Customers – Without Them We Are Nothing


Share on LinkedIn

Sometimes the truth hits you so sharply and strongly that it becomes impossible to ignore. During a recent visit to the Doubletree Hotel in Madison Wisconsin I was fortunate to find myself chatting with Moria, the hotel’s assistant front desk manger about the hotel’s excellent customer experience. I told her how impressed I was with the service and overall experience and her reply was so unforgettable that I decided to use it as the title for this article. She said six simple yet extremely powerful words. “Customers – without them we are nothing.” Her tone was so matter of fact as if she were stating an obvious truth.

I wanted to dedicate an article to the inspirational people at the Doubletree in Madison who reminded this jaded and extremely frequent traveler about the power of customer experience and how truly simple it is to deliver a great experience to thousands of guests who pass through their doors.

Prior to arriving at the Doubletree in Madison, I had been visiting a client in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My hotel experience in Ann Arbor couldn’t have been any more different that the one I received in Madison. In Michigan, I tried accessing the hotel pool at 5:45 AM, fifteen minutes prior to the official opening hour. The reply I received from the individual at the reception desk was cold and informal. “You have to wait until 6 AM.” This employee didn’t even bother to look up from the computer monitor as he uttered these disheartening words.

Upon my arrival in Madison, I was picked up by a cheerful and smiling shuttle driver who inquired about my flight and the reason for my trip. When I told him that I would be spending some time at the University of Wisconsin, he immediately suggested that I register for a complimentary hotel shuttle to the university. Not content with his suggestion, he accompanied me into the hotel lobby where he personally made these travel arrangements. The staff at reception was equally welcoming and cheerful, and provided me with their signature, delicious chocolate chip cookie. When I inquired about accessing their swimming pool outside of the regular hours, I was told to “just give us a shout and we’ll take care of it.”
The following day my shuttle to the university was ready. Noticing that I had luggage with me, the hotel staff suggested that I leave it at the hotel and that they bring it with them when they would pick me up later in the day to take me back to the airport. Of course, with every interaction I was offered one of their chocolate chip cookies. Sensing an opportunity to test their customer centricity, I declined their offer for a cookie but requested that they bring one when they would pick me up for the trip to the airport. Shannon promised that it would be there and true to her word, along with another cheerful driver and my luggage was that delicious cookie. The cookie was there despite the fact that the driver who picked me up was on the afternoon shift. During my ride back to the airport, Moria kept reminding me of the key to the Doubletree’s wonderful customer experience. “Customers – without them we are nothing.” This simple truth all too often escapes too many companies and their employees. Somehow they forget the reason they’re in business.

What were the key elements that made my experience (and I suspect the experience of their other guests) so great?

• They anticipated my needs (i.e. shuttle to university and airport)
• They were proactive (i.e. reserving a spot on the shuttle at my preferred time)
• They were flexible (i.e. opening the pool before regular hours)
• They were consistently excellent. I still clearly recall the names of the individuals with whom I interacted – Carl, Nick, Liz, Shannon and Moria – more names at this one hotel that at the last 50 hotels I stayed at combined!
• They paid attention to the smallest detail (i.e. that I shouldn’t have to drag my luggage with me all day)
• They offered an extra touch (i.e. the chocolate chip cookie)
• They delivered a great experience across shifts (i.e. transferring responsibility for the commitments made by the previous shift)
• They kept their promises (i.e. the chocolate chip cookie on the way to the airport)

This incredible experience wasn’t made possible by huge budgets, nor by demanding concessions from a senior manger. It was made possible by people on the front line. Their attitude was second to none. During every interaction I felt constant care and concern from each employee. This attitude was nothing more than a reflection of a button that they all wear with nothing but the number “10.” Upon my arrival to my room I soon found out the meaning behind this number “10.” A note on my bed stated that should I feel unable to rank employees “10” in performance, I should immediately notify a manager. This hotel raised the bar of performance and expects that each employee achieve this level of performance every day. They visibly communicate to guests and employees alike that they expect nothing less than excellence. This hotel is simply unwilling to compromise on their high standards and expect their employees to perform accordingly. At the Madison Doubletree the bar is set high.

How high is your bar? Is this bar visible and clear to your employees and customers?

