenge for this DIY Gen is in providing an intangible to which “they do not get” because they may not “get it.”

  • Mary

    @Lara – My brother put us up in the Fairfield Inn in Greensboro, North Carolina over Labor Day. We are fortunate in that we usually get to stay in 5 star hotels but I thought it was sweet of my brother to go to so much trouble for us. We graciously accepted.

    Fairfield is a Marriot chain and we were absolutely bowled over by the service. We brought bicycles with us and the first night an attendant cheerfully stored them for us (it was after midnight when we arrived.) I asked his name later so I could write a note to the manager and learned he was a director from corporate!

    The room was perfect even including a speaker system to dock our iPod. Beautiful high quality polished wood hangers were available and they weren’t clamped to the closet rod. The bed was comfortable and everything worked perfectly. The room was spotlessly clean. The staff was pleasant and helpful (but we didn’t need much help because everything was always in tip-top shape.)

    The continental breakfast included healthy choices such as Kashi oatmeal, honey as an alternative sweetener, yogurt and a variety of herbal teas along with standard fare that even included sausage biscuits. There was such an abundance and variety of food but the healthy choices made this a standout for me.

    We will be loyal customers from now on – we enjoyed a nicer stay (because of having healthy food available) than in any of the 5 stars we have visited. I just thought I’d share because we felt like we got so much more than what we paid for.

  • corey blum

    Great customer service is arguably the most important thing to focus on in an organization. Great customer service increases the lifetime value of a customer… because their lifetime will be significantly longer. They will also create a butterfly effect in terms of referrals, one referral here may lead to 5 referral there, may lead to 20 referrals more. Here’s another good event with a good hotel…

    http://www.OneCoach.com/mmm?s=rm
    Corey

  • http://nicholsondrive.wordpress.com Michael

    Mike: I appreciate your response. I was just curious as to at what point does Mike Hyatt big-time public figure, whose opinion matters decide to wield the club. Obviously, you don’t complain about every bad experience you have. Some are just due to someone having a rough day. This, as you said, is systemic. I was curious how you pick which one to comment on, and which to just let go.

  • http://RefreshMoments.com Mary P. Hampton

    You’ll have to try the “Hampton Inn” next time. Maybe you’ll have better luck with my name than yours ; ).

    And thanks for the information about the butterfly effect. I developed a theory that heating water for tea changed the barometric pressure in our house which inevitably would wake a sleeping baby just about the time I was ready for an uninterrupted cuppa. Looks like I might not have been too far off!

  • http://www.clearbrilliantcrystal.wordpress.com C. Offhaus

    I stumbled across your blog recently, and believe it was the Lord. For personal reasons this post was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you.

  • David Wollrich

    Thanks for sharing your experience with Hyatt. When traveling, I’ve stayed at Courtyard by Marriott and have had very good experiences. The recent trips were stressful by their very nature having to do with a death in the family. Had I had your Hyatt experience, I would have been more than irritated.

  • Alberto

    Somehow I am not surprised about this experience and I understand what made it special. A few weeks ago I stayed at the Hyatt Hotel and Convention Center in Long Beach because my employer was organizing a big conference there. There was this incident about my watch missing from my room, that I tried to handle with a lot tact and consideration because I knew it was a delicate situation, and it is always good to leave some space for the organization to save face. To make the story short, the watch appeared in a place where I never took it, strategically broken to seem that "it just fell". I had to listen to the security guy trying to blame me for the situation, to what I just responded with my thanks. To try to be positive I contacted the guy in charge of security to give him the feedback that "blaming the victim" is not a good approach to treat clients. Back home after the conference was over, talking with my boss, he told me that the guy at the hotel complained about me being rude, which was definitely not the case, but is something that matters at my company. Then I realized that something was really wrong with this hotel and talking about the situation with a few friends they told me some weird stories about Hyatt employees, trying "so hard" to have a clean record that they would do anything. Needless to say, there is nothing they can do for me to go to a Hyatt again and would advise anyone not to venture into that kind of experience.

  • http://writingtoserve.net Maria Keckler

    First, let me say that I appreciate your repost reports because I'm relatively a new reader–considering the life of your blog–so this post is brand new to me.

    I think this is a fantastic reminder that applies not only to customer service but also to our "service" to others–our subordinates, our superiors, our spouses, our children, etc. Leadership and choices trickle down… if a leader chooses to neglect the value of his employess.. the employees will choose to neglect the value of the company's customer… Sadly, I have seen this happen. I don't understand it, but it does happen–a company that is so focused on customer service that the employees are overworked, undervalued, and the list goes on.

    More can be said about this subject within the context of personal relationships…

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      It really does apply to every area of life. As I often tell my children, "You don't live in a vacuum. Everything you do ripples into everything else."

