Fumble, Recovery, and Fumble Again at the Sir Francis Drake

A well-executed service recovery can go a long to towards cementing a positive reputation in a customer's mind. On the other hand, a poorly-executed recovery can make a bad experience that much worse. My wife, Sally, and I recently experienced both after staying at the historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Here's a quick re-cap of what went right, what went wrong, and something just for fun.

The Stay
We decided to stay at the Sir Francis Drake hotel on a recent trip to San Francisco because of its proximity to Union Square, the fact it is a Kimpton hotel (we like Kimpton), and above all else the historic, but quirky image it projects. Overall, the stay was good and in line with our expectations, but we did experience a small problem at check in.

We arrived early, so our room wasn't yet ready. This wasn't a big deal, so went out for a bite to eat. We checked back after an hour and a half and were told the room would be ready in 20 minutes, so we continued waiting in the lobby. Another 45 minutes went by before we checked with the front desk agent again (who knew we were waiting) and she admitted she had forgotten about us. Finally, we got checked in, but then had to wait another 30 minutes for the bellman to bring our bags to the room (after being told they would be right up). None of this was major news, but it wasn't as high a level of service as we would expect.

The Recovery
Like many hotels, Kimpton sends out a survey to guests after they stay at one of its properties. I took a few moments to complete their survey, giving full credit for the exemplary service we received in several areas and also mentioning the small service problem at check in. To my surprise, the front desk manager called me a day or two later to ask for additional feedback. He was very polite, very apologetic, and offered to send me a certificate for a free night's stay to make amends for the problem. This was much more than I expected, so I was very happy. The manager's actions also caused Sally and I to rethink our decision to try another hotel the next time we visited the area.

The Fumble
The promised certificate never arrived. Maybe my neighbors received it instead, or maybe the mailman's dog ate it, or maybe the front desk manager never sent it. The reason it never arrived doesn't really matter at this point, and I don't plan on calling to ask for it. Yes, it would be nice to have a free night's stay, but the issue was great service (or lack of), not getting compensated. What is really too bad is Sally and I felt the front desk manager had worked so hard to recover our future business before this disappointing turn of events.

A Final Surprise
Did I mention 'quirky' was one of the reasons we decided to stay at the hotel in the first place? Our room was very small, but it did have a walk-in closet. In the closet was a set of leopard-print pajamas for sale. Simply open the plastic and enjoy, and a small charge of $30 will be added to your room bill. Nice.