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PSCKEGI_Hilton_Garden_Inn_Tri_Cities_Kennewick_gallery_accom_exterior1_largeI just finished one of those six-week travel marathons that occasionally clogs my calendar. Not six weeks non-stop travel, mind you, but travel to six different cities over six weeks with barely enough time at home in between to open mail, walk the dogs, and reassert my already flimsy position as man-of-the house. Kay and Kelly pretty much don't pay attention to that last part. Neither do the dogs.

My fragile-macho-male-speaker-author-consultant-ego aside, my last two posts (Does This Hotel Deserve A 10? You Tell Me. and Is Social Media Working For You?) generated quite a few comments and discussion. And while I thought these were different subjects, an interesting twist has actually tied the two together.

Last week the Hotel post received a well thought out response from Holly Siler, Director of Sales for the Hilton Garden Inn Tri-Cities/Kennewick — the hotel I wrote about! Here is her message (BTW, if you haven't read my post and the resulting Comments, I'd suggest you do that before you continue reading below):

Good Morning Steve,

Thank you for bringing all of this great feedback to our attention.  Yes, we are the hotel in question of deserving a “10”.  Please be assured that our front desk selects the "Guest of the Day" at random, we had no plans of our efforts reaching a blog.  I'm happy to hear that at the very least, our efforts did bring a smile to your face.  I think you might even laugh if you could see the housekeepers learning to fold the towel animals!  As for the note from our General Manager, we have taken what you and the others said to heart and are changing our policies.  The last thing our staff wants is for our guest’s to feel that we only administer this program to solicit a good score.  However, we can see where combining the note from our General Manager along with the “Guest of the Day” goodies appears to be doing just that.

As the blog postings have highlighted, each of us have a unique internal “satisfaction meter”.  We have differing frames of reference for what constitutes a “10” or an “A+” or a “WOW”.  So too do people have individual definitions for what a “problem” or an “issue” may look like.  We believe a good hotel is in the business of deciphering this private scale of each guest and catering to it time and again.  The letter from the General Manager is a preemptive attempt to capture that information while a guest is “in-house” and we are still able to “make-it-right” according to their individual needs.  We apologize that this concern came across as insincere.  
 
Unfortunately, the inherently personal and often times intangible experience of hospitality is difficult to convert to the cold hard data most surveys attempt to collect. So, as my property continues to refine how best to ensure an exceptional personal experience, I will challenge everyone to follow Timothy Ruiz’s lead and by all means notify hotel staff of any and all reasons they are not meeting your expectations.  Give the property a fair shot at remedying the situation during your stay and you could be pleasantly surprised at how a negative can become a positive…or perhaps even for the toughest grader out there…dare I say, a “10”?

Sincerely,

Holly Siler, Director of Sales

If you've followed my blog, YouTube videos, speeches, and articles during the last 25 years, you know I have a love-hate relationship with hotels. For the most part, I don't think hotels give much of a damn about actually taking care of their customers. I've shared many mind-numbing, purposely bad, and just plain stupid experiences with hotels around the globe, small and large, 2-star up to 5-star.  I STILL hate it when a hotel doesn't use fitted sheets.

However, I've also shared those individually stellar moments when a hotel (usually an individual employee) steps out of the shadows and offers some out-of-the-box customer experience! And I'm more than happy to write about those.

The Kennewick Hilton Garden Inn was an interesting study in a hotel that, IMNSHO, meant to do the right thing, but fell a bit short, primarily because they didn't take their genuine efforts far enough and didn't see their plan through the eyes of the customer (Two Hat Marketing). They still did a great job and I gave them a 9. That's a great rating in my book. 10's are very, very difficult to come by. If all you do is meet my expectations, that's a 5. Then you move up or down from there. You've got to do something that unexpectedly blows me away to get a 10.

Some commenters to my post read more into what I said than intended. Some thought I suggested the hotel called everybody who checked in the "Guest of the day." I didn't. I knew I was the only one (but it wouldn't have been a bad idea). A few offered the hotel knew who I was and wanted to influence me into writing a glowing review on my blog. I never thought that. I am not a big-time celebrity and doubt they had any idea who I was. I'm lucky to be a legend in my own mind. And one person (a professional speaker) suggested I'd made the story up and even put down people who won't give a 10. I don't need to make these stories up, as many of you can attest with your own stories, and I can only assume this speaker doesn't get many 10's.

I give Holly massive kudos for responding to my post and your comments. In 25 years, the only other hotel who ever contacted me was The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs after they heard I was telling a story of an unacceptable service incident at their "5-star" hotel. The GM didn't really apologize or offer any "here's how we're fixing the problem." He just asked me to stop telling the story. I haven't.

The next time I'm in the Tri-Cities, I'll give the Hilton Garden Inn another shot. And I'll go one step farther. The next time YOU are in the Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA area, I recommend YOU stay at Holly's Hilton Garden Inn.

So, what do you think. Does the Kennewick Hilton Garden Inn deserve a 10 now?

PS: This story connects with last week's Is Social
Media Working For You?
Holly found the story on my blog. How she found it, I don't know, but she did. So this is a good example of social media helping a business situation, don't you think?