I recently tried to change a hotel reservation by phone. Turns out, that’s a journey I’m not conditioned for.
One of our columnists here at Hotel News Now, Doug Kennedy, of the Kennedy Training Network, often writes about telephone mystery shopping, a service his company is involved in for hotels. It’s a concept I’m sure you’re all familiar with, and it happens across all industries with a customer-service element: “Mystery shoppers” call in to a reservation line, a customer service line, etc., and check to see how those customer service reps are doing. Simple, right?
Oh, how I wished last week I was a mystery shopper, so I would have some official outlet to report the call I made to a major hotel reservations line to change a reservation, and the madcap hijinks that ensued for the next 45 minutes.
But instead I’ll vent here in my blog. Let me set the stage: I booked a hotel for myself and a colleague for an upcoming major hotel industry conference. I booked two rooms in my name, on my credit card, direct on the hotel company website and with my loyalty login. Because booking direct is best, they say. Booking direct is easiest, they say. Remember that for later in my story.
Anyway, then I tried to change the reservation to put the second room in my colleague’s name and attach his credit card number to it.
Little did I know I should have prepared for this journey of change much like I prepare for a trip to the Apple store or an overseas flight—by making sure I’m hydrated, dressed in loose layers and well-nourished, because I know the trek will be long and hot and super annoying.
I hopped on the loyalty app to make the change, all full of false confidence and patting myself on the back for not booking via the conference room-block channel. “Pfffff, Passkey!” I scoffed to myself. “Not getting involved in that mess! I’m booking direct!”
The loyalty app pulled up my reservation but wouldn’t let me make the change. I tried the full loyalty website on my laptop instead. It let me click a button that said “edit,” but it turns out that button is nothing but a false prophet, because I couldn’t actually edit the reservation.
I clicked around in frustration for 10 minutes with no luck. “But I’m a (super low-tier level) loyalty member,” I mutter. “THEY SHOULD BE CATERING TO ME!”
So I found a phone number and called. Lo and behold, I got a person. A real, live person, and it only took about 10 minutes of automated menu options to get there. Now 20 minutes into my journey of change, I feel salvation is near. I’m about to be catered to, people!
The nice lady on the phone asked for my confirmation number. I had my confirmation email from the hotel pulled up and gave her the number, but it didn’t register in her system. The confirmation number from the hotel, on official hotel email stationery, “doesn’t register.” I’m starting to get that sweaty Apple-store feeling now.
“You must have booked this through a conference site,” she said, referring to a Passkey or similar reservation. “I can’t help you.”
No, I said. “I booked hotel direct.” That’s the exact quote and how I said it.
“Hotel direct? Isn’t that a third-party online thing?” she said. “I can’t help you with (online travel agency) reservations.”
I KID YOU NOT. SHE SAID THAT. Dear reader, I almost fell off my chair.
I turned it into a Teaching Moment, which I’m sure she enjoyed: “No, that means I booked it directly on the hotel website,” I said. So she put me on hold for 10 minutes while she called the hotel front desk directly. I probably should have tried that step first myself, but usually when I do that they route me to the main reservations line anyway.
After long last, someone resolved my problem. After 45 minutes, I got the second reservation changed and nobody got physically harmed in the process, unless you count the shirt I sweated through.
This was an annoying journey. If it happened to me, it’s happened to your customers, too. The lesson here is that we can’t write my experience off as a failure of a phone reservations system. This was a failure of the hotel-direct mobile loyalty channel—that one you’re all investing in. I should have been able to make my change there, and I couldn’t. So I called, and that presented another set of obstacles.
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