I’m here at Content Marketing World in Cleveland tonight. Actually, that’s not true. I’m more than an hour outside of Cleveland at some rundown, roadside motel, having been bussed here by the hotel I was supposed to be staying at tonight, the Westin Cleveland Downtown.
You know, as a hotel, your core brand promise is pretty simple. Someone books a room. You give them a room. Sure, there are other finer points of expectations, but they’re icing on the cake.
So while I’m far away from the joyous evening events of Content Marketing World tonight, I find myself reflecting on a more fundamental truth of modern marketing communications: you shouldn’t lie to your customers. At least not if you want to keep them.
Here are five lies that Westin told me:
#1. You’re reserved a room, guaranteed. The confirmation email had the headline: “Rest easy. Your reservation has been confirmed.” Well, I shouldn’t have rested easy, because when I arrived at the Westin after 18 hours of traveling from London, I was summarily told that they didn’t have a room for me. And not just me, they were quick to assure me — something like 30 other people with reservations were being turned away too. Jilted customers love company?
#2. You’ve prepaid for a room. But wait, I said. This was a prepaid room. I started to dig out the email that said my credit card was being charged $219.00 more than a month ago. The email said it was non-refundable and non-changeable. The man behind the desk look confused and was uninterested in looking at the printout of the email I had with me. Instead, he said they would refund me. (So much for the unqualified non-changeable and non-refundable rhetoric of the email.)
#3. We only charged you $2.19, not $219, because our computer cuts off the zeros. Good news, the guy behind the desk says. It turns out my card wasn’t charged $219 after all. It was only charged $2.19 because their computer must have cut off the zeroes. I swear I’m not making this up. Here’s a photo of the paper where the guy actually wrote out the math, how I should have been charged 100% but was, in fact, only charged 1%. (Another manager later told me they had only authorized $2.19, not charged it — so any charge was a lie. But the “computer cuts off zeroes” in billing excuse sounds pretty suspicious too; the CFO might want to look into that.)
#4. There will be a shuttle to take you to an alternate hotel in 5 minutes. I waited, with another speaker who had also been turned down for his “guaranteed” room reservation, for 45 minutes. No bus. I’m exhausted and starving. I finally gave up and went out to dinner. I tried a plea to the @Westin account on Twitter. But in the end, they only routed me back to the managers in Cleveland (who, by the way, did not call me, @Westin — I had to go back to the hotel to track them down — let’s call that lie #4.5).
By the way, Westin, when you’re breaking promises to so many people that you need a bus for all of them, that should be a catalyst for maybe reflecting on the course your life has taken.
#5. The alternate hotel is only 25 minutes away. In fairness, they said that it may take 45 minutes in rush hour traffic. But I waited out rush hour over dinner. When I resigned myself to this alternate hotel as my only option, there was no traffic at all, but it took over an hour to get here. And, not to be mean to this other hotel, but it’s kind of a dump. (Lie #5.5 was when the guy at the Westin had assured me how great of a hotel it was.)
So, instead of a “Heavenly Bed” as I was repeatedly promised on the web and in multiple email confirmations from Westin, I got a Hellish Experience instead.
As for you, dear reader, I apologize for going “off topic” with this rant. But I would bring it back to a relevant theme by simply making this point: it doesn’t matter what your website, your email, or your social media engagement says if, at the end of the day, you just fail to deliver what you promise.