by JC Thompson
As we travel the country working with clients on their revenue capture and customer experience, the most common question we hear is this:
“Where do we begin the process of providing better service to customers?”
The answer to this matters, because of these hard numbers (to list only a few):
- 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.
- 86% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience.
- Perceived indifference causes 68% of customers to stop buying.
How do you create more opportunities for buy-in and keep customers coming back for more? In the spirit of helping more people answer that question, we’ve outlined 11 steps to help you march toward a better customer experience in your hotel…NOW. We are releasing the first two steps here exclusively on Hotel Online, and the rest will follow on our own blog.
If you’d like to receive direct updates with the following 9 tips, please sign up here and we’ll make sure they get to you!
1. Engage. Engage. Engage.
Does your service mission exist solely on paper, or is your team ready and willing to put it into action? As shown by the stats above, bringing life to your vision is vital to your business’ sustainability.
Sam was on his 7th day straight on the Front Desk of the Springs Hotel. Every hour like clockwork, a guest called down to complain about the quality of the TV signal. At a pre-shift meeting weeks before, Sam’s boss candidly shared with the group that the satellite on the roof had been damaged and the funds were not available to fix it. As the days passed, Sam became more and more apathetic to the concern. As guests called down to complain, instead of acting sympathetic to their concern and being proactive about a solution, Sam began to reply, “We know, that’s been a problem for weeks,” and left it at that.
While the math shows that service quality directly correlates to customer acquisition and retention, service ultimately comes down to people-not numbers. “Perceived indifference” is code for a lack of human connection. Outstanding service is a culture, built and sustained through small moments over time like a strong friendship, not through a “dump and jump” training program. It only starts with a strong hotel customer service training backbone; you then have to engage customers into the experience you will provide them, and engage your staff into delivering on that promise each and every day.
Actions to Take
When you share problems or issues with your team, make sure you also share solutions. Help them understand how they impact customers, and how they can respond when faced with complaints, rather than blindly react.
Many employees instinctively protect and defend a company, when really what they should be doing is seeking to understand and relate to the customer. Sam should be encouraged to acknowledge customer complaints and reassure them the hotel is working to develop a solution.
A better response would be: “I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. We are aware of the problem and are working to fix it as soon as we can.”
Even if the actual problem can’t be solved during a guest’s stay-like replacing a costly satellite-resolving a complaint can be done simply by offering something else to improve the guest’s experience, like a complementary meal to help them relax and unwind. That small gesture may be the difference between a detractor and a raving fan of your hotel.
2. Empower Your People to Solve Problems
Fact: The White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that 95% of customers will return to a business if they feel their complaint was resolved quickly.
When a customer arrived at Valley Spa for their scheduled appointment, they found their reservation had not been made. To add to the problem, the services they requested were now fully booked, with no more availability that day. When the customer complained, the receptionist became defensive of the spa’s booking policy and told her all she could do was rebook for another day. When the customer left, she was already checking her phone for a competing spa to book her appointments.
It begins with shifting the paradigm about complaints. Complaints are opportunities. If a situation were really not recoverable, the customer would not even take the time to complain. They would just leave, never to return. The fact that a customer takes the time to complain tells us they’re thinking: “I like you. Please fix this so I will come back.”
Using this perspective, your employees would be much more willing to accept complaints graciously and resolve them quickly when they arise-after all, it’s all the customer wants!
Actions to Take
Share with employees that their role is to take care of the customer.
Put together a list of common upsets along with the approved solutions with your employees. You may find employees didn’t know they had the power to solve problems. They may also be surprised on what solutions you recommend, and that they don’t always involve saving money in the short term. Help staff understand that a happy customer will save (and make) you more money in the long run.
Remember that people make mistakes. You need to have your employees’ backs when they make the wrong decision. Many managers believe that empowerment means overcompensation, where employees give away too much or promise something they shouldn’t have. In fact, we find that most employees give away too little, thinking they are protecting the company. Overcompensation is still better than the alternative… angry, unhappy, former customers.
Stay tuned for more tips on how to improve your hotel’s customer experience (and financial performance!) in the upcoming series on our Aspire Blog. We’ll cover these tips and more with examples and actionable solutions:
- Evolve or Die
- Demonstrate Random Acts of Customer Kindness
- Sweat the Small Stuff
- Celebrate Progress
- Encourage Real Listening
- Make It Personal
- Let Employees Experience your Product
- Have Fun!
- Use the Buddy System