Customer service done poorly by Ramada

Earlier in life I had a job as the senior front desk clerk at a national hotel chain. I made reservations, served breakfast, transferred calls, checked people in, checked people out, cleaned the pool, cleaned rooms when housekeeping had left for the day, chatted with vacationers and placated frustrated guests. The experience has instilled in me a great deal of appreciation (and sympathy) for those who work in any sort of hospitality business, but it has also made me acutely aware of particular lapses by the same when I visit. Earlier this week I was traveling through Eastern Pennsylvania and ended up having to stay in a Ramada hotel when the camping plans I had (which I was really looking forward to) didn't pan out. Ooops. Here's what happened:
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A conversation about economic growth in Richmond

IMG_0971.JPGIn April of 2005, I made a personal commitment related to my purchasing decisions here in Richmond. I published the text of my pledge online, and have since found that hundreds of others have come to share that commitment in writing, and many more have communicated their support in other ways, which is very heartening. It was never been my expectation that everyone should share this commitment, or that my point of view is the right one and that another point of view is the wrong one. I was and am and exercising the great civic freedom to choose how and where I spend my money, based on my values about the businesses and organizations that I want to support. And as I recently heard it asked, "what is the point of having values if you don't act on them?"

As a resident of Richmond for eleven years and a business owner here for
nine years, I'm very much invested in the growth of our community. But growth means different things to different people. Shortly after the newspaper coverage of my pledge, I received a message from a prominent Richmond businessperson and political figure indicating his frustration with my actions. I thought the conversation we had that proceeded would be useful to post here, more than a year later. (I've removed any identifying information from the exchange; he can identify himself if he so desires.)

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Infected with a book meme

There's a book meme going around, and Eric has tagged me. As he says, "a meme is an idea that spreads...Meme ideas spread by imitation, by exact copying and inexact copying. Memes can be melodies, catch-phrases, stories, clothing fashions, and ways of making pots. Many memes spread unintentionally in the course of casual conversation and story-telling. Bloggers deliberately spread some memes as ways to inspire new posts."

So, here I am, answering the questions from this book meme:

1. One book that changed your life?
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A review of Blue Vinyl

It would be nice if some day we could say, "great, now we know about ALL of the human-made products and processes that can give us cancer and harm the planet, now let's start doing something about them." But alas, it seems that everywhere you look, there's a new story about a chemical or drug or food or way of raising your children that can endanger our lives. Some of it is fear-mongering, but some of it is an honest and long-overdue look at the products and practices that we take for granted, examining them for harm they might cause and seeking healthier alternatives. And in her award winning film Blue Vinyl, that's just what Judith Hefland has done with...get ready for it...vinyl siding.
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Customer service done right by Fazoli's

E8AEFF9E1A8811DA.jpgOver the weekend I visited the Fazoli's drive through on my way out of town - it's the closest thing we've got to an Italian restaurant (though maybe not for long) and I have a certain affinity for it after having worked at one as a teenager for one of my first real jobs (it did take me a 10 year hiatus to wash all of the garlic butter out of my clothes before I could go back, but hey...). This particular visit to the restaurant was horrible - garbled drive through communication, messed up order, improper packaging that led to messes and burning of skin, etc.

As I tend to do, I used Fazoli's web-based comment system last night to describe my experience in hopes of helping them make things better. I was really impressed that today, I got a calls from the store manager and the regional manager, both telling me how devastated (their word) they were about my experience. When I talked to the store manager further, she went into detail about the specific things they should have done differently, and mentioned what steps she was taking to prevent it from happening again. And of course, she said "it would make her feel better" if she could send me some coupons. I really appreciate that.

So from a customer service perspective, despite the negative initial experience, they did everything else right:

  1. They made it really easy to contact them with my comments and concerns
  2. They quickly and sincerely acknowledged my concerns, and showed me that it was important to them to take action
  3. They addressed the specifics of my comments and what should have been done differently, without making excuses
  4. They offered to make it right in a tangible way

Nicely done.