When Social Customer Service Fails

Dreams TulumI should start this post with a warning. It’s a bit of a rant. If you read my blog regularly you know that I love a good customer service experience, and having been in the hotel and restaurant industry for many years I know a thing or two about how it all runs.

I took a trip with friends to the the lovely Yucatan penninsula this month and stayed at the Dreams Resort in Tulum, Mx. The resort is truly lovely. The grounds are beautiful, the beach serene, and the staff? The staff is beautifully trained and skilled in the art of deflection. Yeah, all good hotel staff is. More in a minute.

Ahhh, there it is, you say, that’s where the rant comes in! Well, not exactly. Here’s the story. We arrived at the hotel in the middle of the night after a long delay due to a storm in Dallas. In the morning we realized we weren’t overlooking the beach and we were expecting a rainstorm that was to last two days. So we upgraded our room to a lovely suite with a great view and a patio steps from the beach. Awesome.

While I was at the front desk the woman next to me was bitterly complaining that the building she was in had had no running water that night and she had to cross the courtyard to use the restroom at the restaurant all night and she’d had…ehrm, an upset stomach. The staff was moving her too, and I thought to myself “Whew! Dodged a bullet by not being in that wing!”. It should have been a warning.

Happy with our new surroundings we wandered into the buffet for lunch to find a huge selection of offerings, mostly the sugary stuff  and colloidal concoctions travelers demand at all-inclusive hotels ,piles of cold cooked veggies and fruit and lines of steam pans. The one poor guy cooking meats to order at the grill station clearly had instructions to cook everything well done so nobody got squeamish and he did that job very, very well. All of the meats in the steam trays and service stations were overcooked to death, some of it literally burned. Mostly room temperature or cold. Part of this was because the trays were kept pretty empty (I assume for food cost reasons) so there wasn’t enough in there to stay warm.

I could go on for a long time about the quality of food but after eating in 6 of the restaurants I can say universally the food was awful. Top that off with walking behind the pool bar cafe on my way to the room and seeing a cook wiping dirty plates with paper napkins and stacking them, apparently for re-use and you get my drift. Did we get sick? Yes, but we did eat at two other locations so maybe it wasn’t the hotel’s fault.

Twitter and customer serviceWait, I thought this was about a social customer service fail?
Yeah, I’m getting to that. I had posted to Twitter my excitement about being at the hotel and they responded shortly afterwards. Nice. They’re listening.

3 days later I tweeted I wasn’t having a good experience and they asked me to follow them back so they could send me a DM. 2 days later I got a DM asking for contact information. I sent it back within an hour. Never heard from ’em again. No email. No check in from the hotel, no more communication. #CustServ #Fail.

Having looked at their profile on Twitter I see now it’s populated with perky welcomes and oohs and ahhs over photos with the occasional response to a complaint. Oh, and of course the frequent huge discount offers and sales pitches.

People. If you’re not going to do customer service on social don’t pretend to. Give us a number to call, some contact info to respond to. Pass the buck! But don’t leave your customer hopefully hanging on a tweet.

As for the “dreams” hotel experience, this is just the beginning
When the rains came it got much worse. The cafes and buffet had buckets and towels laid out on the floor everywhere. Part of the ceiling fell in in the main lobby and in the main bar, with the beautiful views of the estate and ocean, you had to walk through a wall of water on the inside entry way just to get in. The preferred lounge (really just a quiet space with fre wi-fi) was closed because there was too much water damage.

The lower level of our room filled up with 2 inches of water that apparently seeped in through the walls, which shorted out the wall sockets causing  a rather exciting display when we turned on a lamp hours  after the water was cleaned up.  We woke up 2 days later to find the patio littered with stucco from above us.

The place was quite literally falling down around our ears. Even after the rain stopped he pools were cloudy and dirty, the main pool with it’s stunning dark blue tile turned out to be dirty and slimy on the bottom. The wi-fi was extremely expensive (OK, stop, it’s still an essential) and only worked about half the time and the air conditioning in our room was locked on so high we ordered blankets. The controls having been smashed by a previous guest and never repaired.

Now any sane person must be thinking “did you tell the desk about all this?’. Of course I did and politely too. They offered me a massage. Oh and apparently put us on a list so the next time we sat in the dining room we were barely seated when both the manager and the chef appeared at our table to inquire about how were were enjoying the food. Yikes. What am I supposed to say to the chef. “Do you actually eat here too?”

OK </rant> and a call to action
All in all our trip was amazing. We swam with turtles, sailed, snorkeled, climbed a pyramid, met a shaman in a tiny pueblo and a monkey name Natascha, and had the most amazing lobster after a sailing excursion (at another hotel). Next time maybe we’ll pick one of the lovely boutique hotels in Akumal or Tulum and avoid the madness of the big resorts. Guaranteed we will never stay at another “Dreams”.

The lesson here is for hoteliers and anyone who do “outreach” or “customer advocacy” on Twitter. If you want customer advocates it’s easy. Really. You had me at that first response. And then you blew it. A couple of email exchanges, a human response, maybe a credit on the room and I’d have written a different post altogether. Follow through and you can turn ranters into advocates. Drop the ball and you get whiny rants like this one. 

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  • Now any sane person must be thinking “did you tell the desk about all
    this?’. Of course I did and politely too. They offered me a massage. Oh
    and apparently put us on a list so the next time we sat in the dining
    room we were barely seated when both the manager and the chef appeared
    at our table to inquire about how were were enjoying the food. Yikes.
    What am I supposed to say to the chef. “Do you actually eat here too?”

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