Lior Arussy
One of the world’s authorities on customer experience, customer centricity, and transformation, Lior Arussy delivers results. His strategic framework converts organizations from product- to customer-centricity. It is drawn from his work with some of the world’s leading brands: Mercedes-Benz, Royal Caribbean, Delta Air Lines, MasterCard, Novo Nordisk, Walmart and more.Arussy is also the author of seven books, including Next Is Now (May 2018)


  1. Excellent piece. Your example, from an industry where this should always happen but doesn’t, demonstrates vividly the impact of a positive customer experience and that a great experience doesn’t need to break the budget.

    Some might think this approach can only be used in a service industry. Not true. The key is to recognize that customers are most receptive to a positive brand message after they have purchased. This is the time when a smart marketer can add value to the relationship beyond functional benefits. This added value, I call it relationship equity, helps transition your offer from being a product with a name to a brand with customer relationships.

    The Doubletree used the opportunities they had to implement their relationship equity strategy. Any product can do the same.

  2. Great post.

    You raise an interesting and important point. The Doubletree Hotel is doing a better job of creating a brand relationship with their customers than most hotel chains achieve. Today, it is nearly impossible to build brand relationships through traditional means like advertising. It is much more effective to use customer experience to add value beyond functional benefits. I call this relationship equity and it’s what converts a product with a name into a brand.

    In your example the Doubletree takes every opportunity to surprise their customer with added value. This is very smart.

  3. Lior, I’m glad your experience with Doubletree Hotel was good. My experience over the years was at the other end of the scale. Between then and now, I hope that their culture about customer importance as you experienced has permeated the entire chain of properties.

    When I started my consulting business 25 years ago, Joan Campf, a talented advertising writer, came up, to my pleasant surprise, with a poem about selling ( that stated my approach to selling that starts with,
    Selling is . . .
    . . . the one game in town that pays the bills,
    that keeps the doors open, that nobody wants to admit they do.
    “I’m not in sales, I’m a supervisor, doctor, lawyer, banker, administrator, accountant.”
    “Don’t look at me, I’m just the secretary, nurse, receptionist, shipping clerk.”
    Funny – if nobody sells . . .
    how do you get new students, new patients, new clients, new customers?
    Selling is everyone’s business and when it’s not, you’re in trouble.

    So, my question is, can or will the things that you listed as a result of your experience be adapted to not just other hotels, but to all businesses both within the business as well as with the business’s customers/clients?

    Making that transfer when applied to one type of business to one’s own business is a giant leap for many.

    Thanks for the nice story. My next trip if there is a Doubletree Hotel in the area, I’ll make sure I stay there.

    Alan J. Zell, Ambassador Of Selling, Attitudes for Selling
    [email protected]
    Winner of the Murray Award for Marketing Excellence
    Member, PNW Sales & Marketing Group
    Member, Institute of Management Consultants
    Member, International Speakers Network

    You are invited to suggest to your associates, acquaintances, family, friends, customers/clients to learn why everyone has something to sell by visiting

  4. Terrific article, Lior. I loved your point that “This incredible experience wasn’t made possible by huge budgets, nor by demanding concessions from a senior manager. It was made possible by people on the front line.” There’s a well-known proverb that says, “for the want of a nail … the battle was lost.” Companies spend millions of dollars a year on CRM and other systems to provide them with every detail, habits and secrets about their customers and more millions on marketing, but without a caring, well-trained, and competent person at the human interaction, the battle for the customer is lost. It’s all about people — both the customers and the people who serve them.

  5. Alan,

    Thanks for your post. To answer your question. I believe it is transferrable to other industries. In fact, this is not just a belief. this is what we do at strativity group every day. We applied these and other principles of customer experience to organziations in the B2B, B2C, and professional services to name a few. If we strat with the recognition that it is about people and their attitude toward customers, you then can apply and transfer, with the right adaptations.

    Lior Arussy
    Strativity Group

  6. Steve,

    Thanks for the kind comments. We ought to remember that it is ultimetly people who create exeriences. Poeple who innovate, care, customize, personalzie, smile sincerely and go the extra mile. Many compnaies try to control the experience from the top. It does not work.
    Unleash the power of the people.
    Lior Arussy


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here