January 23, 2011

Feeling at Home Away from Home

I am a big believer in the power of great customer service. I always enjoy receiving excellent service and I am guessing that you do too. I always do my best when I am the service provider to make sure my guests, agents or audiences feel that when they were in my care that they received my best - both in efforts and attitude.

When you receive great customer service these days it is usually the exception and not the rule which is probably why it usually stands out as such wonderful service. Sadly, we don't get a chance to recognize the people for making us feel special much more than a "thanks" on the way out or a few bucks extra in the tip jar.

For my loyal readers of The Realtor's Toolbox you know I like to use this blog to spotlight people or companies when I feel they have surpassed the bar of what is expected and really made me feel special. I've written about Bar Louie and The Goodie Shop , The Island Cow and just last fall I told you about a real-life Fred Factor at Thrifty Airport Parking. Today, I want you to know about my friends at The Courtyard by Marriott in Union Centre, Ohio.

My job as the Director of Training for the Ohio NRT Companies (Coldwell Banker King Thompson in Columbus and Coldwell Banker West Shell in the Greater Cincinnati area) keeps me moving. I am usually either in Columbus or Cincinnati and on occasion I have the privilege to get out and speak to other groups of agents or companies. When I venture down to Cincinnati, if I have to stay overnight, I certainly have lots of choices on where to stay. For the last two years, I have been choosing to stay with my friends at The Courtyard.

The Sales Manager of the hotel, Sheri Howard, really earned my repeat business by looking at her guest list over a period of time and realizing that I had spent more than a few random nights there as the hotel is just a block away from our CBWS Union Centre office. Sherri reached out to me to thank me for being a loyal guest and arranged for a corporate price for my stays, helping save me (and my company) on each stay. (Certianly a nice way to insure "repeat and referral" business)

I think the "rack rate" is certainly a nice perk. But it's the outstanding service I consistently receive that earned my loyalty to Sheri and her team of customer service superstars.

I am excited to always be greeted with a smile and a friendly "Welcome Back, Mr. Carpenter" by Lana and the others at the front desk. Lana is a lovely lady who came to the United States from The Ukraine and every day she's at work she seems truly excited to be there and help the guests have a better stay.

Of course upon arrival, there's always a plate of delicious cookies. Sure, I am partial to the chocolate ones but after some days of teaching and travel I will even force down a few oatmeal raisin cookies (even though I have to pretend the raisins are really chocolate chips).

When I pass through the lobby in the evenings as I head out to dinner the team members behind the counter always ask me how my room is and if they can help make my stay more pleasant. The rooms are always clean and comfortable and the modern updated features (huge desk space, flat screen televisions, free wireless Internet and large couches) are a wonderful benefit for a business traveler who usually still has some work to do before bed time.

One of my favorite people at The Courtyard Union Centre has got to be Sandy. Sandy works the third shift so not many guests probably get to meet Sandy but if they do, they know they'll always be greeted with a huge smile, a cheerful voice and a helping hand. Many a night heartburn has had me up searching for a Tums or a glass of water and those next mornings, you know who is the first to ask me how I feel? Yep - Sandy. She reminds me of that favorite Aunt or Uncle who used to magically make dollar bills appear behind your ears when you were a child.

Before you start your day, it's nice to enjoy a warm breakfast and that's what the crew in the restaurant in the hotel do each day. Cheryl and Laura see me coming and get my diet soda ready. Michael behind the counter is prepared to make a fresh omelet and there's always plenty of crispy bacon on the buffet. Seriously, I had you at "crispy bacon," didn't I?

I love chatting with Cheryl about her children because she always asks me about mine. We compare notes of their activities even though hers are adults now. She reminisces about their youth and we share similar stories. Just this past visit, I found out that Cheryl was good friends with many of the stars of The Cincinnati Reds before they were the Big Red Machine. She was close with Tommy Helms, Pete Rose and even went to Johnny Bench's wedding. That's stuff you just don't get from the counter girl at McDonald's is it?

I love what I do and I am lucky to have a wonderful family who supports me in my efforts. It's not always easy to be away from home as much as I am (and compared to some business people, sales persons or OTR truck drivers, it's not that much) but if I have to be out, it's nice to know that Bill Marriott and his family of hotels will probably have a place for me to stay.

I usually get good service from almost every Marriott property I have stayed at and as a new Platinum member of the Marriott Rewards program, I have stayed at a few. I just don't know if they will be as friendly and welcoming as my friends at The Courtyard in Union Centre.

Thanks Sheri Howard and the entire Courtyard Union Centre team for making me feel at home when I am away from home.