The Real Business Acumen of Customer Service


Business Acumen comes in many shapes and sizes and depending on your function in thetext-customer-service organization will inform you of the way you execute the strategy of your business. Customer Service is one of the most important functions within a business and is especially critical in a consumer business like hospitality.

As someone who has dedicated their career to providing business acumen skills to organizations in need of them, I am constantly amazed at the lack of them in organizations and functions where you’d think they are paramount.

What got me thinking about this is an ongoing dialogue I have been having with the service team at the hotel I am staying at this week.

Like many hospitality organizations, hotels have engaged in new technologies to create greater engagement with their customers. One of the tactics they have been using is the “Send-a-text-to-the-guest-to-show-we-care” technique.

From a business acumen perspective, this sounds brilliant But, it’s brilliant only IF you are able to execute it flawlessly by having people and systems who actually know what they are doing.

What follows is an actual conversation I have been having via text with the hotel where I am staying. I of course don’t want to share the actual hotel or the name of the person. This thread demonstrates how a lack of business acumen can destroy the intent of good customer service.

Hotel: “Welcome to our hotel Mr. / Ms. Brodo. Thank you for being a Gold member. How is everything with your room? – Courtney

Mr. / Ms. Brodo: “Thanks, Courtney. Fine, I guess. I should have asked for a couple of bottles of water at the front desk. There are no bottles of water in the room which there usually are.”

Hotel: “Our apologies. Water is provided for our member guests. There are vending machines on each floor.”

Mr. / Ms. Brodo: “Courtney, as you thanked me above, I am a gold member.”

Hotel: “Our apologies. You can pick up some water from the front desk at your convenience.”

Mr. / Ms. Brodo: “Uh, okay. Thanks.”

Hotel: “Our pleasure is there anything else I can help you with?”

Mr. / Ms. Brodo: “Actually, yes. After traveling for 10 hours, I just took a shower, and the body wash dispenser is empty.”

Hotel: “Our apologies. I will make a note for housekeeping to refill it when they service your room.”

Mr. / Ms. Brodo: “Uh, okay, thanks.”

The thread continued this morning…

Hotel: “Good morning Mr. / Ms. Brodo, how is your stay so far? – Courtney.”

Mr. / Ms. Brodo: “Hello Courtney. I only have one regular coffee pod in my room. The other 3 are for decaf coffee. Is it possible for someone to bring me a few more as I am on client calls?”

Hotel – “Thank you. Let me see what we can do.”

After 45 minutes…

Mr. / Ms. Brodo: “Hello Courtney, what were you able to find out about the coffee?”

Hotel: “Our apologies. We are currently out of regular coffee pods. We are expecting a shipment today. In the meantime, our restaurant located near the main lobby is open.”

This afternoon…

Mr. / Ms. Brodo: “Hello Courtney, I just went up to my room, and was disappointed to discover it wasn’t serviced today. Can you please have someone service my room including filling the soap and coffee?”

Hotel: “Our apologies. There was a note that you had the do not disturb sign on your room at 10 am when your floor was serviced. Let me see if we can service your room within the next few hours.”

Mr. / Ms. Brodo: “This is very frustrating. I was out of my room downstairs with our client group by 10 am and you are telling me that room cleaning services stop at that time?”

Hotel: “Our apologies, we are running short-staffed this week due to illnesses impacting our staff.”

By my count, basically, nothing has been right from a customer service perspective. “Courtney” has literally apologized SIX times! What have we learned?

  1. Re-examine your customer service training and test to see what it feels like from a customer perspective. It was the same “Apology” template six different times. Is that all you got?
  2. If you are trying to create the perception that you are investing in systems that convey great customer service, then actually provide the customer service and stop apologizing.
  3. Fix the issues. At every single interaction there was a simple solution that would have required some effort, but would have solved the problem and developed a greater level of trust in the service. Send someone to the room with the water, soap, and coffee. Make it a point that the room will be serviced as soon as possible.
  4. Don’t “check the box” without making sure it works. This feels like someone just checked a box and never did the training or testing.
  5. What is the impact on the bottom line? This hotel has invested in a text-based communication system that technically works fine but is a conceptual failure. What a waste of money and brand equity.

In summary, like many things related to the business acumen within a company, you need to think things through and pay attention to detail. Simply checking a box and not thinking about execution is a recipe for failure.

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Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.