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When Hospitality is Not Hospitable. 5 Learnings for Every Industry

I had lunch last week with one of my ex-colleagues. We decided to try a new restaurant close to where she works. It’s only been open a month, and it shows. This hospitality outlet certainly has a lot to learn about customer centricity!

I was able to share our “adventure” with the proprietor when his manager (naively?) asked us if we had enjoyed our lunch. I don’t think she expected all the comments we made. However, she quickly called the owner over, who was extremely interested in listening. He heard our detailed description of our time there with patience and encouragement, asking lots of questions as our tale unfolded.

I therefore, thought I’d share our experiences as they are useful lessons for anyone who wants to be more customer centric. Whether you are in hospitality or not, putting the customer first makes good business sense.

 

Restaurant arrival

Welcome your customersThe restaurant is situated in a new shopping precinct and therefore still has to increase its awareness and make a name for itself. This is important, as many of the issues we had should have been sorted out during the first month since they opened.

It was a warm, sunny day and the restaurant had two attractive terraces laid out for lunch. No-one was there to greet us, so we went inside and asked to be seated. I should mention that we were relatively early and only three other tables out of the more than 40 were occupied.

The Maitre d’ showed us to a small table for two, squashed between other larger tables. When I asked if we could have another table on the edge of the terrace, my request was met with disapproval. The restaurant was not full  and they obviously didn’t expect to be on this midweek lunchtime. Only about a half of the tables were laid out for lunch. I therefore, requested again that he accommodate our desire. He grudgingly accepted, adding that we’d have to move if someone else wanted the table! Of course we would!

 

Our order

As we sat down the maitre d’ asked if we would like an aperitive. We said no, but I ordered sparkling water and my friend still water. One of the waiters quickly came back but with a liter bottle of sparkling water. Being thirsty, my friend graciously accepted to drink the sparkling water. In fact, it was poured out before she could say anything.

I hadn’t seen my friend in many months, so we had a lot to discuss and catch up on. Therefore not surprisingly we took time to choose amongst the multitude of dishes, which were all new to us. Our final choice was not facilitated by the menu being on a tablet. It was already difficult to read outdoors. In addition reviewing and deciding amongst the many dishes involved multiple clicks. We had to skip back and forwards to make our choice amongst the many different and somewhat arbitrary subgroups.

Customer choiceIf only someone had thought about their clients’ needs, the menu would have been laid out far more logically. (>>Tweet this<<) For example, the subgroups included both main and starters displayed together and were based upon ingredients.

This meant going up and down each subgroup until one had an idea of what were the choices for starter or the main dish. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, there were also daily specials listed on a separate tab!

One of the advantages of using a digital menu is that it can be changed with the click of a button. There is therefore, no reason for this complex system – unless it was designed to ensure every client saw every dish.

From our perspective, it just made for a frustrating waste of time. Lunches are generally pretty time sensitive and we only have a limited window to eat out and return to work on time.

Our meal presentation

Customer satisfaction is primeAfter the mishap over the water, we were not really surprised when the wrong main course dishes were presented to us. Or rather mine was correct but my friend’s was not what she ordered. Instead of removing the two dishes, mine was left in the sun – a salad! – while hers was sent back to the kitchen. Ten minutes later her dish arrived and again was not what she had ordered!

By this time we had finished our starters and my salad was getting warm. So my friend pointed out the mistake but again graciously accepted the dish. (I should mention that she is a lovely lady and far more forgiving than I would have been!)

 

Our bill and payment

As the meal had taken rather longer than we had planned, we were keen to leave as soon as we had finished. We asked for the bill, twice, only to be presented ten minutes later with what looked like a credit card, but no explanation. Five minutes of h and-waving finally got someone to explain what to do with it.

Customers queueing to payThey apparently have a shop associated with the restaurant and therefore encourage people to visit it before paying. Thus no bill for just the meal! The idea of offering for sale everything we had just eaten might be a good one, time will tell, but it did not facilitate our departure.

Luckily one of the more experienced waitresses offered to show us where to pay – in the shop! This was neither expected nor obvious as it is hidden from the view of those in the restaurant.

I can only imagine the joy of queueing up behind shoppers after a meal! I certainly don’t want to st and in a queue to pay; I want someone to come to my table for this.

 

Our discussion with the owner

Listen to your customersAs I previously mentioned, we were lucky enough to get the chance to share all our experiences with the owner. He was most apologetic and gave us a hefty discount.

However, what I appreciated even more, was the chance to share our experiences, to help this new restaurant to quickly improve. He is a true professional and asked many questions about what had happened, to better identify where improvements could be made.

 

Underst anding the problem

The hospitality industry is both simple and complex for customer centricity improvements. Simple because you get direct feedback from your clients through their choices and comments. Complex because it is like a show and different people have differing perspectives and preferences. That is why restaurants have menus. But they need to be laid out for ease of choice rather than for ease of cooking or stock taking.

Where every business is similar, is in the fact that the customer has expectations which must be met to satisfy, and surpassed to delight. (>> Tweet this<<) Which do you aim to do?

In the case of this restaurant, I believe the main issue came from the staff who had been hired. They were clearly inexperienced or had not had explained to them the importance of the customer. Perhaps their previous jobs were in a local bistro, which might explain their lack of attention to detail. The restaurant is perhaps in rural  surroundings but the owner is definitely highly experienced and professional. He has a long learning curve to make with his staff for them to be at his level. He’d better make it happen sooner rather than later. Customers rarely go back to a restaurant – or br and for that matter – when there is so much choice today.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group is famously quoted as saying:

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business”

This is certainly true for the hospitality industry, but less so for many other businesses in my opinion. For many companies, I believe that the customer has to come first. What do you think?

