With the travel and leisure industries in turmoil at the moment, now is a good time for them to review how they treat their customers. And mapping their customers’ journey is an important step in understanding and satisfying them better.
Through the example of an experience I had with the Hilton Group, I share some important lessons about getting customer service right! These will be invaluable as countries start to open up in the coming weeks and months.
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 even more money – which we would no doubt anyway spend in the bar before and after our dinner!
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!Guaranteed lowest rates should mean just that! Otherwise you're just cheating the customer. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet
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 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.
Customer journey mapping has become much more complex today, as the touchpoints our customers are using, before, during and after purchase, have expanded exponentially. However the process of identifying and understanding the complete journey remains essential to delighting each and every customer.
One further element which I suggest my clients add to their journey maps is the emotional state of their customers at each interaction with a touchpoint. This simple addition is a powerful addition in clearly showing where a brand needs to improve its customers’ interactions, It highlights those touchpoints where their customers’ emotional experience is sub-optimal and needs improving.