Close the loop with clients, but mean it!

In the first weekend of October, me and my wife Angela decided to celebrate our 2nd anniversary with a long weekend at one of the iconic Pousadas de Portugal – Monument and Historic Hotels, part of Pestana Hotel Group, the largest and most famous Portuguese tourism and leisure group, known for its quality.

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The hotel is situated at the top of a high hill, on the back of the famous Sanctuary, with the same name – Santa Luzia. The view is breathtaking, to the sanctuary, the town, the river, the beaches, and the Atlantic ocean. It is a fantastic and beautiful place, luxurious, quiet and well decorated.

Our 3-day stay was outstanding, and I guess our mood and the celebration also helped tolerate or overcome the less great things – e.g. the hotel doesn’t have a gym, and I really like (and in this case, needed) to do some exercise. That is why, when asked at check-out, we both smiled and said “everything was great!”.

But when I received the request for feedback, via email, a few days later, I thought it would be important to flag a couple of things that, at the time, we didn’t bother mentioning, to avoid ruining our good mood – as we still had a full-day and trip back home, until the weekend was over.

My response to the feedback survey was really positive with regards to staff, service, accommodation, etc. But I pointed out that… a) in both nights we found, and had to kill, two centipedes; b) the quality of the food in the hotel restaurant wasn’t up to their standards.

The hotel’s response came into my inbox a couple of days later, which I must say, impressed me. But when I opened the email, noticed it was sent from a generic email address (even though signed by the Operations – Unit Manager) and contained a very obvious standard message.

Thank you for your preference (…) as well as the time for filling out our questionnaire (…) pleased to receive the evaluation and the comment about your stay (…) we work daily to meet the expectations (…) hence the comments of our clients are a stimulus and an opportunity for continuous improvement”.

The truth is they clearly didn’t address my comments, or even bothered apologising. So I replied again, saying that although I appreciated the prompt response I was disappointed and felt the feedback survey was just a formality, and not something they look forward to, in order to feed continuous improvement.

In less than one hour (44 minutes to be precise) Célia Marques (the Operations – Unit Manager) sent me a personalised email from her email address, assuring me that my comments and criticisms did indeed merit her attention, and apologising for the standard response.

Explaining that the centipedes situation was very hard to avoid in such a historic building with the characteristics inherent to the time it was built (wooden floor and poor insulation), and the restaurant feedback had already found its way to the chef “to jointly carry out the corrective actions to improve quality”.

I was delighted, and will certainly go back. However, the poor experience with the standard email was completely unnecessary. And it could put some people off. Or just prevent them from giving the hotel invaluable feedback next time, which would be a lost opportunity for improvement.

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