John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog


Marriott World Center Orlando

Recently I was a keynote speaker at a company’s annual conference held in Orlando, Florida. Their meeting was held at the Marriott World Center, the largest Marriott property in the world.  When I arrived from the airport at around 10:00 am, I requested of the nice bellman to please have my luggage sent directly to my room so I could meet with the meeting planner and then deliver my keynote.

Unexpected Surprise

By the time my presentation and book signing were completed, it was now 5:00 pm. I was free, but I had a productive night scheduled. My plan was to run up to my room, change out of my suit and tie and go work out. I would then come back to my room, order room service and get caught up on several days of piled up email.

Well, things didn’t work out as planned. When I got to my room, I searched for my luggage, but it was nowhere. I then called down to the front desk, informing them that the bellman never delivered my luggage as requested.  Shortly after, the front desk called me back and said they were unable to locate my luggage, but would try to as quickly as possible.  So here it goes again: yet another horrible customer service experience!

I sat in my room, in a robe, like a prisoner. I had no workout clothes, couldn’t go to the gym like I had planned, my evening schedule was being compromised, and everything was getting pushed back. Why me?  I was working myself up, getting stressed over the inconvenience, and imagining a horrible night’s sleep as a result.

Opportunity to be a Hero

What seemed to be hours later (actually only 10 minutes at most since I called the front desk looking for my luggage), the phone in my room rang. “Mr. DiJulius, this is James. I am the head bellman. I want to apologize for your inconvenience. We haven’t found your luggage yet, but I promise you we will soon. Can I ask you if there was anything in particular you needed that I can send up to your room?”

I responded with, “Just my work-out cloths. I was planning on getting a work out in.”

James responded, “Mr. DiJulius, I apologize. If we do not locate your luggage within the next 15 minutes, I would be happy to get you a pair of workout shorts, tee shirt and tennis shoes from our store outside our spa. Can you tell me your sizes?”

I responded that he didn’t have to do that!  I could easily flip -flop my plans and get my emails done first, and hopefully by then my luggage would be found and I’d work out then.

James said, ”Are you sure?  I promise you, I will personally find your luggage and get it to you ASAP! You are the last person we want to inconvenience, and I am truly sorry.”

I responded, “James, I appreciate your effort, really. I am fine. There’s no inconvenience. Thank you.”  Within 15 minutes James brought my luggage to the room, and I thanked him and gave him a big tip for his effort.

Attitude Adjustment

What happened here? One moment I was an angry guest, working myself up, feeling sorry for myself: poor me, why does this have to happen to me, my entire night is screwed up, not realizing that I had an option of rearranging my plans.  The next minute I was feeling bad for the bellman, telling him I was fine with plenty of things to do, it wasn’t an inconvenience at all, stop with the fuss.   Why did this attitude transformation occur? (I went from being a potentially angry dissatisfied customer to telling them they were making too much of a fuss.)  Because this particular Marriott properly trained their associates to recognize when something goes wrong, empathize immediately with the customer, and instead of focusing on the problem, (missing luggage) to focus on the inconvenience and offer solutions and alternatives.  As a result of James’ sincere empathy to my horrible situation (exaggerated in my mind), the situation flipped and I was feeling badly for him and how hard he was trying to please me.

While they may complain about the Service Defect,

They are going to rave about how we handle it!

World-Class customer service companies train their employees to be Zero Risk. Commandment VII is anticipating your service defects and having service recovery protocols in place to make them right.  We can’t eliminate things from going wrong, but what we can do is reduce errors and be better prepared to be a hero when things do go wrong.  With over 2,000 visitors per day, just on that sheer volume, Marriott is going to misplace a small percentage of luggage from time to time.  They know this and they are prepared.

  • Have you recognized the reoccurring service defects in your operations?
  • Have you trained your employees on how to show empathy and recognize the inconvenience versus the problem?
  • Do you have protocols in place to turn your potentially upset customers into even more loyal evangelist?

~John DiJulius is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, consultant and the President and CVO of The DiJulius Group.


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