A couple of weeks ago, I stayed at the uber-posh W Hotel in Hoboken NJ, directly across the river from Manhattan NY. The W chain prides itself on being very hip, a little unconventional, and oh-so-very customer-focused. All of which I thoroughly enjoyed. From the comfy bed, luxurious towels and in-room Bliss toiletries to the neon-shaded lobby, rock music in the elevators, and art-deco furniture in the lounge, I soaked it all in. It tickled my fancy that they changed the floor mats in the elevators three times a day; depending on when you stepped in, the mats boldly said “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, or “Good night”. And my favourite part: their signature phrase. When you call any hotel department, the phone is answered with a cheery “Whatever, whenever”, which reflects their exceptional attitude and commitment to customer service. And true to their word, during my 3-day stay there, I experienced their Whatever, Whenever service over and over again. That is, with one notable exception.
With a group of business colleagues, we made our way from pre-dinner drinks in the lounge to dinner at their in-house Tuscan restaurant, the Zylo Steakhouse. Shortly after we were seated, our waiter asked us for our drink selections. My colleague seated to my right asked for another glass of the Zinfandel she had been drinking just a few minutes earlier in the lounge. “I’m sorry, that’s not available by the glass,” came his response. “But I just had one in the lounge,” she objected. “That’s the lounge, this is the restaurant,” came the firm reply. End of discussion. No offer to walk over to the lounge (less than 30 feet away) to get a glass of the Zinfandel she wanted. No willingness to bend to the desire of the customer. Whatever happened to Whatever, Whenever, I wondered.
You might think that it’s unfair for three days of exceptional service to be clouded by one negative experience. But that’s just the way it is. Like it or not, a single negative experience has just as much impact as several positive ones. If you have one negative staff member in a team of otherwise positive and exceptional employees, then you know exactly what I am talking about. You know that the single negative person can destroy the great work and positive energy of the rest. All it takes is one! And as a leader, it’s up to you to take action on that single bad apple before it spoils the entire barrel. Whether you’re a manager at the W Hoboken, or a supervisor or team leader in your organization, what are you doing to remove or counteract the one negative force that exists in your workplace?