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Too Little, too late !

“Too little, too late!”

My whole business is focused around customer so when I experience outstanding customer service I really do spread the word. As Jason Stewart MD of Have you Heard (an outstanding Word of Mouth Marketing agency) explains, that more people spread positive word of mouth stories (68%) versus only 8% who spread negative word of mouth stories. Even so, the damaging effect of negative word of mouth should not be ignored…at your peril!

Unfortunately, my little story today is a prime example for Jason to use at his many speaker engagements of poor service and how quickly word of mouth spreads that experience. Jason & I were both speaking at the Marketing Mix loyalty conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday, focused on Loyalty. Jason’s view is that the key differentiator of loyalty is people. They can make or break an experience which drives loyalty to that brand; most notably he talks about the responsibility lies with management. If you get rubbish service it is because of the organisation’s management. My little story is just that; a prime example of an OK product but destroyed by the people at the top.

I had a late flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, the night before the conference, and I needed to call the booked guesthouse to a) confirm my late arrival (after 10pm) and b) get directions from the airport. So I did just that; I called the Oasis Luxury Guest house in Rivonia (Homestead rd) and it actually started right there & then. 2 out of the 3 numbers were either out of order or not answering and then eventually a brusque, unfriendly Grayham answered his cellphone. He is the owner of Oasis Guesthouse. I wont bore you with the details, but I simply needed directions from OR Tambo airport to his guest house, which in my book, isn’t an unusual ask for the travel industry (I was in the travel industry for 11 years). He was rude, unhelpful and insulting. Eventually, I had to leave the call as I was literally boarding the aircraft. His response: “well most people have the internet!” “I do sir, but right now I am walking through the boarding gate and thought it wasn’t a big ask to get directions for a lady arriving on her own, late at night into Johannesburg and I don’t know how to get to your luxury guest house; I thought maybe you could help?”

Hey Ho! I boarded my very pleasant BA flight to Johannesburg and forgot about Grayham. On landing, my phone beeped with 2 messages: 1 adoring message from my loved ones and 1 off Grayham: “Please call me, I can give you directions.” Too little, too late. I was already begrudgingly staying there as it was too late to change & the hotel had been paid for. I made my way there, was rudely welcomed at the gate intercom, and Grayham eventually made his way to meet me at the car: “So you got here then?” I had to do everything in my power to bite my lip to not respond: “Yes but no thanks to you!” The rest of the experience at Oasis Luxury guest house was fine…..not leaping easily into its claimed 5star rating but nothing worth noting negatively. On a positive note, their beds are beyond comfortable!

The bar was busy with Grayham’s buddies, who had by my reckoning heard the story from his side and welcomed me with a “just opened a bottle of wine love, would you like to join us?” Yeh right! I’ll politely decline tonight, if that’s OK by you. The next morning at breakfast, ‘Mrs Grayham’ gave me the “Sleep OK?” question with no eye contact (Jason – your absolute best illustration of dreadful service – beautifully demonstrated) .

All in all, the point of my little note isn’t to complain unnecessarily but to illustrate a live example of the amazing presentation from Have You Heard’s MD, Jason Stewart. Jason – feel free to use our friendly luxury guesthouse owner, Grayham, as a real example of how to lose loyalty and send women running to the hills to find safe, secure, hospitable places to stay in Johannesburg (like the Parkwood off Oxford rd which is made so fabulous by the amazing people from Nikki to the gate attendant).

I am not sure how up to speed Grayham is with social media, but let’s give it a try. My word of mouth story has reached probably about 15 people in real life in the past 24 hours (not because I am nasty; I am just a normal disappointed customer) and is now in cyberspace ……. how many will read this little tale?

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Lisa Reid

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