The Case of the Missing Reservation
Mark, Donna, and their children, along with another family, traditionally attended Easter brunch at a large downtown hotel. This year, as in the past, Donna called and made a reservation about three weeks prior to Easter. Because half the party consisted of small children, they arrived 20 minutes prior to the 11:30 reservation to ensure being seated early. When they arrived, however, the hostess said that they did not have a reservation.
She explained that guests sometimes failed to show and that she would probably have a table available for them before long. Mark and Donna were quite upset and insisted that they had made a reservation and expected to be seated promptly. The hostess told them, “I believe that you made a reservation, but I can’t seat you until all the people on the reservation list are seated. You are welcome to go to the lounge for complimentary coffee and punch while you wait.” When Mark asked to see the manager, the hostess replied, “I am the manager,” and turned to other duties. The party was eventually seated at 11:45, but was not at all happy with the experience.
The next day, Mark wrote a letter to the hotel manager explaining the entire incident. Mark was in the MBA program at the local university and taking a course on quality management. In the class, they had just studied issues of customer focus and some of the approaches used at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a 1992 and 1999 Baldrige Award winner. Mark concluded his letter with the statement, “I doubt that we would have experienced this situation at a hotel that truly believes in quality.” About a week later, he received the following letter:
We enjoy hearing from our valued guests, but wish you had experienced the level of service and accommodations that we strive to achieve here at our hotel. Our restaurant manager received your letter and asked me to respond as Total Quality Lead. Looking back at our records, we did not show a reservation on the books for your family. I have addressed your comments with the appropriate department head so that others will not have to experience the same inconveniences that you did. Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts with us. We believe in a philosophy of “continuous improvement,” and it is through feedback such as yours that we can continue to improve the service to our guests.
12.3 Test your Knowledge (Question):
Were the hostess’s actions consistent with a customer-focused quality philosophy?
What might she have done differently?
How would you have reacted to the letter that Mark received? Could the Total Quality Lead have responded differently? What does the fact that the hotel manager did not personally respond to the customer tell you?