How Do U Spell Quality?

I spent four nights recently at Quality Inn, an American hotel chain. It was a pleasant stay, and not without its lesson in kaizen. I came back to the hotel one night to notice the following:

I couldn’t resist taking them up on their quality policy. Full marks to Quality Inn for living up to their quality policy, for it was fixed within 24 hours.

Their quality policy states (here I am paraphrasing) that they will not charge you for the room if you are not pleased with the room or the service, if you tell the hotel staff about a problem and it is not fixed in a timely manner and to the satisfaction of the customer. This is displayed prominently at the front desk.

That’s not a bad policy, but two other quality claims made me wonder about the continuous improvement and problem solving process supporting their quality process.
One morning a person from housekeeping arrived, and as I was still in the room said she would come back later to make the beds, exchange the towels, etc. When I returned in the evening I found this had not been done. This again was corrected within a day, and they kindly provided more towels than I could possibly use. The other claim was a wooden chair in the room which nearly came apart when I leaned back. This too they replaced right away, but it could have hurt someone.
This hotel fulfilled their quality policy and worked to make sure the guests had a pleasant stay and that problems identified by customers were corrected right in a timely manner. But I wondered if perhaps they had become too good at putting out fires, at the expense of efforts to prevent them. Rather than accept that “stuff happens” and training people to fix it quickly, an organization that works to find out why stuff happens and prevent reoccurrence will win out and retain customers.
The role of management should be to train every person from housekeeping to maintenance to the front desk how to solve problems. It can be as simple as PDCA. It can be a matter of asking “Do we have a problem?” and then “What is the root cause?” followed by “What is the countermeasure?” and finally “Was the countermeasure effective?”
Just like they say there is no “I” in “team”, we can’t have quality without “U”. It’s a bit corny, but it’s true.

1 Comment

  1. Mark Graban

    October 17, 2006 - 6:20 am

    The travel industry is hardly a bastion of proactive root cause problem solving. Isn’t there a customer service notion that says the customer is happier when you fix a problem properly than if there had been no problem at all? That always seemed like a lousy approach — I think GM’s Saturn actually espoused that at some time.
    You reminded me, I have a hotel story that I was going to post on my blog, maybe I’ll do that tonight.