By Samuel Wich
#1 – Hire the right people and treat them appropriately
Whenever an employee is in contact with a customer, this presents an opportunity to leave a great impression in that customer’s mind. No matter if it’s at a fast food restaurant, drive-through or at the counter of a high-end bank.
Companies should focus on hiring people who naturally enjoy being in front of customers and who love putting smiles on people’s faces. Aside from a new hire’s background and technical ability, their willingness to go above and beyond to satisfy a customer should come at the top of the list in recruitment efforts.
Although technical skills and a company's customer service procedures can be taught, an employee's personality is an asset that can only be identified during the hiring process or at the very beginning of an employer-employee relationship. As pointed out by customer service expert and consultant Micah Solomon:
It's not a coincidence that the employees you meet at a great hotel are so empathetic and enthusiastic. They've been hired for naturally being that way.
Solomon suggests using the WETCO approach when recruiting the right people for your business, and focusing on hiring people with the following traits: Warmth (they like and enjoy their fellow human beings), Empathy (being able to figure out what others are feeling), Teamwork (a willingness to involve fellow employees in finding solutions), Conscientiousness (a detail orientation), and an Optimistic explanatory style (the ability to keep plugging along, even through a particularly tough day).
Companies with a lot of customer touch points should also focus on creating the right environment for talents to thrive in.Take Four Seasons as an example, where all frontline employees have a discretionary budget of $2,000 to satisfy a guest with a complaint. Of course, no employee at Four Seasons is walking around with a bag full of cash just waiting to spend it on a client. It is about empowerment and giving your frontline employees the kind of confidence and satisfaction they need to truly excel in every customer interaction.
#2 – Adapt to local tastes while keeping your global identity
“80% of behavior is globally the same, but 20% is locally driven, and that’s what counts. This is our 80-20 rule.” said Santosh Subramanyam, eCommerce Manager at Marriott International.
Hotel brands cater to a large pool of different customers. In major city hotels, for instance, there will be a mix of foreign nationals from all over the world as well as locals. With thousands of properties, the expectations of such a diverse crowd can be hard to manage.
This where Glocalization comes into play. A buzzword that nonetheless carries a lot of importance in today’s connected world: travelers from far away countries want to experience the local culture while still being able to indulge in the comforts they are used to at home.
Local travelers of course do not want to feel like strangers in their own country in a hotel where everything seems to cater to outsiders. Similarly, for any business it is important to understand the needs of your local customers and design a localized experience, whilst upholding your global values and quality standards. Through testing and re-iterating these concepts, companies can make sure that what they implement across product lines will be received positively by clients.
This principle should also be applied to all online customer interactions; as researching, booking and purchasing behavior also varies regionally in the digital space. User experience therefore also has to be adapted, much like the product, to fit local consumers’ needs.
#3 – Create experiences customers remember for the right reasons
Who doesn’t remember a trip to an airport where from the moment you entered the departure hall you felt stressed to the core? Odors, lighting, travel paths. There are hundreds of potential stress factors in nearly all commercial environments affecting a customers’ experience. Humans are sensory beings and studies have shown that customers are much more likely to spend their dollars in an environment that plays to all their senses in a favorable way.
Companies can learn a lot from how hotels are exploiting the potential of well-designed sensory experiences and they refrain from overwhelming their clients with visual, acoustic or olfactory information.
Once a client enters a space, the most important sense of course is vision. People react to colors, service layout and the general flow of the space. Open and warm space in arrival areas are important to counter any negative feelings at the very beginning of your customer’s journey. Adjustments are also important regarding sound, smell, touch and taste. Sound for instance, can easily overpower attractive visual stimuli in a room filled with people.
Negative experiences can be avoided by introducing calm spaces where guests can relax and dedicated areas for smartphone usage. The addition of sound softening and white noise producing water falls or rain water installations can appease clients during their time in any building. Playing to visitors’ senses will ensure they leave with a positive impression remembering the experience for the right reasons.