Something that gets bought up occasionally, and something that I've talked about here and on Twitter previously, is customer service in Finland. Or, more to the point, the lack of it.
The fact that I seem to encounter so much bad customer service here makes it all the more special when I receive some great customer service and actually have an issue resolved. And while this recent experience wasn't in Finland, I still wanted to mention it as I came away thoroughly impressed.
I went back to the UK a few weeks ago for a short summer holiday with my son. As part of the trip we were going to stay in London for a couple of days to see some sights and catch up with a few old friends. I did my usual - logged on to booking.com and searched for a reasonably priced hotel in central London. I found the Ibis London Blackfriars and, at €91, I booked it up.
Over the following couple of weeks my debit card broke and I had to get a replacement. I went to Nordea who ordered me a new one, but completely cancelled the old one (I assumed they would leave it active until the new one was sent out to me), meaning any payments that I had created with it would now fail. 8 recurring payments failed, as did the payment for the hotel.
I got an email from booking.com saying my reservation would be cancelled if I didn't sort out the payment issue within 48 hours, but with no card to pay with, I guessed I'd end up losing the booking, still having to pay for it, and then having to book another hotel if/when a new card arrived.
I called the hotel directly in the hope that they could help. To my amazement, the person on reception was completely understanding, assured me she would hold my booking, and advised that I could call any time in the following 2 weeks and could pay over the phone with my new card.
Bear in mind, this is a central London hotel, who could easily have told me "sorry, we can't do that", still charged me, and then re-let the room in an instant. But they didn't.
The helpful receptionist added a note to my booking and assured me it would be fine. When my new card eventually came a couple of weeks later, I called up again, explained again (half expecting them to have re-let the room in the meantime), dealt with another friendly and helpful woman, paid, and that was it. Easy.
A further potential problem I envisaged was access to the room as we were getting in to London earlier than the designated check-in time (2pm). I had added to the booking that we would likely be there between 12 and 1pm, but assumed we'd get there, they'd tell us the room wasn't ready and we'd have to leave the bags and check-in later - I've lost count of the amount of times I've had that happen. But not at the Ibis. We got there at about 12:30, I gave my name and was immediately directed to our room which they'd made sure was ready for an early check-in. Top service again.
I noticed in my room a card with an Ibis 'mantra' of sorts. It was something along the lines of 'we will solve any issue for you within 15 minutes'. Not just 'have a good stay' or 'feel free to contact us and we'll try', but a genuine feeling of actually wanting to help and get things resolved - which they did for me a couple of times. Friendly, well-trained staff who are empowered to make decisions and get shit done - that's what customer service is about!
The Ibis London Blackfriars will now be my go-to hotel in London. Other great features included free high speed wifi (no bullshit signing in process and consistently had +50mbs speeds), excellent breakfast, super helpful and friendly staff, a nice touch-screen display near reception for visitors to get local info and browse the web, great location (5 mins drive from Waterloo and a 2 min walk from Blackfriars Underground station, along with some nice local bars, restaurants, supermarkets etc, and a really nice room - modern, clean and in-keeping with the rest of the hotel.
With all this said, not everything was perfect. There were two main issues for me (neither of them massive, just inconveniences that could be tweaked).
- No plugs near the beds in the room. I appreciate that most hotels have old electrical systems etc and it's time consuming and costly to add new plug sockets, but in 2016 I still find it amazing that hotels rarely have plugs (even extensions) near the beds and bedside tables. We were travelling light this time, but even so I wanted my phone plugged in next to my bed. I t would have been super annoying if I'd had (as I have in the past) a personal phone, work phone, tablet, laptop, smartwatch etc.
- A potentially great initiative was offered, but not completed, by the Ibis. In their bar/restaurant they offer free food for kids (under 12, I think) if an adult buys a main course. This was ideal as a single parent travelling with a small child, as it was easy and would save me a bit of money. I ordered my food and the kids options were either chicken nuggets or pasta (I think it was linguine). Pessi loves a bit of chicken so we went for nuggets. After ordering we were informed that the fryer was out of order, so no nuggets and no chips. He couldn't have the pasta option due to a wheat allergy. The person serving us suggested she could do him any of the grilled sandwiches with gluten free bread ... this was great, but wasn't one of the free options, so I ended up having to pay for this extra meal. It would have been nice if they had offered one of these other cheaper options as a replacement seeing as they couldn't provide some of the other options on the menu.
A couple of minor things, but overall, a really good stay, and I'll definitely be staying at the Ibis London Blackfriars again! If you want top service in a great location and at a decent price, I highly recommend this hotel!