“You should have let us know and we would have fixed the problem for you,” said the hotel clerk as I checked out and listed a litany of unsanitary aspects of the room I had stayed in the night before. I tried to explain to her that when a guest sees something disgusting in the room (or in this instance somethings), it’s difficult to un-ring the bell; you already feel like the room is dirty.
Guests want to believe they are the first customers staying in the room, and the hotelier’s job is to create that illusion. This property failed spectacularly in that department, and the clerk wasn’t getting it at all. She was focused on fixing my specific grievance (or dismissing it) rather than giving me any hope that the larger issue of cleanliness would be addressed upon my departure. At the end of the conversation I felt like I was the one responsible for the hotel’s condition because I was a poor customer, and didn’t report it promptly. I gave up and left.
This obsession with “fixing the problem” is partially one we in the customer experience management industry have created. While it is laudable (and necessary) to reach out to individual customers to resolve an issue after it occurred, it has a created another sort of myopia. So many companies are focused on service recovery, or “hot alerts,” that they are missing the bigger picture of fixing the problem before it happens. That starts with asking, “what is the real reason the problem occurred in the first place?”
Why was the room dirty? Was it a one-time screw up or something more institutional? For the latter case we have a process known as Action Planning, which looks at institutional issues that may be causing recurrent customer experience problems. That is a topic for a separate post. In the former case of the atomistic service failure, we should ask ourselves why we typically react after the fact. In many cases we have data sources that can actually help us anticipate where problems might occur and take action to thwart them. If we observe with some consistency that certain rooms at certain times of the week with certain customers are causing problems, perhaps we want to do a walkthrough before the guest arrives to ensure the room is clean. Much like fraud detection works in the financial services world, we can create probabilities of events that could be deleterious to the customer experience and head them off at the pass.
Of course, it takes time and money to be vigilant. It becomes a question of ROI: Is it worth inoculating yourself against issues rather than dealing with them after they occur? It’s a good question and I would submit that if you look at the downstream impact of loyalty, particularly in the world of social media, it is worth it. After all, there are some problems you just can’t fix after they occur.
Using CXM only for service recovery after a problem occurs is akin to waiting for folks to get the flu before you do anything about it. It’s a better situation for everyone if we take care of the problem before it even happens. Then we can focus on the real stuff that makes people come back to properties—having a relaxing and great time.