Advertising Won’t Help Your Hotel If Your Service is Fawlty

It baffles me sometimes that hotel chains will spend vast amounts on TV advertising campaigns without management ensuring that the hotels they hope will benefit are ready to receive visitors. Hotel customer service has a long way to go in many establishments.

As a case in point, this morning I visited a local South Wales hotel in a chain currently running such a campaign for a meeting.

hotel customer service - Basil & Sybil Fawlty in a scene from Fawlty Towers

Basil and Sybil at Fawlty Towers in the iconic sitcom about a hotel in Torquay.

The hotel, three stars, rather large and not unattractive, architecturally speaking, was a deserted wasteland of several reception areas.

There was little signage to welcome visitors, no marketing literature and, even more irritatingly, hardly any staff.

One of the toilets in the ladies was already out of order.

There were no menus to be had and it was not clear whether non-residents could order food.

There were a couple of menus marked “Room Service” on the tables.

There was no information about WIFI, even though there was a free, open network to be connected to.

I eventually tracked down a menu behind reception where I was asked to return it because it was the only one they had.

My companion and I ordered coffee, produced with maximum froth and minimum coffee from a machine.

The diet coke was clearly made up from a diluted syrup.

The tuna sandwich I ordered was, however, tasty and nicely presented, but I could only pay cash at the bar.

Had I wanted to use a card, I would have had to go to the reception.

Around midday, the place became packed but there was no increase in staffing.

The one lone lad behind the bar kept vanishing so visitors were milling around unsure what to do.

What a wasted sales opportunity!  And what lacklustre hotel customer service!

My point is, had I been considering actually staying at this particular hotel, I would have rapidly changed my mind.

The frustrating thing is that the whole experience could have been so much better with just a little thought.

We had chosen this particular hotel as it seemed to be the only one suitable in that area for a relaxed meeting and some coffee.

The irony is that the hotel advertises 7 meeting rooms and conference facilities.

Prior to my 20 plus years in marketing, I did my fair share of pub work and had numerous retail jobs (including House of Fraser, Habitat and Woolworths).

I am well aware that working with the public can sometimes be very challenging, but surely getting the right systems in place will help the staff to do their jobs and make their work-life more enjoyable?

This is not a matter of cost, but it is a matter of involving the staff and using customer feedback.

I also think (heresy though it might be to say it) that many of these places would benefit from maturer staff at management level who have had more experience of life’s challenges and can relate a little better to older guests and customers.

Older employees may have a better grasp of the nuances of good hotel customer service and be able to use their experience to problem-solve on the ground, without having to constantly refer a matter up to management.

I am sure there are many in the 50+ age group who would be only too willing to step up to the plate.


  1. rachel_bitmead
    16 March, 2015 / 7:55 pm

    What a shame! where is the Hotel Inspector when you need her!

    • Linda Hobbis
      16 March, 2015 / 7:58 pm

      You know I rather think that would be my dream job!

    16 March, 2015 / 6:38 pm

    Yup, we may have been to the same place and I always get pretty grumpy by lack of or bad service, the tuna sandwich will not cover the rest of your experience. I mystery shop and have done for years, hotels in chains so miss the point of good staffing, and an organised strong management and as you say high sales in the dining and refreshment department, though I have found that age is no indicator of good service.

    • Linda Hobbis
      16 March, 2015 / 6:41 pm

      I agree with your point about age but being of that age group myself now, it's almost as if we are invisible. There was a piece in the paper recently which asked "Is a woman's career over at 45"!

  3. 16 March, 2015 / 6:25 pm

    I totally agree with you. It's amazing how much money they can spend on advertising, but they forget the impact of word of mouth when it comes to bad service.

    • Linda Hobbis
      16 March, 2015 / 6:39 pm

      Much more powerful than advertising. People just vote with their feet, don't they!

  4. 16 March, 2015 / 5:34 pm

    At least the tuna sandwich was up to scratch! I hate drinks made from syrup, you never know what you're going to get – too much syrup or too much soda! But, I digress, indeed the chain should have made sure the hotel was being run to standards prior to advertising

    • Linda Hobbis
      16 March, 2015 / 5:42 pm

      No idea why they use syrup instead of bottles / cans – can't be that much of a cost saving can it?

  5. Kris
    16 March, 2015 / 5:21 pm

    Interesting points made – I find it very disappointing when I have high expectations based on advertising and the reality does not measure up.

    • Linda Hobbis
      16 March, 2015 / 5:41 pm

      It must cost these chains an absolute fortune! Mind you, I'm a bit of a sucker for glossy advertising!

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