Employee or Entrepreneur?

by vernsanders on May 28, 2010

This post is about customer service, the lack of it, and the attitude that determines the difference.

Last Monday I drove from Saskatoon to Spokane: 700+ miles in about 12 hours. I arrived in Spokane after 9pm without a hotel reservation (which is not uncommon, given the way I like to travel). I pulled off the road in a place where there were a number of hotel options, and places to eat, since it had been a long time since I had eaten.

The first hotel I picked was a Marriott Residence Inn. I walked up and asked for their best possible rate. She quoted me the “rack rate” (which is the price any tourist would get coming in off the street, and $20 more than I could get through my own travel site). I told her I was a AAA member, and that I was a travel agent. She looked at the computer for about a minute and then knocked $7 off the price (this is an example of Wayne Dyer’s axiom: “Clerks are Jerks”). FAIL!

So I said to her “It’s after 9pm and you are unlikely to sell any more rooms tonight, is that your best rate?” She looked at me as if I was speaking Swahili. I said “if that’s the best rate you can give me, I’m going down the road.” Deer in the headlights look…

I drove a block, and walked into a BRAND NEW (new carpet smell even) Hampton Inn and Suites. I asked the same question: “What’s your best possible rate?” Without even blinking an eye, she cut 30% off the rack rate, which I knew, but didn’t tell her I did.

In the first encounter, even though I gave the clerk a second and third opportunity to recognize that I wasn’t just off the turnip truck, she had no idea what to do. In the second case the problem solver acted proactively.

Where would you like to stay? It will be a long time before I even pull up to a Marriott Residence Inn, and I’m a Marriott Rewards member. You can bet I’ll go to a Hampton Inn first next time.

Your experience may differ, but remember this is about the attitude. Marriott and/or the specific hotel manager had not trained the clerk for my question. She was not empowered to make any decisions. They lost a sale, and a room went empty. Hampton, on the other hand, had an entrepreneurial employee who read body language, listened, and made the sale.

Now do I expect Marriott to care? No. But it doesn’t matter, because I had a bad experience, and now I’m telling hundreds, if not thousands of people. One person’s bad call. Enormous potential consequences.

The same principles apply in church and music/worship ministry. Staff and volunteers with an “employee” attitude can lose “sales” every day. Is that what you want? Think about it. Train your people to think entrepreneurially, and your ministry can grow. Trust me.

Ever had a bad experience with an employee attitude? With Marriott? How about a good experience with Hampton? Travel in general? Please leave a comment and let me know what it was. Maybe we can even get Marriott to listen.

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