It’s Not What You Say; It’s How You Say It.

Monday, March 29, 2021

By: Abbe Meehan

If you’re like me, there have been many changes in plans over this past year. Weddings and other events have been rescheduled and rescheduled again. I’m about to change one of those rescheduled reservations. I assume the hotel will be more than accommodating due to this crazy pandemic, but it did remind me of a time long passed, when I used to travel all the time. I had to be out on the West Coast for a conference and decided to extend my trip and go to the Grand Canyon – magnificent, by the way. I had to change my travel plans a few times as I was planning the trip, but by the time I left I had everything all set … or so I thought.

The conference went well, and we set off for our five-hour drive. When we arrived at the Grand Canyon and checked into our lodge, the front desk attendant confirmed we would be there for three nights leaving on the 27th. As she said it, I knew it didn’t sound right. I distinctly remembered noting that I would be out until the 28th on my voicemail and email messages. I looked at the woman and told her I was pretty sure my flight back to New York was on the 28th. We both looked down at the confirmation and clearly it said 3 nights, checking out on the 27th.  Instead of pointing that out to me, or saying that it was my mistake, not theirs, she immediately smiled and said, “OK, don’t panic. We will find you a room for the last night. It may not be the same room you’re in now, but I promise you will not be sleeping outside on the rim of the Canyon.”

I couldn’t believe that with all the times I checked and re-checked my paperwork, I didn’t notice this, but it was true. I had booked this lodge almost a year in advance because the lodges on the rim get booked up very fast. When I saw that I had no room for the last night, my first thought was that I would never get a room, but that woman immediately made me feel like everything was going to be ok. She told me to double-check my documents to make sure that my flight was indeed on the 28th and then come back down, and she would talk to a manager to see what they could do.

After checking and rechecking my documents, I had to admit I messed up. I did in fact need a room for the last night. I went back down to the lobby, but now there were a lot of people at the desk, so when it was my turn I spoke to a different person. I relayed the story. He looked at me with an expression that clearly said, “Oh boy, big problem!” He started punching on the computer keys and said, “There’s really nothing I can do for you at the desk because we can only see room availability for today and tomorrow here. And things change all the time so I have no idea what will be open on the 27th.” Granted, this isn’t a Hilton, it’s a lodge at a national park, but still.

I kept trying, “But I was able to make reservations months ago; why can’t you just create a new reservation?” “Sorry, we can’t do that,” he said. “But you can stop down again the day before and we can check then.” Of course, I couldn’t live with that. I’m not the type who can relax and leave things, like where I’ll be sleeping, to chance. I asked him if I called the reservation line myself, could that work?” “Probably,” he said. Thanks for your help, sir!!!!!

My husband convinced me to take a breath, grab a drink, enjoy the breathtaking view for a few minutes and then go back to the first lady when she wasn’t busy. Good thinking, husband.

I revisited my favorite customer service woman a little later. She remembered me and went to speak with her manager. You want to hear something funny? She came back and told me essentially the same thing the other guy said, except she told me that because people do make reservations so far in advance, they always have cancellations at many of the rim lodges and the likelihood of us having to move to a different lodge was very unlikely. She went on to say that even if we had to move, they would take care of everything for us and we could go about our activities for the day and all would be ready for us when we got back on that last day. She gave me the phone number for reservations and told me to make a reservation wherever there was room. Then, we were to check back with the desk on the 26th and let them know we wanted them to keep checking for a more desirable room.

That is what I did. I got a room reserved in our same lodge immediately and I did go back to the front desk on the 26th to let them know I would prefer a larger room if one became available. It did, and as promised, they moved all our belongings for us for the last night, easy peasy.

Both front desk staffers really said the same thing, but every time I spoke to the woman, I felt reassured. Every time I spoke to the guy, I felt frustrated and angry.

I think about this so many times at work when I’m trying to help a colleague or client. I try to look at things from their perspective. They don’t care about my policies or rules. As a business owner I must think about how I can satisfy them without compromising my time and profits. So often, it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.

Abbe Meehan is president of Tec Resource Center, Ltd.,

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