(10/28/11 See update below)

After driving all day from Buffalo, New York, I was tired when I checked into the Holiday Inn Arlington at Ballston, Virginia on Friday, September 30. It was a tightly scheduled trip to visit my son, who goes to school in Washington: check in Friday, busy all day Saturday, and finally check out Sunday morning for the nine-hour drive back home.

But the check-in process brought some unwelcome news. Because of Hurricane Irene two weeks before, the hotel needed to do some work on their electrical system that would require the hotel’s main power to be turned off from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday! Only emergency lighting and one elevator would be working. No other power would be available in the hotel.

After nine hours on the road, it was too late and I was too tired to try to switch to another hotel. So we were forced to rearrange our short weekend schedule to work around the lack of power the following day. The hotel had my cell phone number and email address but never tried to alert me before we arrived.

So on Saturday morning, we had to get up earlier and leave earlier than originally planned and delayed our return to the hotel until later in the evening.

Still a bit irritated when I checked out on Sunday morning, I asked at the registration desk if the hotel was offering its inconvenienced weekend guests any compensation for Saturday’s forced power outage. He said he could offer me a free breakfast that morning. Nothing else. My car was packed and I had a long drive ahead of me – I was not interested in breakfast. So my wife and I left.

When I returned home, I tweeted the following:

@mikebeato tweet

I received a very quick response from Holiday Inn:

@IHGCare tweet

I followed up with an email summarizing my experience. An IHG Care Manager replied saying, “We apologize for any inconvenience the scheduled power outage has caused you. I am glad to hear that the hotel told you upon check in that the power would be out. I’m also glad that they offered you the free breakfast. I am sorry you were not able to take advantage of that.”

In other words, they said, hey, they offered you breakfast. Too bad you couldn’t use it. We’re off the hook.

They went on to say they’d forward my message to the General Manager and ownership of the hotel.

A few days later, I received a voicemail from someone at the hotel. He said to call him to discuss the matter. I returned his call later that day. I left a voicemail for him and requested that he call back.

He never returned my call.

Customer Service Report Card:

  • A Swift customer service through social media: Twitter.
  • C- The corporate response was quick but incomplete.
  • D- The local management’s response was poor.

I’m not impressed.

** 10/28/11 Update **

I received the following tweeted response from the InterContinental Hotels Group the following day:

IHGCare followup tweet

John Dargbeh, Front Office Manager for Holiday Inn Arlington, called me an hour later. He apologized for the inconvenience caused by the hotel’s power shutoff and explained that they don’t have a system to notify arriving guests of these kinds of disruptions. As it turned out, he told me the work was actually finished faster than anticipated. Unfortunately, I had already rearranged my schedule for the full day on Saturday.

Mr. Dargbeh offered to provide me 10,000 Priority Club Rewards points as compensation for my inconvenience. I accepted his apology and thanked him for his sincere effort to correct this problem.

Bottom Line: My blog post and tweets proved to be valuable communication tools in correcting my customer service problem at the Holiday Inn Arlington.