  • Natalie Neal

    Your recent experiences, both good and not so good have brought my attention back to the certainty that "word of mouth" advertising is the fastest and most effective means of communication—now more than ever!

    I probably will remember forever your recent recommendation for a great place to buy shoes and will think twice before signing up with a certain services provider or before staying in a Hyatt Hotel. Corporate executives should remind everyone in their chain of command about the "butterfly effect" and make sure their trainings emphasize this truth: Whether we like something, or we don't, it is human nature to tell everyone we know about it!

  • http://realizingharmony.wordpress.com/ Dave H

    I, too, am just seeing this for the first time.

    GREAT reminder of the importance of getting the basics right… the first time.

    Having worked for an outside vendor in a couple of different Hyatts, I've had a closer perspective than most on some of the inner workings of their hotels.

    Neither of the hotels I worked in were owned by Hyatt. But rather, managed by Hyatt.

    Sometimes the owners would refuse to open their wallets to pay for things that Hyatt employees had determined were essential. Sometimes they would merely delay the expense.

    I saw that in one hotel with the owner's years-long delay in putting in an elevator for guests to get to the second-floor meeting rooms. And then going "cheap" on the project by forcing the contractor to work days, but stop work during every timeframe there was a meeting being held. (Made the project go WAY over budget and WAY, WAY longer than scheduled.) Meanwhile, the Hyatt employees were left to fight with the Contractor on behalf of their Meeting Planners/Guests, and placate their Meeting Planners/Guests for the mess, noise, and inconvenience. And the owners' decisions gave the Hyatt brand a blow.)

    Sometimes they would insist on going the cheap route to save a buck (or a few pennies.)

    This sounds like what was going on with the internet service in Dallas.

    In the same hotel with the elevator issue, the owners decided not to spend the money necessary to replace the carpets and A/C in a couple of other areas with meeting rooms. The best Hyatt could figure to do was continuously air the rooms out as much as possible and regularly go through spraying air freshener.

    Every time they did those things, it made Hyatt's job that much more difficult. And the employees would have to go to rather great lengths to "cover" for the stinginess.

    When employees continue to be forced to "cover" for their bosses' (or owners') decisions, they are more likely to not care as much about the customers – since the higher-ups have demonstrated that they don't really care.

    In my experience, the hotel that had the delayed elevator and stinky rooms, ended up going out of business. 300+ employees lost their jobs. But Hyatt did their best to absorb those they could in other hotels and held a job fair for the rest.

    The other hotel continues to thrive. Why?

    Starting with the Gen. Mgr. He made it a point to get out of his office and get to know as many of the hotel employees as possible, and really understand their work environment. (On several occasions I met him in the cafeteria. He had on an apron and was behind the counter serving the food, and greeting everyone who came through the line!)

    The Directors would meet weekly. And one of their topics of discussion was progress on past "issues" and to raise any new "issues" – thinking not only long-term but short-term as well.

    The Sales and Catering/Convention Services staff would go out "on the floor" a few times a week to look for anything that was amiss and/or could be improved upon. And they'd bring back their reports/suggestions to their Directors (or the appropriate Dept. if there was an urgent need.)

    The HR Dept. held training classes, not only for new-hires, but also monthly classes for ALL employees.

    And ALL employees were empowered to address problems they'd identified. (Suggestions were VERY ACTIVELY solicited.)

    Result? With very few exceptions, morale was very high, service was outstanding, customers were very pleased, and vendors (like my company) saw the hotel's staff functioning as a group of very good friends, if not a family. (One inspector was so impressed, he made the effort to hand-write a letter to Hyatt's Nat'l HQ, about how shocked he was at the camaraderie shown "backstage". He was used to seeing employees of hotels put on a good face when they were "on stage", but according to him, most of the hotels he'd inspected had lots and lots of bickering and fighting between Depts. and even sometimes within Depts.)

    All that to say, not all Hyatts are "created equal." Some are managed well. Some, clearly, are not managed well.

    The keys, I think, are:
    Hiring the right people – people with a real service attitude/perspective, people who really care and are going to OWN their jobs.
    Training/equipping those people – empowering them, developing their skill to succeed in their positions, and providing appropriate resources so they can do their job efficiently and effectively.
    Setting a good example – from the top down.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      This is very enlightening—and sad. The suprising thing to me is that to this day, I have not had anyone from Hyatt corporate contact me. You would think that by now they would be monitoring their brand online. Evidently not.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bdubrecords bdubrecords

    I had a similar experience with a hotel in Newport News, VA. I was looking forward to responding to emails quickly before hurrying out to a wedding rehearsal. But there was no connection. I went to the front desk, and the lady there said she was the only one working and could not work on the problem. She actually gave me a tech support number to call (doing her work for her). Ultimately, she just needed to reboot the DSL modem. But I couldn't do that for her, and she couldn't leave the desk because the hotel was too cheap to hire two people to work the desk at the same time.

