By Stephen Zagor, Dean—School of Management and Business Studies

Have you ever stayed in a hotel where the service didn’t meet your expectations? What did you do? If you’re like many guests today, you probably pulled out your smart phone and immediately turned to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp or TripAdvisor to voice your complaints. For those of us who work in the hospitality industry, this is a marked change in guest relations. The tried-and-true standard of client services—when a client picks up the phone or even visits the front desk to seek resolution—is vanishing even faster than 24-hour hotel room service.

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It’s no surprise that the instant gratification of online interactions have replaced the art of conversation and eye contact. But when in-person help is required, one has to wonder about the benefit of public complaints. Is it a helpful warning to future guests—the equivalent of flashing headlights to warn your fellow drivers of a hidden speed trap? Or is this just an exercise in heavy venting, a public flogging of the unfortunate hotel that provided less-than-perfect service?

A few months ago, I stayed in a luxury hotel in a major city. After I settled into the room, I sat on the edge of the bed—only to discover that the mattress and box springs had a pronounced tilt to one side. It was as though Godzilla had just slept there. I didn’t consider sending a note to Yelp or posting a comment on Twitter—to me, that approach as ineffective as dropping leaflets out of a plane. I actually picked up the phone, called the desk and in a matter of minutes was once again settling into a new room—bed fully intact.

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No matter your personal views on the topic, responding to publicly posted complaints is becoming an essential part of customer service.

My method of getting resolution may be on the decline. But what is interesting about this new phenomenon of digital complaints is that many hotels now understand and expect it. In fact, web patrols for customer comments have become an essential part of hotel brand management. Many have social media monitoring systems that forward guest remarks to hotel staff in real time. There are numerous software packages that constantly scan the web for complaints (and compliments) about hotel management, in an effort to help staff resolve issues quickly—maybe even fast enough for you to delete or recant that scathing twitter review.

If you think this system is only for hotels it’s not. Many airlines, food businesses and other savvy travel-related brands also employ these tactics—often to great success. But responding to every errant tweet can also lead to previously unforeseen conflicts in customer service. In a recent news story, a family was temporarily booted from a flight after the father tweeted about a run-in with a rude airline employee during boarding.

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At the end of the day, a complaint is a complaint no matter where it comes from, and it’s  good business to handle it timely and properly. Company reputations can be made or lost by how well problems are handled. Prevention is paramount, but successful resolution can be even more essential in establishing a dedicated customer base—especially when each complaint is public information. The smartest brands will see this broadcasted criticism as a great opportunity; what starts off as an issue can become a public relations win for all to see.

Next time I check into a hotel and have a problem during my stay, beware my twitter followers. I may just air my issue for all the whole world to enjoy…if only to see what happens.

 

By Carly DeFilippo

 

This summer, we launched the “Find your #culinaryvoice” photo contest, asking students from both our Career and Recreational Programs to share what they’ve been cooking at ICE. In this ongoing monthly contest, students who tag “@iceculinary #culinaryvoice” on either Twitter or Instagram have the chance to win a single-session recreational cooking class or other ICE merchandise.

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From among the many submissions thus far, we’ve selected four photos that represent the variety of student perspectives and cuisines taught at ICE. And to help select our first ever winner, we want your help! Let us know in the comments below which is your favorite photo.

  • Top Left: @JackieOurman, “Homemade vanilla marshmallows drizzled with#chocolate @iceculinary #candy #culinaryvoice”
  • Top Right: @bagelsbasics, “Hamachi crudo, red, rainbow, yellow beets, wasabi creme fraiche, rice puffs, micro basil #miseenplace @iceculinary#culinaryvoice”
  • Bottom Left: @_ch3w. “Chef Chris Gesualdi making that pasta, “Make it Perfect!” @iceculinary #culinaryvoice#homemadeeverything”
  • Bottom Right: @madsharma: “Pizza day in class. Definitely gonna have egg on my face @iceculinary #farmerspie #culinaryvoice”

ICE’s Culinary Management Instructors are seasoned industry professionals who are still active in the industry and working on their own projects while teaching classes at ICE. Julia Heyer and Vin McCann recently looked at social media’s effect on the restaurant and food world, and today they continue to dive into the complex world of online networks and social media. When we last left off, Vin questioned the long-term effect and at what point the messages turned from fascination to “self-promoting chatter.”

Julia Heyer
People are fascinated with our industry. While they couldn’t care less about what happens in the toothpaste factory at Proctor & Gamble, they are interested in restaurant kitchens. There is a sexiness factor.

For now, that results in a different reach for our biz. The new media allow restaurant businesses to connect with guests, both existing and potential, who want to hear from them.  Instead of using the old adage of “let’s throw a whole bunch of ads out there at that wall and see what sticks,” it allows targeted reach to and identification of your guests. Will it change? As we say in German, Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat Zwei — everything has an end, just the sausage has two. More…

Three years ago, I crammed for the New York Food Handler’s Certificate. The potential illnesses in particular left a lasting impression on me — how was I ever going to eat again? For months, I only ate home-cooked meals — overcooked, dry chicken, salads so over-washed that they were broken and wilted and many, many bowls of cereal.

It took a long time to start eating out again. Even 3 years later, I stare down the cashier to see if he handles my food with the same dirty hands he uses to take my cash, I go through a box of disposable gloves over two days and tie my hair in a bun so tight that I have a headache when I let it loose. I try not to think about all of the diseases I can get from my food. Yes, I will always send back a pink chicken, but I still love my eggs sunny side up. If I think about it too much, I can’t finish my meals.

For the past few weeks, I have been reintroduced to the world of unsanitary conditions and foodborne illnesses via preparing for the ServSafe exam. Yesterday, my alarm went off in the middle of a nightmare. I had been dreaming about catching mice when I heard something tapping. When I looked over, I saw a pink lobster jumping across the floor. Then my alarm went off and I was scared awake. It was only an hour later, when we started covering rodent infestation in class, that I realized I had a dream about a mice infestation and an unsafe runaway lobster. Although we’ve finished reviewing all of the chapters and ServSafe videos, I expect that for the next few weeks I will continue to have dreams about jumping pink lobsters. More…