A post by ILS team member Eric Kidwell:

I travel almost every week and sometimes there are problems that seem to create themselves. Staying at a La Quinta in Texas, I had to change rooms for reasons too long to explain here. My new room had an iron with a huge burn mark and I needed to iron my clothes for an early morning meeting. I tried washing it with soap and water, but to no avail. I called front desk at 430am, Colton answered nicely. I asked if there was any way he could bring me a new iron.

He said he was not sure, and asked if he could call me back. I hesitated because I am sensitive to waking my neighbors up at 4:30 AM with thin walls and a call back. But I said yes and sat right by the phone.

He called back and said sorry, I can’t find one. Nothing else. I said, well I need one to iron a shirt for a meeting, what else can we do? He said I could come by the front desk and he would give you me key and I could go iron my shirt in an unoccupied room. In other words, he wasn’t willing to step out from behind the desk at all. I could solve my own problem or it wasn’t going to get solved.

Picture me, walking down to the front desk with clothes over my shoulder and then walking back up to the elevators, into a spare room, doing my ironing, returning the key, then going back to get dressed. I’m not opposed to going the extra mile, but this was a little much. I suggested that maybe he could go into that unused room and get the iron and bring to me. I thought this was a good solution. And then? He hung up on me! He actually hung up on me!

So I was left sitting in my room at 4:30 AM trying to figure out how to get ready for this important meeting. Next thing I hear is rustling outside my door. No knock. I open the door and a brand new iron in a box is at foot of my door. A few minutes later, a call from Colton, ” I left you an iron at your door”  No hello, no sorry. Nothing.

I said thank you so much! Colton hangs up again.

What is the real problem here? The problem is that Colton was thinking of Colton first, not customer first. Now I have two very strong feelings. First, I feel like I have some kind of tag in their system that I’m a jerk just because I had the nerve to ask for a working iron. Secondly, I have a very bad feeling about La Quinta. One employee in one city who wasn’t willing to solve a customer problem with a smile and now a very frequent traveler will probably never stay at a La Quinta again.

This story boils down to the simple fact that every team member that works for your organization carries your brand with them. If Colton had immediately taken care of my issue, I would have been writing his (and La Quinta’s) praises. This story would be about how even when we don’t deliver to our customers (having a broken iron), we can create loyalty with great service recovery. Instead, this story is about how one team member can take a bad situation and make it much worse.