Unfortunately, I was in  Chattanooga, Tennessee yesterday with a client during the tornado disaster that racked the southeastern part of the United States on Thursday.  It is now being reported that 288 people died, and a million people are without power.

While I was called into a tornado shelter many times yesterday, one experience stands out.  Right before dinner, the alarms went off at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in downtown Chattanooga.  We were instructed to come to go into the hallway away from the windows or to go to the basement of the hotel.  I know I am from Chicago, but I had seen tornado movies before!  Besides earlier in the day, I had seen it rain sideways!  I grabbed by iPad and iPhone and headed down the stairs.  What I found in the basement shocked me!

I was greeted by very friendly and helpful Marriott staff directing us where to go and what to do.  One staff member even started to give us a tour to anyone who had never seen "the operational side of a hotel"!  I think this was especially comforting to the 50 6th graders who were on a field trip and staying at the hotel.  They even served drinks and beer (over 21 only!). The amazing part was that there was free WiFi in the basement.  I promptly FaceTimed (video call) with my son so I could show him what was going.  People were mostly texting and using their phones anyways.

The customer service inside this potential disaster amazed me! Sometimes, the worst situations can bring out the best opportunities for great service!