    Staffing appropriately, even if it means more expenses, is crucial to making good customer impressions. It not only affected me that day, but also many other people who had to wait in a long line to check in and all the people calling the hotel and being put on hold for a looooong time to speak with this one lonely worker behind the desk.

  • http://halhunter.blogspot.com Hal Hunter

    I was once a bank officer, and a story about an incident in the office of one of our rivals was told and retold for years in our organization.

    A man was in town on business, and unexpectedly had to stay over a couple extra days. Needing some extra cash, he went into the (headquarters) office of his company's local bank to cash a check. He was treated pretty badly by the teller, and asked to speak to an officer, and was again pretty shabbily treated. He decided to escalate and asked to speak to the manager, and was told the manager was not available and wouldn't be able to help him in any case. The gentleman left.

    By the close of business that day, the man's company had begun terminating their entire relationship with the bank, including lockbox, payroll impress, trust services, international remittances, and regional operating accounts. The company was a Fortune 500, the man who had been treated badly was the CEO and Chairman, and their local operation one of the 2 or 3 largest customers of the bank.

    Two or three people made some very bad choices and cost the bank a huge relationship. The bank's senior management tried to salvage the situation, but it was way too late.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is also a great story. I wonder how many times a day that kind of scenario is replicated. It has to cost companies collectively billions and billions.

  • thelmabowlen

    I was a concierge at a luxury chain that had three themed hotels in Orlando and this post brought back a lot of memories from this season in my life. Oftentimes, all it would take to turn a situation around for a guest would be just one person rising to the occasion. Employees have access to notes on each guest and I'm sure the number of complaints—not to mention the number of rooms in your party—were noted, thus someone should have jumped to assist. (Of course, all guests should be treated with superior service regardless of status or rooms booked.)

    And no, I didn't work for Hyatt. :-)

  • http://www EDINAH SAMUEL

    i think that your brilliant ideas are quite ecouraging and are the real practical examples happening in my country Kenya.a big congrats and may the almighty in heaven shower with blessing and knowledge to continue enlightining others in the world at large.

  • Chew Keng Sheng

    True that it sounded like a very annoying experience, but sometimes could we be blowing matter out of proportion? Sometimes we tend to make generalizations which may be colored by our distorted perception at the emotional heat of the moment. A mis-print in one of the Thomas Nelson books does not all translate into the perception that tons of other Thomas Nelson titles have compromised print qualities.

  • http://redhillpublishing.com/blog-redhill Robert Collings

    Customer service is extremely easy, when there are no problems. Seems almost anyone can do it :-)

    The true test of any organisation’s service standards is in its ability to *fix* those problems that inevitably arise.

    This is a somewhat more rare trait …

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  • http://www.lanavaughan.com Lana Vaughan

    Just so you know. I have attend WoF for years both in California and the incredible one in Las Vegas. I have worked as a volunteer, been a group leader and this past year took my 11 year old daughter to both WoF and Revolve. In all those years I have only had one negative experience with WoF. This past year at WoF your staff went above and beyond impressing my daughter with just how much God heard her prayers and answered through them time and time again.

    Every encounter I have had with TN staff has been positive. You've got some very good people. Just thought you'd want to know.

  • http://www.smallwirelessrouter.com Aaron Jensen

    It's amazing what effect our actions can have. I think it's just important to always do our best and to treat people with love and respect. Understanding how big of an effect our actions have is difficult but I think we can all relate with compassion and love on a day to day basis. Knowing those actions have global impact just makes it all the more important.

  • cpappas@kw.com

    I attended my very first Women of Faith conference – Over the Top, this past weekend in Cleveland, Ohio Andy Andrews was there speaking of the butterfly effect. The entire two days was wonderful!

  • http://twitter.com/NewEnglandHiker Roy Wallen

    To me, the point here is that customer service is key. Indeed, small decisions at a local level can have far-reaching implications. In this day when a bad experience can turn “viral” in seconds, those of us in customer-facing roles need to be keenly aware of ever decision, empowering employees at all levels to make sure the reputation remains untarnished. Thanks for (still) another thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

  • http://twitter.com/lovinglyyoursG Georgiana

    A wonderful reminder that even the small things in life matter to be people and can make a dynamic difference in a person’s life. We need to go above and beyond to serve others and make sure we do everything in our power so that they have a memorable experience worth coming back for.

