Embrace the Stuff


Sometimes stuff happens – bad stuff – stuff that annoys customers and causes them to take their business elsewhere. With so much going on – and without the breadth and depth of business capabilities that big businesses have, it’s tough for small businesses to cover all the bases, and consistently get it right all the time. You can get 10 things right, but when you flub the 11th thing, customers quickly forget the first ten.


Of course, learning from mistakes is the right long-term strategy, but what do you do when bad stuff happens – and you have to deal right now with a cranky customer?


Sometimes, the answer is to “embrace the stuff”. Seize the opportunity to convert a cranky customer into a happy and loyal customer. Business literature is full of stories of how businesses respond to bad stuff. Some companies respond poorly and make matters worse – some companies respond well. Those that respond well earn customer loyalty.


I’ve got a story to tell about a small hotel in a very remote location that responded well when bad stuff happened.


I recently booked two nights with Captain’s Landing on Ocacroke Island, North Carolina, which you get to by driving down the full length of the Outer Banks, or by taking a 2 ½ hour car-ferry across Pamlico Sound. It is remote, quaint, and very quiet. Captain’s Landing is a small three-story hotel right on the harbor. A great location.


Then bad stuff happened. Because of a process glitch (see learning from mistakes), the room got double booked – and it was the last available room. Not good. We were really looking forward to this getaway so I was a little cranky.


The island realtor who handles bookings called me and said all the right things. First, she sincerely apologized, explained the problem, and said that they would absolutely honor their commitment. She also asked if I would be willing to stay somewhere else. (I think that if I had been inflexible, she would’ve started calling other reservation holders – of all the rooms – until she found someone who was flexible.) In fact, I was flexible, so she offered me a reservation at an alternate location that was just as nice and actually higher cost, but at the same price I would’ve paid. After a quick internet search of the alternate location (an excellent and highly-rated Bed & Breakfast), I accepted her offer. In fact, the B&B really was quite nice and had earned its high ratings.


A perfectly satisfactory ending?


Not for a small business that knows how to “embrace the stuff”.


The next day, the owner of Captain’s Landing called me to personally thank me for my flexibility – and to see if we would be interested in staying on the island for a third night. If so, she offered to let us stay in their Penthouse Suite – at no charge. This was an enormous suite covering the entire third floor with three separate decks overlooking the little harbor. And they prioritized cleaning that suite first, so we could check in early. And they offered late check out so we could linger the next morning. They probably could have still rented that room for >$400 for that night, but they recognized the opportunity to turn a cranky (prospective) customer into a happy and loyal one.


That’s the way it’s done.


We had a great three-night stay on Ocacroke Island, and will certainly return. I doubt I can coordinate our schedule with that of our three grown children, so we probably won’t need the Penthouse Suite. But I do know that we’ll stay at Captain’s Landing.

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