What do you do with a complaint?

Recently, I had cause to complain to the Motel 6 chain.

I had requested a non-smoking room. Yet, it was clear that many people had smoked in this room before. On departure, I complained to the agent at the desk. She expressed her sympathy with my failed expectations and said that she had proposed to management that they assess a penalty against anyone who smoked in their room. But, her idea had been rejected.

So, I wrote a letter to both the president of the parent company, Accor, and to their customer service department. Quickly, in the same day, I received a response. In fact, two responses, one from the corporate headquarters and one from the regional supervisor. Both, however, were form and electronically generated letters. I have yet to hear from the president.

It is clear that I am not the first person to complain about this … and it is also clear that this hotel chain is not willing to follow other major chains that have converted all their properties to non-smoking venues. The light of Motel 6, Tom Bodett notwithstanding, will no longer be lighted for me, however.

I’m reminded of a sales mantra by this exchange between me and the hotel. An objection or complaint is a way to further engage the customer; it’s a way to learn what the customer really wants and to provide it. Here, by merely sending form responses, Motel 6 has missed an opportunity to engage me in a serious way. They do not feel my pain, they do not understand the seriousness of their action to my health and they have done nothing to make me want to return to do business with them.

What are you doing in your law firm to engage your clients? What are you doing to understand what your clients want? And how are you handling any complaints that the clients might be raising for your consideration?


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