We often lament when we encounter poor customer service and bad experiences, including my earlier column called Qantas Interruptus1. It is easy to share when things do not go well, when your expectations are not met, when employees or not helpful, or when companies are not listening to your needs. Before I proceed, did you notice at each of the points in my previous sentence was a negative? In other words, we often express our frustration as the opposite what we expect or want, using contractions such as ”Why can’t you do this for me?” or “Why didn’t this work as easily as it does when I shop at [my favorite shop or online store]?”
It’s a shame that excellent customer experiences are often not described as much as they should be since they can produce invaluable lessons in order to delight your customers. My wife and I recently had just such an excellent experience, and this hotel property scored a perfect 10 from us.
They started on a high note with an easy-to-use and clear website where I could compare available rooms, optional services, and nearby tourist attractions; the booking was simple and it met our needs. The property sent us just the right number of updates and reminders, one of which prompted my wife to call for a spa service which led her to add daily yoga in the spa studio — clearly a nice win for the property, but also something that she prized.
As with many restaurant and hotel bookings, this property asked if there was a special event for our visit so I ticked the box for “Anniversary”. When we checked in we were greeted immediately with “Happy anniversary!” and then the check-in clerk escorted us to our room to tell us about how we could get the most use of it and she then accompanied us to the adjacent building where my wife could meet the spa manager and confirm her bookings for the week, and we could check out the cozy bar and restaurant; she remained with us this whole time and later told us that it was only her third week on the job but that she loved working there.
We heard the same wonderful anniversary greeting at breakfast, on the daily notes from the room cleaners, and even when we checked out four days later. It made my wife and me feel special, and it didn’t hurt that we got a welcome adult beverage — perhaps because it was our anniversary, or maybe because that was just the way they operate, but we still felt important because of it.
The property provided free bikes with helmets and a bike lock to ride on the nearby beach and to go into town, excellent food with wonderfully-paired regional wine, delightful craft beer, and ”service with a smile” including even more “happy anniversary” greetings.
So how did this property knock it out of the park on so many dimensions? I believe that they followed three basic but hard to achieve rules to deliver great customer experiences, all of which my co-author David Jaffe and I have researched and written about in our two books2 which we admit are rare to find, especially at the same time.
1. Build and grow an energized workforce.
In our 2nd book (Your Customer Rules!) we conclude with a the chapter about the ”Four Foundations” needed to provide excellent customer experiences, the fourth of which, “an energized workforce”, had six sub-points for the customer-facing or customer- supporting employee: a) start with the right hires; b) ensure that they work close with the right role models; (c) provide the right rewards for them; (d) measure them using the right metrics; (d) provide the right [career] path; and (e) give them the ability to provide the right empowerment to make your customers happy.
This property excelled in each of these six sub-points and clearly had a highly energize workforce from the front desk to the spa manager (who allowed us to cancel one of the yoga reservations within the 24 hour window so that we could take our bikes into town and enjoy the sunny day), the server who brought a special breakfast for us that wasn’t on the menu, and all of the other staff we encountered. One morning when I was in the hotel lobby waiting for my wife to join me to go hiking, I overheard an experienced check-in clerk providing additional assistance to an obviously new check-in person to make sure that she was able to understand how to use the system, a form of OJT that helps to reinforce the right behavior (perhaps the sum total of what the six sub-points!) is meant to achieve.
2. Strive to have your customers say “You make it easy for me”.
From the simple online booking tool through the additional appointments (and hassle-free cancellation), free bikes with helmets, insightful recommendations for local restaurants and hikes, and so much more, this property made it so easy for the two of us to enjoy our getaway that it greatly added to our relaxation, prevented us from having to do much research, and saved us precious time.
3. “If you want to be loved, just do it right”.
This was the headline of our first book’s 1st review3, and this property clearly made sure that everything worked the way it’s supposed to work. This is probably the most overlooked aspect of making sure that customers have excellent experiences despite many years of ”customer journey mapping” and other valiant attempts to figure out what steps the customer takes, what the organization needs to do in anticipation of the next steps, and how to remedy the situation in case something does not work well.
This reminds me of research that my consulting team and I did on behalf of a B2B client that wanted to find out how B2C companies produced great customer experiences, and we heard from one of the best B2C practitioners field that they researched in great detail “how to remove all the roadblocks for their guests and for their associates serving those guests”, resulting in a whole new branded service experience that has been very successful for them. Here, the hotel property was beautifully maintained, simply designed and laid out, with a clear eye towards making sure that everything fit together and worked perfectly. The hard part here is to do it consistently day after day, guest after guest, when your staff turns over, but I suspect that because of their energized workforce this hotel property probably has a highly-tenured team doesn’t want to work anywhere else.
Where is this outstanding place and how can you experience it as well? The Wickaninnish Inn4 just outside of Tofino, British Columbia on the west coast of Vancouver Island is renowned for its awesome ocean setting and that’s one of the reasons why booked in the first place. However, the positive reviews that I read online and the rapturous notes in hotel room notebook from previous guests did not fully prepare us for how great experience would be. “Would I recommend this hotel to a friend?” … Well, I already have to many of my friends and now to all of you reading this column! Did they score the top mark to reduce our ”Customer Effort”? … Again, as I’ve explained there was really no room for improvement.
Keep in mind these three basic rules to deliver a great customer experiences: (1) Invest in building and growing and energize workforce; (2) Make it really easy for your customers to do business with you; and (3) Focus relentlessly to make sure that everything works perfectly.
2The Best Service is No Service: How to Liberate Your Customers From Customer Service, Keep Them Happy, and Control Costs Bill Price & David Jaffe (Wiley 2008). Based partly on my years as Amazon’s 1st WW VP of Customer Service, but also on “Best Service” providers around the world who have made it easier for their customers to do business with them, we proposed 7 Drivers that start with “Challenge demand for service”:
- “Eliminate dumb contacts”
- “Create engaging self-service”
- “Be proactive”
- “Make it really easy to contact your company”
- “Own the actions across the company”
- “Listen and act”
- “Deliver great service experiences”
Your Customer Rules! Delivering the Me2B Experiences That Today’s Customers Demand (Wiley/Jossey-Bass 2015). Here are the 7 Customer Needs that Lead to a Winning “Me2B” Culture; each Need breaks down into a total of 39 Sub-Needs.
- “You know me, you remember me”
- “You give me choices”
- “You make it easy for me”
- “You value me”
- “You trust me”
- “You surprise me with stuff that I can’t imagine”
- “You help me better, you help me do more”
3Financial Times, 27 March 2008, Alan Mitchell’s Book Review.
4https://www.wickinn.com/ accessed 19 July 2019