Honesty is the Best Policy

Downtown Vegas’ fire-breathing mantis & Staying on the set of The Real World Season 31

Two weeks ago Highrise had a company meetup in Downtown Las Vegas. It’s only seven of us, so you can imagine what traveling and meetups do to our customer support.

We have two people dedicated to customer support. They stagger their travel so when situations like this arise, someone is still on the ground answering email. Still, there are moments during a meetup like this where we can’t be as good about our response times on our support queue as we want to be.

What do we do?

We typically do our meetups in Chicago, and once in Boulder, CO in April. We got stuck in CO when the airport closed for a day due to snow [more on that crazy story here 🙂].

This time, Las Vegas came to mind as a place we could go in April and not have to worry about weather problems.

I’m also incredibly inspired with the effort Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, has put into resuscitating the Downtown area of Las Vegas. I highly recommend it as a place for meetups (Pro tip: use the Real World Suite as a place to work during the day).

So we mainly stuck to the Downtown area of Vegas, but we did take advantage of some of the fun things also on “The Strip”. For example, we saw Cirque du Soleil’s Love.

And we also went to a fancy cocktail bar overlooking a gorgeous human-made waterfall.

This bar came from a bunch of recommendations, but when we sat down something was off. The table was a little wobbly, so I looked underneath it and saw what appeared to be blood.

Can’t be. Maybe someone just stepped on a raspberry and it hasn’t been cleaned up yet.

The experience remained “off”. It took about 20 minutes before anyone even came over to our table to take an order. The person finally taking our order only uttered 3 words: “Are you ready?” We all ordered water too. But even after another long wait for drinks, the water never came. We had to reorder that too.

A little later, someone working there dropped a glass behind me. They cleaned up half of it and left the rest. It seemed as if they saw the rest of the glass, but they didn’t do the work to sweep what wasn’t in easy reach.

I heard people, sitting down behind me, later step on the pieces.

Maybe it actually was blood under our table.

To top off the night, the bill came with an automatic 18% gratuity, likely because there were 7 of us. This place didn’t deserve anything close to this gratuity. But… we’d already spent too much time there for me to wait around to talk with someone about it. I just wanted to leave.

So why was it like this? The biggest cause we noticed was that the main waitress taking all of our orders was the only one working tables and serving drinks. She was slammed. Clearly she was too busy to handle this well and that’s not her fault.

But what’s interesting to me is how some simple a handful of words would have made all the difference.

If she had just said, “I’m sorry for the wait. We’re slammed today and my backup hasn’t shown up yet.” Our entire experience would have improved with those expectations.

At Highrise, when our support can’t be as top notch as we want it to, we make sure we tell you about it upfront.

Here’s what our help site looks like when we’re on a company meetup:

The yellow alert about our limited support is built into the custom made site so it’s easy to throw up in situations like these. It doesn’t go up often — the bi-annual company meetup, Christmas, an unexpected crisis.

But the effect has been tremendous. Instead of getting upset emails about a temporary slowness to our response times, we get email telling us to enjoy our holiday or time together and letting us know they appreciate the heads up.

It’s a strong lesson for those folks out there who are constantly trying to hide how things are really going. They make it sound like they have an international team running the business when really it’s just a solo entrepreneur making it all work. Or they pretend everything’s going great, even though everyone is clearly aware you’re barely getting by.

Pretending it’s something different doesn’t make it better. As your customers, we can tell. You might as well be honest. Exceed expectations every time you can. And set them appropriately when you can’t.

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