Monday, February 25, 2008

Semi-Bad Sheraton

I recently attended a conference and stayed at the Sheraton where the conference was held. This conference, ironically, was all about email marketing.

The travel arrangements had been handled by someone else who would forward the email confirmations to me when she got them.

However, for the actual stay, I needed to use my own credit card and request reimbursement. So, when it was time to depart, I walked up to the self-service kiosk because that's the kind of anti-social love-to-play-with-gadgets kinda guy I am.

It asks me a bunch of questions and then tells me that self-checkout is not available and to go to the desk. Fine, whatever.

Guy checks me out and hands me an envelope containing three copies of my bill. A very nice touch. I ask if I can get the bill emailed to me. He didn't offer, but we always get that when we stay at a Hilton, Doubletree or Hampton Inn (The Hilton Family of Hotels is the official hotel chain of The Lamb Family.) .

He said, "sure" and brought up a screen. The account had the email address of the woman who had handled my travel arrangements. I gave him my email address, he punched it in and said that email bills were generated each nght. (X)

I did not receive the bill. However, two days later, I did receive an email thanking for me for staying at the hotel and welcoming me to their mailing list. (Slightly personalized - a photo of the hotel and "signed" by the manager of that hotel.)

I immediately unsubscribed and sent back a quick note saying that I had not given permission to be added to any mailing list and I had still not received a bill.

I got an automated response saying my email had been received (I think), and then within 24-hours, a template-driven response from "Cheryl Laframboise" a specialist in the E-Communications department. I only mention her by name because she actually did good in this situation.

The templatized email from her was obviously generated by Kana Response and only dealt with my unsubscribe request and also offered me the opportunity to sign-up for another email.

I sat on it, slightly annoyed, for a few days. Finally this morning I sent a response saying that their automatic response system missed the point of my email and suggested the wrong response and that I had still not received a copy of my bill.

While I was tying this (at the "(X)" above), Ms. Laframboise called to apologize and to ask me which hotel I had stayed at, so that she could send a request to that hotel. Two things to note here... 1) This information, including photo and address of hotel was on our email exchanges. I am totally willing to cut her slack on this. 2) The number she was calling from came across the caller ID as "Howard J" (Howard Johnson? Amusing.)

I gave her the information and she asked if I had access to a fax machine. I was a little taken aback by this, considering the entire effort was to get an emailed copy of my statement. I stammered and then lied and said "no" (I really should write down the number to the nearest fax machine as I'm sure it would be handy to have on hand.)

She said she would send a request to the hotel and that it would take about five days.

So, kudos to Ms. Laframboise. Obviously there are problems in the Starwood system but at least their customer service team is allowed to make outgoing calls and try to get things fixed.

We'll see if I receive a copy of the bill by email.
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