The Guest Journey: Check In


Guest Journey: Experience Scale

Today, I want to take a look at what was the make-or-break moment of my recent family trip: Check-in. I said in my post after booking that the check-in process would be the time for this hotel to shine. It was an opportunity to go beyond expectations and create loyal guests. That did not happen.

After traveling for six hours, with 12 children between our two families, we arrived ready for any distraction from being cooped up in the car. I checked in first, and while the front desk agent wasn’t as pleasant as possible, the process went smoothly and quickly. When our companions checked in, something was wrong with their reservation, and the situation devolved very quickly.

They told us the problem. Nothing else. They didn’t say how to fix it, what they could do about it, or what we could do about it. They argued with us when we suggested solutions, yet never came up with a solution of their own. After waiting in the lobby for half an hour, with kids and grandparents still waiting in the car, I had enough. I asked what they were doing to fix the problem, and they answered that one agent had gone to call a manager to find out. Meanwhile, my friend got on the phone and had it taken care of before the phone call to the manager was finished.

When she approached the desk again, two agents refused to make eye contact with her and helped every other guest in the lobby before completing our check-in. Any shred of friendliness or welcome on the part of the staff had disappeared, and no apology for the mix-up or the wait was offered.

My friend mentioned this incident on the in-room comment card on our last day. I received a call from the manager before we had left the parking lot, which I have to say, I did not expect. He was very kind and friendly, understanding of the situation, and said all of the right things. I appreciate the call and his concern, and my guess is that this guy knows hospitality well, but has missed the connection to pass it on to his staff. While I plan to make this trip a yearly event, I will not return to this property.

Guest satisfaction is a sort of sliding scale – a very happy guest is more removed from unhappy than a guest who has neutral feelings, so it takes more for them to move all the way down the scale. Due to our experiences before arrival, we were feeling pretty neutral when we walked in.

Guest Journey: Check In

The hotel had an advantage at that moment. A simple smile and welcoming attitude would have been enough to move us all the way up to happy before the fallout, giving them ample space in which to fix the issue when it arose. Instead, my check-in, while efficient, was not accompanied by any kind of welcoming attitude. This didn’t move us on the scale, because it was a neutral experience.

At the moment the problem was encountered, any willingness on the part of the front desk staff to fix it would have gone a long way. I felt like they just wanted us to turn around and go home. My point is not to blast this property, but to point out how nuanced customer service can be. A smile, an offer of help, an ounce of concern – all small things that can make a huge impact on the guest experience. I’ll also mention that the phone call from the manager could have made a return guest out of me if the lack of concern from the rest of the staff hadn’t been so pervasive; we were neutral enough during this experience that any one positive moment would have turned the entire situation around. Unfortunately, the negative interactions continued to pile up in such quantities as to block any thought of returning.

It makes me wonder how such a huge discrepancy between the capability of the manger and the lack of it in the staff is possible. Is it bad hires, lack of training…just a bad day? What could have been an opportunity for this property to showcase what hospitality is all about, and make loyal customers out of 15 people, was a disaster instead. My suggestion would have been to allow us all to go to our rooms to settle in while they called the manager to fix the problem. What would you have your staff do in this situation?