March 4th, 2023
Todays leadership lesson: Deliver bad news from the top.
Deliver it clearly, early and with empathy and compassion for those affected. Then do everything in your power to minimize the damage.
This is important in every aspect of your business. But it is MOST important when the bad news affects your customers.
In this day and age, customers are rarely loyal to the point of allowing a company to not deliver the products or service they were promised in an honest, respectful way. There are simply too many alternatives and too many ways for customers to share their displeasure with the world.
If customers know what to expect up front, they can choose to accept the situation or go elsewhere. Without that knowledge they just feel scammed.
I do see small businesses breaking this rule, but more regularly it’s large corporations with many, many layers of management that forget how important it is to deliver bad news properly.
Bad news happens. Equipment fails. Parts or inventory is on back order. Staff make mistakes. It happens. It’s what you do about it that will affect your reputation forever.
Why the leadership lesson in the midst of a 20 month RV trip?
Maybe it’s easier to see incredible lapses in leadership when you are not in the thick of a day to day leadership role yourself. Maybe I just have more time to observe. Or maybe I’m getting cranky in my old age.
Tim and I have visited over 50 RV parks so far and by the time we are back in Florida in November we will have visited nearly 100. I’ve seen the best of the best (check out Bay Bayou in Biloxi) where the ownership works every day to make sure their customers want to come back. And we have seen some places that COULD be incredible, but the corporate leadership have made decisions that are short thinking at best and reputation destroying at worst.
The soon to be Margaritaville Breaux Bridge near Henderson, LA is likely going to be a pretty cool place in a few months. However, when we booked our week’s stay, it was still under the previous ownership and called Cajun Palms.
We expected what we booked, a nice, slightly older resort park with decent sized sites, pools, hot tub, a dog park, a camp store and and laundry. We expected some sort of evening/night staff to insure that quiet hours were respected and that campers felt safe.
What we got was an E mail notice about the park selling to new ownership and rebranding Margaritaville. We were kind of excited about it. We had not stayed at a Margaritaville park yet. All of their correspondence to us talked about the rebranding, but said nothing at all about the condition of the park.
When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised that the park was not very full. Sadly, that should have been our first warning. It was not full because they have all their pools and water features and their clubhouse under construction. No hot tub. No dog park. A majority of the laundry facilities are not in working order.
The camp store is fine, but when questioned about the lack of promised infrastructure, the staff has been instructed to tell visitors that notification about the construction was “in the fine print” of the E Mails we received.
Then Friday night came. This park does have their bar open on Friday and Saturday night and the weekend campers did show up. The park was about 40% full for the weekend. It was kind of nice to have some neighbors.
Sadly not all the neighbors were nice. The park had booked a huge group in the apartment style facilities near us. This group started partying in the early evening and the pounding music, screaming and obscenities continued until nearly 3am. There was little to no security on site and more than one camper said they did not feel safe at all. We just hunkered down in our rig and put in earplugs.
When I went to the office/store in the morning to discuss the issue, I was told “it was just a family reunion, no big deal.” I tucked the Karen inside me back down and quietly told them that this “family reunion” was more like a rager and shared some of activities I saw which included in addition to the excessive drinking, screaming and obscenities, golf carts filled with kids just dropping wrappers and juice boxes throughout the park. The guy next to me at the counter shook his head in agreement. He’s the kind of customer who won’t say anything unless someone else does. He will just never come back.
The supervisor was supposed to be in at 9am so I left my number and asked for a call back that, of course, never came.
Enough campers complained, so they did get security out to the group before Saturday night fell and things were much more reserved the second night. I asked a security guard about the situation and he shook his head as he mentioned that security staff hours had recently been cut back so that’s why it got out of hand the first night.
One other very nice staff member who had been working at the park over the years just sighed when I asked about the new management. “It’s different,” they said.
I have to guess that their employees were also not told the bad news clearly, early and with empathy and compassion. I hope for them that all the good team members will not leave before they get their act together.
On a good note, it looks like the constructions is in full swing and the park should be better in a couple of months. But you had better believe that if we ever stay at a Margaritaville again, I will double and triple check that what they promised us when we registered, will in fact be in place when we arrive. Their reputation is not safe with me.
Market Screener says that the property is owned in a joint venture between Northgate Resorts and EPR Properties. My guess is the group has many layers of management with someone stuck firmly in the middle deciding to hide the bad news in the fine print and to train the staff to just shrug when customers are not happy.
I sure wish someone on their board of directors or in their C Suite had been camping near us on Friday night. And that they planned to take their pup to the dog park while they did laundry. If were, I’ll bet they would make changes quickly.