A recent post by John Ollila about customer journey maps and touchpoints in the leisure industry prompted me to share with you, an experience I had recently with the Hilton Group. And more importantly the lessons we can all learn from such disasters!
Each year around Christmas time, my family get together for a weekend of fun somewhere in Britain. This year we met up in Bristol. As a Hilton Honors member for more than twenty years I offered to book rooms for all of us in the local Doubletree. I expected to get a better rate with my membership, and especially cheaper than those offered by the booking sites. After all, why pay a booking site when I know the hotel I want to stay in, right? Well, I booked five rooms for the weekend, as well as a table for ten in their restaurant for dinner on the Saturday evening.
I booked directly by calling the hotel, as I always prefer to do. I expect to be recognised for my loyalty – and if possible rewarded too! On this occasion I was proven seriously wrong!
A couple of weeks after booking and pre-paying for all the rooms, I received Hilton’s weekly email offering me a significant discount for the exact same hotel and dates. Clearly their online pixels had identified me as being interested in this hotel, but they hadn’t connected this interest with my having booked directly. Already there, you can see that they have an incomplete customer journey mapping process.
As Hilton offer a “guaranteed lowest rate” I reached out to their call centre and was told that yes I was entitled not only to the lower rate, but to an additional 25% discount for having made the claim. I was told how to complete the claim form and I hung up ecstatic that I could save my family some money – which we would no doubt anyway spend in the bar before and after our dinner!
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Imagine my surprise when the next day I was told that my claim had been refused! I was informed that the guaranteed lowest rate only applied to third-party sites and not to Hilton’s own website!
I immediately responded and was again told that their guarantee didn’t apply to their own rates. In addition, as I had pre-paid I could not get the lower rate even if it was now being offered!
Not being one to take “no” for a final answer, I contacted their corporate customer service group again, as I felt my loyalty was not being recognized. I was once more given the same response, but this time was informed that my request would be forwarded directly to the hotel concerned – no doubt to get me off their (corporate) backs!
The hotel immediately responded saying that although it is corporate policy not to include direct bookings in their lowest rate guarantee, they would in this case give me the special offer. I was very pleased doubt that they at least recognised the benefit of customer satisfaction and restored my faith in the Hilton group – somewhat.
That should have been the end of this story, but it’s not. Hilton have surpassed themselves this time in terms of customer service, or should I say a lack of it?
My brother called me the following week and informed me that the hotel’s website was showing that their restaurant was closed on the day I had booked it. I immediately rang them and spoke to the same person, who remembered me and assured me our table for ten people was booked. She said she would double check again just to be sure, so in the afternoon I called back not wanting any last minute problems with my family.
Surprise, surprise, I was told the restaurant was booked for a private party. What about my reservation made more than a month ago? Shouldn’t someone have contacted me? I demanded to speak to the manger, who apart from profuse apologies, said she would raise the issue in their operations meeting later that day.
She called me back that evening, to say that there was nothing she could do. It was their mistake and they would be happy to book me elsewhere in the city. I explained that my family had booked six rooms for two nights at their hotel so we could eat at their famous restaurant (my married sister had booked separately). No solution offered; an admission of fault but no compensation offered and no alternative other than to book at another restaurant! Their suggestion was their sister hotel down the road, a bland, modern affair, with no atmosphere.
This farcical situation continued during the whole weekend, but I won’t bore you with the details, as I would rather use this incident to demonstrate how Hilton (and you) can be better prepared.
Three Lessons Learned which Every Business Can Apply
So what lessons are to be learnt from this example, even if we work in a completely different industry? I came up with the following points, but would love to hear what other issue of customer journey mapping you would add; just leave me a comment below please.
1. The customer journey needs to integrate all possible contact points.
In Hilton’s case this is clearly not done. I was personally offered a cheaper rate at the hotel at which I had already booked five rooms! Clearly they had identified that I had reviewed prices online and then offered my the cheaper rate.
Unfortunately without their email, I would never had known and would not have checked prices again since I had already booked. And more importantly have become dissatisfied with my booking. Also, hotel prices usually go up not down closer to the day of arrival, at least so I have been led to believe. If this is not true (any longer) then I fr one will only book last minute in future!
Lesson: You must include all customer touchpoints in your journey map, to avoid such disappointment. By using an incomplete model, Hilton opened themselves up to angering a loyal customer rather than appealing to potential new ones.
2. If you mess up admit it AND correct it
After calling to book the rooms, the hotel put me through to the restaurant to book a table for the Saturday night. Everything was confirmed and I would not have checked details until arriving at the hotel and checking in.
The excuse that the closure of the restaurant is on their website didn’t go down well with me. After all, they themselves had transferred me and taken the reservation in person, so why would I need to go to their website?
Lesson: An apology for a mistake is not its resolution. Proposing to book another restaurant in their sister hotel was nothing more than I could have done myself. I didn’t feel that Hilton were interested in correcting the situation that they themselves had created. They did not go out of their way to make things right. When your company makes a mistake, find a solution that is acceptable to your customer, not just the quick fix that suits you.
3. Follow up to make sure the customer is happy
I often speak about delighting the customer but your first aim is to ensure your customer is happy with the solution that you propose. Only after that can you look to see how you can go above and beyond what they expect, so they are both surprised and delighted with how they have been treated.
It takes a strong person to admit when they’re wrong, but a stronger one to want to go beyond just putting it right. Which are you doing?
Lesson: Replacing a faulty product or service is what our customers expect. Offering free samples, a further discount, express delivery or additional attention is not. These are the small touches that surprise and delight. They are also the things that your customers will share with friends and family, if not the world through social media. Suddenly you have gone from being the bad guy to the cool guy.
Customer journey mapping has become much more complex today, as the touchpoints customers use before, during and after purchase have expanded exponentially. However the process of identifying and understanding this journey remains essential to delighting each and every customer.
One further element which I suggest my clients add to their map is the emotional state of the customer at each interaction with a touchpoint. This simple addition will clearly show where a brand needs to improve its customers’ interactions because their emotional experience is sub-optimal.
If you would like to learn more about customer journey mapping and engagement in general, then check out our 1-Day Catalyst training offers and contact us HERE for a free, no obligation advisory session.