Applying Good Customer Strategy
Posted by Becky Carroll on June 6, 2007
I was recently asked by Mike Wagner of Own Your Brand to contemplate the solution to an issue he had with a hotel. You can read his story for yourself (and you should also check out the comments!), but here is the summary. Mike stayed at a hotel and had forgotten his toothbrush. Relieved that there was a sign in his room promising replacements for forgotten items, he snuck down to the front desk to get another toothbrush. He was then informed they didn’t have any and referred him to the gift shop to purchase one! The next day, Mike shared this story at a workshop where he was giving a seminar (the reson for his trip). One of the participants had been planning to spend quite a bit of money at that very hotel but was now reconsidering based on this story, thinking that if the hotel couldn’t attend to the little things, how could they attend to his customers?
Many of Mike’s readers offered suggestions in the post referenced above, as well as in the next post, on how this experience could have been improved. Most of the suggestions centered around righting the wrong to Mike, and they ranged from sending him personalized toothbrushes to free nights at the hotel, and beyond.
While these suggestions are great and certainly address this one transaction, I and a few other commenters feel that more than this is needed. Let’s think about the situation.
The immediate problem: Mike was disappointed in a broken promise (replacement toothbrush). Solution: many offered/suggested great solutions on Mike’s blog; my favorite is an apology and asking Mike what could be done to renew the trust.
The next biggest issue: Mike’s seminar participant considering pulling out of negotiations. Solution: Ask Mike for permission to contact this participant and have an honest discussion with them about what happened, reassuring them about the hotel’s commitment to them as potential customers and possibly assigning a member of the management team to be their personal contact.
The real issue: Customer focus is not in the hotel’s DNA.
I wrote about how to craft great customer experiences at hotels during the recent Blog Book Tour with Jonathan Tisch. In the answers to my reader questions earlier this week, Jonathan Tisch, the CEO of Loews Hotels, shared how he infuses a sense of customer service into all of his staff as well as how to create great customer experiences. You can read the details in the Q&A, but here are the main points.
- Hire employees with a natural warmth and genuinely caring attitude.
- Ensure the basic vision and mission is understood by employees at all levels, and hire people who agree with the mission.
- Institute the right incentives, rewards and recognitions to highlight employees who are doing it right.
- Ensure hotel management (middle and senior) has a regular and direct dialogue with the front-line team.
- Listen to customers and anticipate needs (Becky add: and then follow through on meeting them!).
- Be consistent with the service experience.
This adds up to having a solid customer strategy in place that addresses all the main parts of the business: hiring, training, incentives and rewards, management, customer touchpoints, and customer listening. My guess is the hotel where Mike stayed did not have these areas aligned around the customer and their needs. They were giving lip service to the idea, but they failed to properly execute.
A carefully-planned customer strategy needs to be more than “customers are important to us” slogans, placards in customer-visible locations with empty promises, exciting internal campaigns, and customer loyalty cards. Application of a good customer strategy includes understanding customer wants and needs, customizing our offerings (products and/or services) to help meet those needs, participating in a dialogue with customers, and measuring our organization to ensure we are doing the right things for the customer. The result of this type of strategy will be longer-lasting customer relationships, increased positive word of mouth, and improvements to the bottom line.
Customers Rock! companies have the customer at the core of their DNA. Are you a Customers Rock! company? Drop me an email or leave a comment if you are one or know of one. I will continue to share the successes of these types of companies here on this blog.
(Photo by nruboc)