Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Tale of Great Customer Service

The front entrance of The Comfort Inn Times Square
The Comfort Inn Times Square in New York City

Life has been pretty busy since we got back from our trip to New York City so I'm still working on the "official" post of our trip there. This is what happens when you take way too many pictures and then have to try to organize them in between paying attention to real life and getting a back ache and ... blah, blah, blah! Anyhow, I haven't forgotten and will hopefully have that post up before the end of the week but in the meantime I wanted to tell you about one of the best parts of our trip.

Remember awhile back when I wrote a post about the rude service that I received at Gus' Pizzarama in Plainfield? My lament in that post wasn't that there were no free refills of drinks but that the customer service - by the owner of all people - was so absolutely horrible. It has always been my personal opinion that customer service speaks volumes and it's what can make or break a business. I don't expect people to not go to Gus' because of my experience but I certainly won't go back again - which is too bad because they made the best broasted mushrooms ever.

Which in a round-about sort of way finally brings me to the point of this post! New York City has a reputation for being filled with rude people who either ignore you completely or yell "fuggedaboutit!" all the time so one kind of expects that customer service in New York might be somewhat lacking. However I met one of the nicest people ever working behind the front desk of The Comfort Inn Times Square where we stayed on our trip.

Check-in time at our hotel was 3:00 p.m. but we arrived in the city a lot earlier than that and parked in the garage across from our hotel on 39th Street. It was the type of parking where you leave your car and won't see it again until you leave the next day so we had to make sure we took all of our bags out with us. Not wanting to lug them around until check-in time we stopped in at our hotel to leave them in a holding area (I had called ahead and made sure they offered this service, most New York hotels do). At the time we got there, the place was quite busy and Willie, the gentleman on the desk, was up to his eyeballs in phone calls, customers, and walkie-talkie transmissions from other employees. To say the guy was busier than a one-armed paperhanger would be an understatement!

Regardless, though, Willie was friendly and helpful and fantastic. It was only about 12:30 and way too early to expect to check-in so I explained that I simply wanted to leave our bags and we would be back later to officially check-in. Willie was great and got our bags tagged, offered us bottles of water and a map to the city, and pointed us in the direction of the closest restroom. Just as we were about to leave, he stopped us and told us that a room had just become available and we could check-in right then if we'd like. Absolutely! In the meantime, the phone is still ringing, people are still asking him questions, the UPS guy has just arrived with a large delivery, and yet Willie is cracking jokes and making us feel like we're the only ones in the lobby. I was impressed, I really was.

The Comfort Inn Times SquareAfter we got checked in and dumped all of our stuff in our room on the 17th floor (the hotel is 20 stories high with only four rooms on each floor so by New York standards its tiny but it was conveniently located and the price was great with my AARP discount) we went back down to the lobby where Willie gave us a big smile and a wave while he joked about Amy and I taking over for him on the desk. He said that if I was a 911 operator and she was an EMT we were more than qualified to take over as desk clerk but I doubt that either of us could have done the marvelous job that he did! The other employees at the hotel were nice but they didn't hold a candle to Willie.

As Willie was one of the first people that we dealt with on our trip (I don't count the grumpy garage attendant!), his friendliness really helped set the tone for the rest of our trip. There is nothing like being warmly welcomed to a place to make you feel good and enjoy your vacation and Willie did that and more. Because of that, when we got home, I sat down and wrote the following email to the manager of The Comfort Inn Times Square:

I wanted to take a moment to tell you how very much I appreciated the personal attention and service that I received during a recent stay at your hotel. The clerk at the desk during check-in, Willie, was absolutely wonderful and one of the friendliest - if not
the friendliest - persons that I met during my stay in New York City.

Due to arriving in the city early for the day on Friday, June 27th, we had parked our car at the garage across the street from the hotel and wanted to be able to drop our luggage off so as not to have to cart it around with us. I had called ahead and been told that the hotel offered that service so my friend and I took our luggage to the lobby where Willie, even though swamped in between checking out other guests and the constantly ringing phone, was very friendly and helpful. Just as we were about to exit the lobby, he advised us that a room was ready for us to check in to even though it was barely 1:00 rather than the usual 3:00 p.m. check-in. Rather than just leave our luggage in holding we were able to take it directly to our room before leaving for the day.

During the entire check-in process Willie was professional and helpful and funny - he made us smile a lot and in my book that counts big time! In addition to his help during check-in, Willie also was very helpful in giving us directions to other places in the city and suggestions as to where to go and what to see. We didn't pass through the lobby once without a friendly greeting from him while he was on duty.

I have stayed in New York quite a few times and I have got to say that this was the best experience I have had there yet - mostly due to Willie. I wish that I could say that the rest of the staff was as friendly and dynamic as he was but, even though they were nice, none of them compared to this fine employee of yours.

