A Lesson in Customer Service from Hampton Inn

Recently my family and I went on a trip to Seattle. We love to travel and by car as much as possible, because we love to experience the little things all across the U.S., not just the airports, which are mostly just all the same. During our travels, we often have 1-4 of the kids with us. On this recent Seattle trip, we only had the two oldest boys.

Because we’re usually traveling with the kids, we’re choosy about our hotels, not so much for price and convenience, but for certain specific amenities like breakfast and a pool. Our go-to joint was most often the Residence Inn, but recently we’ve been hitting up the Hampton Inns. Hampton has gone through a major remodel of both the business and the physical properties that works very well for us. The rooms are nice and clean, the staff are (usually) really nice, and the breakfast is pretty awesome, since they almost always have hot food like bacon and eggs and not just waffles and fruit. Even better, Hampton Inns are now offering a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Not only that, but many of our recent stays included unforeseen perks.

In Atlanta we were invited to a free BBQ dinner in the lobby.

In Seattle we were given goody bags with candy and snacks inside.

In Greensboro NC we were given free bottled waters.

Then there was Tacoma WA.

Despite a pretty awesome string of enjoyable stays in Hampton Inns, we eventually found a bad apple. I don’t even think it was the hotel so much as it was the employee on duty at the time. Unfortunately, customer service at the corporate level turned sour when I mentioned our issue.

Here’s the story.

Like many of you, I book 99.9% of my hotel stays online. As I’m a proud Hilton Honors member, I usually just book through that website instead of the plethora of other sites out there. I usually just go straight in and search for a Hampton Inn near where I’m staying.

We had just driven out of Mt. Rainier National Park and were looking for a place to stay in Tacoma WA. We found a string of hotels near the mall, some of which were even considerably cheaper than the Hampton Inn. I booked a room online, we found the hotel, and…then the trouble started.


When we walked in to get the keys to the room that I paid for through the Hilton website the receptionist said, “No, you can’t have that room” and proceeded to book us in a room with one bed instead of two at a higher rate. Two kids, remember? I’m way past the days I’m willing to share a bed with my two monsters. That’s a guaranteed sleepless night.

“What happened to our booking?”

“I don’t know, but you’re lucky to get the room I’m giving you.”

All this is said to us as we’re standing there staring at the 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed sign and wondering who peed in her Cheerios. We went ahead and took the booking and made beds for the kids on the floor. It was a clean hotel, so this wasn’t too bad. I figured I’d contact Hilton Honors later and see what was up.

There were several basic issues here…

  • The hotel refused to honor my online reservation.
  • The receptionist had a crappy attitude.
  • The hotel upsold me to a lesser room.

But let me go on record right now and tell you how customer service works. There are several things the receptionist could have done that would have fixed everything…

  • Show a better attitude.
  • Offer a small perk, like the goody bags full of snacks and candy that were sitting right there on the counter.
  • Apologize for the online screw-up and give me the new room at the rate I paid instead of the upsell.
  • But most of all, I reiterate the first idea…be nice.

I contacted Hilton to express my concerns and let them know what could’ve made things rights. I also expressed my concerns that it felt like I couldn’t trust the online booking. Despite repeated requests to get to a customer service supervisor, all I ever got was the bottom of the ladder person managing the e-mails and tweets that day.

Tweet 1

Tweet 2

Tweet 3

In addition to the Twitter messages, there was also a chain of e-mails regarding the issue. After reading them, you tell me if you can feel the love or if the whole things just seems like a “send the typical corporate response and get rid of this guy” kind of thing.

This is the first response following my e-mail asking for information on what happened with the online booking…

It is my understanding that the Tacoma-Mall, WA has been in contact with you and has adjusted your rate from $129.00 to $119.00 and e-mailed and updated folio.

Should you require further assistance please let us know. 

Hilton Worldwide Guest Assistance Specialist 

And another one…

Dear Dr. David W. Powers,

Thank you for your reply. My name is Mary.  It will be my pleasure to assist with the Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma-Mall, WA. I would like to express my sincere apologies. Yes, you can trust all your reservations booked on our websites. The Hotel should have honored  the rate you had confirmed on your reservation. It is our goal, to provide only the highest level of customer service, for all of our guests, who choose to stay at one of our Hilton Worldwide hotels, and based on the details you provided in your message, we deeply regret that we have fallen short of that goal. Please be assured that we will be sharing your feedback with management to avoid recurrence.

After reviewing you file, I see 100% satisfaction Guarantee was offered in a form of a ” Be My Guest” for one night complimentary stay in a standard room at any Hampton Inn & Suites hotel of your choice and will be valid for “1” year from the date of issue. Please allow 5-7 business days for the certificate to be processed and mailed. 

Once again, we are terribly sorry for the challenges that you experienced at the hotel during your stay.

Should you have any additional questions relative to this matter, please reply to this email or call our office at 1-888-240-6152.

Best Regards,

Mary H., Specialist, Hilton Guest Assistance

And from me…

Would it be at all possible to get forwarded to a customer service supervisor? I’m not sure who I’ve been speaking to on the Hampton Inn Twitter account, but I’m getting a runaround and lots of typical scripted verbiage, and I would like to actually dialogue with someone higher.

Uh oh, Mary again…

Dear Dr. David W. Powers,

Thank you for contacting Hilton Guest Assistance. My name is Mary. It will be my pleasure to assist regarding the Hampton Inn & Suites Tacoma-Mall, WA.

After reviewing the file, I see you had been contacted by social media supervisor and were offered a “Be my guest” certificate to make amends for your experience.

We want you as our guest and are hopeful that you will afford us the opportunity to provide lodging services in the future.

Should you have any additional questions relative to this matter, please reply to this email or call our office at 1-888-240-6152.

Best Regards,

Mary H., Specialist, Hilton Guest Assistance

The end result is a bad stay, a receptionist ill equipped for the job, a policy of just tossing out free hotel stays for dissatisfaction, customer service reps who only want to cross off complaints instead of actually fixing them, and a serious problem that Hilton needs to get hold of. Otherwise, families like us may end up making our way to similar hotels like Residence Inn and the Holiday Inn Express.

Hilton, if you’re listening, I’ll repeat what would have made everything perfect for me…

  • An apology from the receptionist that night
  • An offer from the receptionist to bring in a roll up bed for my boys
  • A goody bag for each of the kids and a bottle of water for me and my wife
  • The rate I paid for if the room truly wasn’t available
  • Make me happy onsite and two things happen. I don’t complain and you don’t have to give me a free night.

And boom! Done!

This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!

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