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    I wonder if his call was prompted by your blog post.
    Great lesson though.
    I think it also applies to our potential.
    How many people are we not helping by holding ourselves back from our potential?
    How many children are we holding back by not helping them realize their potential?
    So many people are affected by our split second decisions?
    Great point.

  • Mamad400

     Sad all Hyatt’s will now be judged on the poor performance of one. Guess that’s how the world works now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/torvill Anders Torvill Bjorvand

    Thank you for yeat another great post :-)
    You surely prove your point, and the analogy with the butterfly is a great twist. However, you have gotten the butterfly effect wrong. Don´t worry. Most people do – who are not mathematicians or similar :-)
    The error is in the causality of the butterfly effect. A single butterfly flapping a wing does NOT cause a hurricane. That is simply not the case. However, if you want to predict a hurricane several days into the future, the level of detail you need to consider is at the level of knowing butterflies who flap their wings on another continent. This does NOT mean that the single butterfly wing flap causes a hurricane. Far from it. It simply means that you need to know trillions upon trillions of tiny details to foresee this hurricane. So it is fair to say that every butterfly wing flap matters, and that is really the heart of your story, so the more correct math/physics does not ruin your story, though :-) Actually it makes it better, because it was the sum of many things that ruined your stay at the Hyatt – not one isolated incident.

    Stay blessed, and continue with your great posts!
    :-)

  • http://nancyjcommunications.blogspot.com Nancy J.

    I was a sales consultant for many years. Customer service is a necessary high priority. The industry I was in was highly competitive and continues to be today. The first company I worked for required what I term 200% customer service. Another I worked for was more like the Hyatt. This company is no longer in business. The first company continues to operate. As a sales consultant customer service is important all the way across the board. Why? If the support people do not do their job, it effected mine and the customers. Thus, the Butterfly effect in my experience is very important. The domino effect also, when one falls in the row, they all begin to fall. Disappointed about the news on the Hyatt.

  • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

    Customer service is what makes the great organizations great, and the bad ones struggle and fail.  When organizations are active instead of reactive, issues tend to be minimal.  When issues occur, the great companies have mechanisms in place to make things right, ASAP.

  • http://www.DavidASpecht.com/ David A Specht

    Sadly, my wife and her friends had a similar experience while attending Women of Faith in Dallas a few years ago. Their problems, however, were at the Crowne Plaza. After my wife’s friend reported it to their corporate office, they were promised vouchers for a free stay. Those vouchers never arrived. Needless to say, they will never stay at that hotel again, and warn others each time WOF comes to Dalas.

  • Camberley Harrogate

    I used to have this when I worked in large hotels – staff were not authorised even to make small decisions ie to give a customer a cheese plate when they had had a rotten time! Its why I now have my own B&B I am there onsite to make any decisions that need making. This is one of the benefits of B&B the person who can actually help you and is responsible for maintenance is always readily available.

  • W.Keefe

    I know exactly what Hyatt you stayed at because I had the same experience back in January. So you are not the only one. Several very small items that added up to an unhappy stay for me.

  • Sangita

    This is totally unacceptable! Misguided, cavalier bunch of employees that didn’t pay much attention to the intricate details. But despite 3requests the problem wasn’t fixed? Wow! yes, its also important that the employer empowers the employees…

  • Shari Henry

    I totally agree about the Butterfly Effect, or at least, that it should work in theory. I can personally attest that Hyatt, as a whole, has not moved much since your post, however. After a week of making calls and sending emails, I continue to have two unauthorized charges on my credit card. I had not made reservations for either of those nights, nor had I stayed there on either of those nights. I am wondering how much more time I will have to spend to get the Hyatt House in Short Pump (Richmond Metro area) to get it straight.

  • Pat68

    Good for you for complaining, Michael. I stay at a Hyatt every time I travel to my company’s headquarters and have never had any real significant issues. If the hotel were indeed rewiring, it seems like someone on the staff would have mentioned that to you when they were busy apologizing. I say stick to your guns and don’t go back, at least not to that one. Hopefully, it’s just that one hotel and not a series of Hyatts, but again, that’s how one bad apple can spoil the bunch.

  • forazw

    We had a similar, and possibly worse situation at the Paris Hyatt. Very poor quality (no electricity when we got there, no internet, by ANY means, etc.), and the “customer service” was worse, and personnel were typically rude &/or indifferent, rarely keeping their word, much less fixing any of the problems/shortcomings.. Lonnnnnnnnnng story. Not a happy one. Never got the 1/2 refund I was promised either, nor even a genuine, substantive apology that was to have come with it.
    5-star hotel? Not on your life! I would not give them 1 star, and we do not plan to spend our money with Hyatt again.