Last week, I had a week-long client assignment, and they had kindly booked me into a 4-star resort just outside Nairobi for this. As much as it was going to be a busy week of training, I was really looking forward to the simple pleasures of a great hotel stay.
Even as I write this post, I want to believe that I was the exception to the rule, despite the fact that two other members of the group also had their litany of complaints. This is how my 4 nights at the hotel went (I checked out on the 5th).
We arrive at around 6:30pm to a pleasant welcome by the staff. They totally went out of their way to make us feel at home, helping us arrange the training room, escorting us to our rooms and back for dinner etc. This was going to be a good one. After dinner, I retired to my room, straight to the work desk because I had some last-minute work to do. At around midnight (I was still working), I start to detect a foul smell coming from the bathroom. It seeemd the drain had a back-wash that got worse as the other rooms’ drains were used. It bothered me, but the night was a short one as I finished my work past 1am. When I got into bed, I was a bit surprised that the hotel used blankets, but I was too tired to care.
Next morning I reported the issue to the very pleasant, smiling front office person, and she assured me that it would be sorted out.
We had a light first day, so I got back to my room while it was still light. This is what caused me to notice two suspiciously large stains on the brown bed cover. I was certain they were not mine, as I had barely ruffled the bed the night before. Eeek! I called the housekeeper, and asked them about this. The guy slipped up and told me that they have a system of changing bedding, and bedcovers are only changed once a week.
At this point, I asked to speak to the housekeeping manager who wasn’t too pleased to know that I knew about this system. Anyways. She apologised and my bedding was changed. I expressed my surprise that a 4-star hotel used blankets. No self-respecting hotel uses blankets in 2017. She informed me that they were refurbishing the hotel and some rooms already had duvets instead of blankets.
At around midnight, I woke up with a blocked nose. While I had blacked out (from last night’s sleep debt), the drain smell got overwhelming. Turns out they didn’t fix it. I tried placing a towel under the bathroom door, it did not work. Second sleepless night.
Following morning, I went once more to the front office and this time I found the manager, who was very shocked because he had asked his team to move me to a different room, as the issue could not be resolved while I was in the room.
Like Kenyans say, “haidhuru!”. I was promised a new room in the refurbished wing of the hotel so I proceeded to work happy.
That evening after work, I happily emigrated to the new wing. The bathrooms were white and new, the carpet was same old same old, with the previous guest’s hair on it (I noticed this as I did my push-ups that evening), but the most important thing was that there was no smell, and my bedding was all fresh.
I had an uneventful night. First full night of sleep.
Fourth Night – I give up!
I retire to my room to get some work done, and there is no WiFi. Now, the WiFi had been unreliable all through, but we made it work. Now it was totally gone. So I call the front office, and the gentleman, after a cheerful greeting, asked me if I have restarted my computer. I asked him to hold while I restart my phone, and nope. No internet.
He promises to fetch the IT person and have them call me.
Sure enough, after 20 minutes, the IT person calls. Asks me if I have restarted my gadgets, and this time I restart my computer with him on the line. Nothing. No internet. He promises to come over to my room to check the router.
I am still waiting for him as I type this post a week later 😀 He didn’t show up.
I decide to appreciate the internet-free evening by reading a book and sleeping.
The following morning I wake up in a great mood. I step into the swanky new shower, turn on the water and alas! There is no water! I check the taps. No water. So I call the front office. They ask if I have checked the taps. I confirm that I did. Twice. They promise to call back.
30 minutes later I call them. They are investigating. “Yes, but I need to shower otherwise I will be late to work”. Close to an hour later, the kind front office manager shows up at my door to explain that they had a pipe burst, and they were organising a room for me to shower in.
10 minutes later the phone rings and I jump to pick it because I am really going to be late “Hello Ma’am, I am calling you to let you know that we are having a problem with our pipes that has caused a water problem but we are working to resolve it”. Hey! I am the one who called you to tell you that you are having a water problem! It’s now not funny.
Finally, someone knocks and tells me that they have a room for me. So I carry my towel, change of clothes, lotions and shower gel in my hands like a villager, walk across the cottages to the new room where I shower and get ready for work.
I ended up being 30 minutes late, despite the early start.
I really had to check out after that, I needed a nice, warm, and predictable night in my own bed.
Even as I checked out with the lovely hotel staff so full of apologies (they gave me a bottle of wine), I could not help but think how unjust the owners of this hotel were towards their staff. They had made great effort of recruiting and training them on customer service but had failed to support that training with systems that worked. The next post will look at what we can do differently when it comes to thinking about customer service.
Note: I will not name the hotel here because whenever I name an outlet on this blog, their social media team alerts their PR team which then calls me full of promises to do better if I take down the post etc etc, and that is not the point.