I hope that you will pass on our appreciation to him for a job well done and should I ever find myself needing a place to stay in New York again and choose the Comfort Inn Times Square, I sure hope that Willie is on duty!
I thought it was the least I could do and I was quite pleased to receive back the following email in return:
Good Morning Ms. Orlomoski,

Thank you for the wonderful letter you wrote regarding Willie and your stay here at Comfort Inn Times Square. Willie is very special to us, as he strives to provide outstanding service to all our guests. He is a great example of what customer service should be all the time. I will certainly share your comments to Willie and the rest of the staff. Thank you for choosing Comfort Inn Times Square as your hotel while you were in New York. We hope to see you again in the near future.

Have a great 4th of July holiday!

David Lew
General Manager
Comfort Inn Times Square
305 West 39th Street
New York, NY 10018
It's the small things like this that would definitely make me go back to someplace like The Comfort Inn Times Square and to recommend it to other people should they be looking for a place to stay in New York City. Also, I'm very pleased to know that the manager of the hotel knows exactly what a great employee he has with Willie. Too often people are quick to complain but then fail to let people know when they've done a great job and I wanted Willie to know that he was tops as far as I was concerned. I mean, hey - if I can complain about lousy service (like with Gus'), I can certainly do the opposite with great service!


  1. nice post linda, we like comfort inn

  2. Anonymous11:00 AM EDT

    YAY Linda...

    I know you just made Willie's day as well. Chances are he'll get some special recognition for his outstanding customer service...

    Hope you're feeling better today...

  3. Yup the 'little' things can make a huge difference and thanks to you for taking the time to write, that's a little huge too.

  4. ya know...if we all followed your example...not only of being grateful...but of expessing being thankful...the world would be a far nicer place.

    well done.

  5. What Katherine said. How wonderful. Have a great day Linda. Big hug. :)

  6. When you get good service from an employee it's a great idea to write to their employer to let them know. I'm sure Willie appreciated your thoughtfulness as much as you appreciated his Linda. :)

  7. Randomly came across your blog. LOVE IT. I was searching for something and noticed all your police "in memoriam"s. Very kind of you.

    I'll be back! MJ

  8. Anonymous5:49 PM EDT

    There are still small pocket of civility and helpfulness in the world. Luckily, you fell into one of them. Sounds like you had a pretty good trip!

  9. Anonymous6:32 PM EDT

    All too often people will complain about bad service but will not show gratitude for a job well done! Very nice, Linda. I'm sure Willie was proud to know that he'd satisfied you. :)

  10. As someone who tried to go out of my way to provide great customer service today, I would just like to say THANKS for taking the time to recognize someone's efforts.

    So many managers get inundated with complaints, I'm sure this hotel's manager was very happy to get a great e-mail like yours.


  11. YAY for Willie!

    It's nice to know you probably made his day with that simple email!

  12. I love that you followed up with the hotel manager about Willie. So many people are quick to write complaints. A guy like Willie deserves the pat on the back.

    Good on ya!

  13. Good for you and good for Willie. It was admirable of you to write the management. I'm sure Willie will never forget your visit!

  14. good for you! Having come from a family-owned business, I know how difficult it is to get good help, and it is so important to extend good customer service. I know Willie and his employer appreciate the time it took for you to acknowledge him...
    Now, if one more teeny-bopper sales clerk ignores me, I'm gonna fly over the counter and go straight for the jugular!

  15. I couldn't agree more! A smile, eye contact, helpful and courteous... makes all the difference in the world! Oh, and I can actually 'hear a smile' on the telephone!

  16. I have to remember that hotel for my next NYC trip. I cannot wait to hear your stories from there and see your pics :o)

  17. WELL done my friend!!! I am proud of you for taking the time out of your day to comment on a job well done. Your Awesome... Willie, I love that name.

  18. You'd think that in a service industry, everyone would be appreciative of your business. The cynic is left to believe that good service is unobtainable, especially in 'the City'.

    Au contraire! Willie proves that service with a smile still exists. And being in a huge city does not mean bad service much like a small town like Plainfield does not mean excellent service, automatically.

  19. Anonymous8:57 PM EDT

    Interesting travel story. As a home based travel agent working from home in the travel agent business field, I am glad to see people writing travel reviews and talking of their travel experiences. It is good for all travel enthusiasts alike to read!

  20. Anonymous8:57 PM EDT

    NY is a great place to visit. I used to go with friends in Manhattan and that was fun.

  21. That's so sweet of you to take the time to write about Willie--I think a lot of times we forget to take a moment to be thankful for people like this! :-)

  22. Anonymous1:42 AM EDT

    Kudos to you for writing that letter! I'm sure that Willie will have a copy of it in his file (hopefully there's more because of people like you) and he'll get compensated for his friendly attitude and attention to detail.

    I recently wrote a letter like yours about someone from the Post Office who was very helpful. I got a letter in return in a few days too. Even that shows good customer service!

  23. That's wonderful that you sent the e-mail to compliment Willie. He sounds like an outstanding person and employee.

    And I do remember that post about Gus' Pizzarama and the owner's rudeness.

  24. Anonymous2:05 AM EDT

    Many people think that a business, whether it to service oriented, like hotels in your case is all about making money, however they forget the code of corporate ethics which also includes customer satisfaction.


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