Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jordan's On-going Tourism Challenge: Poor Customer Service...

So, the Bean family spent last night at the Evason Ma'in Hot Springs and Spa. The place has come light years since El 3atal's childhood when it was a collection of rather run-down and none too clean waterfalls and baths. Although, having said that, we skipped the public falls and baths opting for the hotel pool and hot spring. I had hoped to be able to write a glowing review. And, check-in aside, the first day looked promising. The facility is lovely. It's designed to look rustic and with its branch-designed doorknobs and swings in the lobby, it achieves the look in a way that is pleasing and fun. Throughout the facility is lovely and first-class.

Sadly, the resort has the same flaw that plagues every hotel we've experienced in Jordan... customer service. From the 1.5 hours for extra linens to the 3 phone calls (and an accidental spotting of the housekeeping staff on the floor to make it actually happen) for towels, to the mistakes in booking at the spa, customer service was lackluster a best. The waiters are apparently not paid enough to smile at guests, and definitely don't go out of their way (or even in their way) to get the job done to a customer's satisfaction. On the other hand, all of the staff from abroad that we encountered (mostly Philippines, Thai, etc.) smiled, were friendly, and helpful. It saddens me to say that they need to bring in more expats for the service to live up to international standards.

Adding to the lackluster service, the "environmentally friendly" practice of turning off the air conditioning left us sweltering until it finally killed off the heat of the day... at about 2 am. The front desk clerk (okay there's not actually a front desk, and waits to speak to the "front desk-ish" staff would be another complaint) told us that they changed the chillers and they aren't cooling well. Ahhh, I see. Interesting excuse and not enough given the cost of a room. A bit dear for roughing it without adequate AC.

On the plus sides, the Beans LOVED the pool. At the hotel, they have two choices, the hot spring (and it IS hot) and the cold pool. The hot spring is not for kids, but the pool is lovely. It has a shelf along one side where the Beans began their playing. Eventually we got them out into the water using only their water wings for support. They spent hours and hours yesterday and today in the pool. We even ate lunch at the pool restaurant to save time. The food was OK, the prices quite steep. But the Beans loved the hotel and want to go back again (actually they just wanted to stay even longer).

The spa services were very nice and I had to laugh at the poor Filipina who was trying to go against culture and all that is held dear in Jordan to get one of the front desk staff to smile. The poor Jordanian shebab wasn't quite sure what she was talking about. Having said that, the spa staff quickly resolved the issue created by the front desk staff at the hotel and provided the services we requested as we requested them. They were very apologetic and as friendly and helpful as could be.

All in all, I'd give the place a 3 out of 5 owing to its mediocre service. It'll be a hard sell to get El 3atal and I to go back. While the facilities are outstanding, that's probably not enough to make up for the poor service at that price point.

It did make me wonder about these "hotel schools" in Jordan. Are they missing the boat? Are the instructors Jordanian? Or is the battle against ingrained culture just too much to handle? Any thoughts?

Happy Roughing-It!


At 2:44 PM , Blogger PALFORCE said...

I work with hotels in the kingdom and everywhere I go (restaurants too) I find the same problem. I think it is a taboo to work as a server in Jordan. I heard once that one of the waiter when waiting on a table just started running and he left his job, and when asked what went wrong, one of the hotel guests was one of his cousins and he didnt want to be seen as a server.
Add to that the low pay. I think one of the major hospitality/ tourism major obstacles are Customer Service Quality. When I'm selling a management contract to a hotel owner, one of his main demands is expat labor.
We do have hospitality schools in Jordan, but that is not the issue here it is the attitude and the concept of quality services.
It will take a major attitude change to be able to servie clients right, Government have to re-educate the people working in this sector on the art of serving people, but till then we need to use expats.
I had guests last week attending a wedding, so at the 5 star hotel there were bees bothering the guests in the front yard area, the guests asked politely for a candle so the bees would stay away, the waiter why should I get you one? I didnt bring the bees!
How can you deal with the attitude? it will take major marketing campaigns, like wear seatbelt, dont use mobile while driving kinda campaign.
Smile when serving customers, or customer always right.

I'm thinking about starting my own firm teaching hospitality entities international customer service quality :-)

At 11:06 PM , Blogger abu 'n um tulip said...

Funny, we almost went to the hot springs this week. I was worried it would be too hot for the kids. Now I know what to expect when we do make it there, eventually. Regarding hospitality, a big difference in the USA is that such a high percentage of high school and college-age kids have had jobs in food-service. We've all been there so we aren't embarrassed about having to serve customers, wash dishes, and (gasp) clean toilets. My boss was ruthless when it came to customer service and had one of the most popular places in town. I do my part here by tipping extra when (on rare occasions) I do receive good service. I know it's a hard job, and am grateful when treated well. We were down at the dead sea this week and a waiter took away my pepsi before I finished it. There were only a couple swallows left, but I still wanted it. I mentioned it to the head waiter, and got a whole new pepsi for free. Abu Tulip later thanked him and complimented them on the food (which was good). Just wondering out loud, is there a website for Jordan where you can comment about good/bad experiences with customer service? Sort of a review site? Some smart Arab entrepreneur could make some advertising money on a good site like this.... ~ Um Tulip

At 11:00 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Palforce, indeed. It is an attitude issue, but what are they teaching in those schools if not that? Teehee. I'm not surprised you've encountered the same issues. And I think a decent school would be a good idea.

Um Tulip, it would have been fun to have you guys there :). And I agree a website about customer service in Jordan would be good. although perhaps only we expat are really that interested?

At 7:20 AM , Blogger PALFORCE said...

I have been thinking about this for a while, and I think it is time for Jordan to have a qauality customer services.

I have established a website to moniter customer services in hotels and restaurants and it is in the making, it should be up pretty soon.


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