Which Hotel Chain Does Customer Service E-Mail Best?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hotel At the height of travel season, we decided to conduct a (non-scientific) experiment  to find out which hotel chain does customer service e-mail best.  Using the clever pseudonym “Jane Doe,” we sent this e-mail query to hotel chains with properties near Chicago’s Midway Airport.

Subject: Request for info - room for disabled traveler - Labor Day 2008

Hello -

I'm interested in making a hotel reservation for my brother near Midway Airport in Chicago on       August 31 and September 1, 2008.  (He uses a wheelchair.)  Does the [insert hotel name here] have rooms for handicapped travelers?  If so, how do I make a reservation?

Thanks –

Jane Doe

Within two days of sending our query, we’d received responses from five hotel chains:  Best Western, Marriott, La Quinta, Hyatt, and Hilton. 

Want to learn which hotel does e-mail best?

The quality of the responses was uneven, to put it politely.  To see which hotels provided excellent service and which bombed, download the hotels' e-mail responses and our comments (PDF).
Here’s a quick overview of customer service e-mail winners and losers.

  • Quick response: Best Western and Marriott answered within two hours.  La Quinta was the quickest, answering within just one hour.  Check our comments to see whether La Quinta’s response was quick and good, or just quick.
  • Clear answer to our question: Marriott wins. Here’s the third sentence of Marriott’s reply: “Handicapped accessible rooms are available at all Marriott hotels in the U.S.”
  • Polite, professional tone: All five hotel chains used a customer-friendly tone. In fact, four of the five began their e-mails by thanking the customer!


  • Grammar and spelling: Embarrassing errors slipped through in Best Western’s, Hilton’s, and La Quinta’s e-mails.
  • A no-answer reply: Hilton never even mentioned accessible rooms or rooms for handicapped travelers.
  • Incomprehensible “from” lines: Customers should be able to tell who’s writing to them by looking at the “from” line.  But some of the hotel chains we tested included unfamiliar abbreviations in the from line or used a sender’s name customers won’t recognize. (Who is internethamp@hiltonres.com, anyway?)

For our complete analysis of the hotel e-mails’ customer service quality, download the hotels' e-mail responses and our comments (PDF). A disclaimer: we haven’t flagged every error in each e-mail; we’ve focused on the ones that affect customer service quality.

(c) E-WRITE, 2004 - 2009.

Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O'Flahavan are partners in E-WRITE, a training and consulting company that specializes in writing for online readers. Rudick and O'Flahavan are authors of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents