What happened to Customer Service?


I was thinking of writing a blog about how crappy customer service seems to be these days but then thought maybe it was just a case of bad luck, but then I received a response to my TripAdvisor review and it made me realise I was right the first time.

Customer Service these days is shocking!

and this is why…

So a few weeks ago I celebrated my husband’s birthday and for something different I booked a night away and dinner at our favourite restaurant ( well now former favourite restaurant )

I looked at a bunch of hotels and saw one I’d not really heard of before called Pentahotel Reading, there was a special price and based on the pictures and the information which they claimed “create a pentafun and relaxed space with service that is welcoming and personal” I thought sounded ideal.

Now for most people we all have things we look for in a hotel.

But having worked in the hotel industry for over 15 years I would say if it’s a bed for the night then I’m not fussed where I stay, but if it’s a special occasion I like somewhere that goes a bit above and beyond or values me selecting their hotel over the other dozen I looked at.

So all was going well we arrived outside Pentahotel Reading and while the outside of the building was quite meh, we walked inside and immediately felt I’d made the right choice. The interior looked stylish and funky, with the Reception area linking with the great looking bar.

We walked to the counter and the male staff member with a very heavy accent said ” hello, checking in” so I gave him the details and he proceeded to check us in.

Noticing we are 2 men checking in, his female colleague said “would one of you like to check into the other room?” We laughed and said “No Thanks, we are a couple” No problem there, we weren’t offended. However a minute later the guy checking us in says “so did you want twin beds”

My husband and I looked at each other and laughed again “No we are a couple, we’d like a king please”

Ok now that’s just annoying, was he not listening to his colleague? Obviously not.

Then he notices my request for a bathtub, we always like rooms with a bathtub only because we don’t have one at home. Even if we don’t use it, it’s just something we ask for. But next to that request I had also written “birthday celebration” which they failed to mention at all.

Anyways by this stage we just want to get away from the desk, it didn’t feel welcoming, it didn’t feel personal, it just felt we’d been standing there forever. How about a “Hope you enjoy your stay?” Nope nothing.

We make our way to the room, it’s small but contemporary and modern. We’d been given a few bottles of champers so we thought let’s get some glasses and some ice. Ahh that will be £3.00 sir, Really?! to travel one floor from the reception/bar to our room. Ahh ok then, we’ll come and get it ourselves.

In the meantime we drank our champers and ordered a pizza which was actually delicious and we didn’t mind paying the £3.00 extra for bringing it to the room. (Hey, I’m not that cheap)

We got ready for dinner and thought we would have a drink in the funky looking bar.

Walking through the bar, the lights had been dimmed and the music was up a little but the atmosphere was almost non existent. I ordered a couple of drinks, which one was correct and the other was on the rocks (perhaps she thought I needed a “pick me up”) This was fixed quickly and we sat on the couch and chatted and people watched. I noticed the staff just didn’t really interact or seem to want to be there and I could tell on other guests faces that they were thinking the same as me. Where is the “Forget customer service, we like to think that the people at penta are some of the friendliest folk you’ll meet.” As they claim on their website?

I guess they were all unavailable?

We came back from dinner and noticed the bar which we had assumed would be buzzing was just lacking in staff altogether. We called it a night and went to bed.

The next morning we discussed where we would have breakfast and thought we would check out and see what the restaurant was like and decide there.

As the lift opened we were met by staring faces, about 20 in total. We got to the desk and saw that they were holding an IKEA recruitment day. Ahh there goes breakfast in the restaurant, no thanks. We checked out (with the same guy who checked us in) he still seemed to not want to be there and we left agreeing we wouldn’t bother returning.

Now overall was it horrible?…No. But when you brand yourself with all these promises but you don’t actually really provide basic friendly customer service, that’s what I find irritating.

Now that’s where this blog post would have ended. However…….

I often write Tripadvisor reviews for our holidays and hotel and restaurants, always fairly and always in a way where I am almost trying to help them make things better. I think once you have worked in hospitality it stays with you.

I wrote my review and it was even titled in a positive way. I mentioned everything I’ve written above plus a few other opinions and thoughts.

The response from the manager on Tripadvisor he said was “disappointed to read my review” and “Please be assured that your comments will be addressed with the team with regards to your check-in experience. This is most certainly not the experience we aim to give our guests and I’m very disappointed to read your feedback.”

But then seemed to try and throw each of my problems back in my face

When I said “it was a shame about being asked twice about having one room and twin bed” He hoped I wasn’t offended in any way?

I didn’t say I was offended at all, it just would have been nice if your staff communicated better and had offered a friendly welcome.

When I said that the £3.00 was a bit silly for the Ice bucket and glasses he said ” As you rightly state, our room service charge is £3. Room service charges are standard through all hotels as additional member of staff are required to run this extra service”

I don’t know many hotels that charge for a bucket of ice and glasses?

When I wrote about the drinks mix up. He said “I will be sure to discuss your comments regarding the mix up with one of your drinks, please accept my apologies for this”

OK, now we are getting somewhere, the word “sorry” or apologise goes a very long way.

One of my biggest problems with our stay was the lack of service or care from staff, this is the one thing that can make any experience better than it is.

The manager responded with “I am sorry if you felt that you received little human connection from the team. As you will see from the other reviews on here and other websites, our service is greatly recieved, and am sorry you did not see or recieve this during your stay”

Well a point there for saying sorry again but to then point out that everyone else thinks our service is fantastic again just gives me the impression that theu assume I was lying or perhaps I just imagined that the staff looked bored the whole time we were there??

On that note I think I’ve bored you long enough so I won’t go into the Restaurant review but let’s just say London Street Brassiere in Reading didn’t respond to my review so I assume they don’t mind me not visiting again.

Dont get me wrong the above may make me sound like I’m a tough critic but I’m really not.

If you are a one of a kind business you can get away with average customer service but if you are one of many like most restaurants and hotels, your customer service can be your one saving grace.

I just wonder, What happened to great customer service?


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