 

Learnings for everyone

  1. Hospitality needs to be hospitable, but so does any customer facing business. Everyone feels self-conscious when entering into a new environment. Make it easy for them to feel at home. Welcome your customer as a good friend or even family. (>>Tweet this>>) Apple and Walmart are outst anding in this, and both Samsung and Staples announced new ways of welcoming more people into their stores.
  2. When your customers speak, listen (>>Tweet this<<). In our restaurant experience, none of the staff really listened, let alone tried to underst and our situation. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes – literally – is a great way to better underst and them.
  3. Make it as easy as possible for your customer to choose you. (>>Tweet this<<) Are your different line extensions easy to recognise? Can your customer quickly choose between the different variants? Do you have too many br and names and sub-br and differentiators? I know of some br ands that have five to seven on one pack! Three should be the absolute maximum. Brogan & Partners wrote a great piece on sub-br anding you can read HERE.
  4. Make it as easy to pay. Once a customer has made the choice to buy what you have to offer, payment shouldn’t be a further pain point. According to a Business Intelligence report over 70% of online carts are ab andoned. While you can’t walk out of a store without paying, you can leave without buying! (>>Tweet this<<)
  5. Welcome criticism and comments as the gifts they are. (>>Tweet this<<) The only way to learn and correct your mistakes is by knowing about them! Don’t manipulate satisfaction levels to meet your objectives. Attain them by truly satisfying and delighting your customers.

These are all obvious steps to being customer centric but sometimes we get so caught up in our br and that we forget about the customer. Which of these five is your weakest point and what are you doing about it?

The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction

We all know how extremely demanding consumers have become. Constant innovation and novelty has made us all more impatient and critical. We want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient to drive growth alone. Marketing must deliver more!

I was recently in the US and as seems to be the norm these days, the hotel in which I stayed asked me to rate their performance afterwards. I completed their form, giving only four and five-star ratings, as I had been very satisfied by the hotel, its rooms, the staff and their services. Imagine my surprise therefore when I got the following mail a day or so later:

“Thank you for taking the time to complete our online survey regarding your recent stay at our hotel.

On behalf of our entire team, I would like to apologize for failing to exceed your expectations. Your satisfaction is important to us and we will be using the feedback you provided to make improvements to ensure we offer an exceptional experience for our guests in the future.

I hope that you will consider staying with us again so that we can have another chance to provide you with a superior experience.”

Shocking mail isn’t it? To think that a Hotel apologises for not exceeding my expectations! But I believe that is the reason why they get a 4 1/2 star rating on TripAdvisor. For them customer satisfaction is not enough; they want their guests to be enchanted, enthralled, excited, so that a return visit is a “no brainer”; no other hotel choice would make sense!

Shocking to think that a Hotel would apologise for not exceeding my expectations! #hotel #travel #leisure Click To Tweet

How do you treat your own customers, consumers and clients? Do you do just enough to satisfy them, or do you consistently look to exceed their expectations?

If you are a regular reader here – and I’d love to know why if you’re not, so I can do better in the future – you will know that I often talk about “surprising” and “delighting” our customers. These are not hollow words; there’s a very real reason I use them. The reason is that our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long.

Our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long. #CRM #CEX #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

The above personal example I gave is one way that the hotel staff ensure they have enough time to correct whatever is not a “superior experience” as they term their own desired service level, and to continue to offer total customer satisfaction.

Here are a few examples of other companies who go above and beyond in terms of their own customer service; I hope they inspire you to do the same and to aspire to exceed customer satisfaction whenever and wherever you can.

Amazon

Amazon's amazing customer satisfaction logoI have to start with Amazon because they clearly mention in their mission statement that they want “to be the Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Although they don’t specifically mention exceeding their customers’ expectations, they are known for regularly giving extra in their customer service. This might be by surprising their customers by sending the ordered goods by priority mail when only standard was paid for, or refunding the total cost of an article that failed to totally meet if not exceed expectations.

They are also known for being extremely helpful in proposing other articles you might be interested in buying, based upon your current or past orders. Yes it might also make good business sense to do this, but as a result of this practice, who doesn’t trust Amazon and start their search online on their website? Customer service to Amazon means going beyond customer satisfaction alone.

Zappos

Zappos powered customer satisfaction through service
Image source: Zappos.com

Their mission statement, also referred to by Zappos employees as their “WOW Philosophy,” is “To provide the best customer service possible.”

CEO Tony Hsieh is often quoted as saying that “We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.” That makes it crystal clear how customer centric they are.

Another of his quotes is “To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver.” 

This mentions another of the reasons it is important to go beyond what customer’s expect today – the emotional connection. That is what touches our customers and makes them feel differently about our brand, company or service. Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. 

Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

Apple

Apple-logoSteve Jobs is famously quoted as saying that “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

It was therefore his philosophy to do limited market research and never to ask the advice of consumers on his innovations. What he did ask questions about however, was their pain points.

In a video way back in 2014 Tim Cook talked about being “better.” While Cook mentions the environment, the bigger picture in what he was saying was that he wanted Apple to produce world-changing products that leave the planet better off. This can be in a literal sense like pollution, but also in a more figurative sense, like the iPhone, which has made millions of lives better.

Over the past four years, we have seen clear evidence of Cook’s vision coming true. In an interview for Fast Company earlier this year, he was asked what makes a good year for Apple. His reply?

“For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year.”

How many orgaisations would look different if we used these same criteria!

Did you make the best product, and did you enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of these, then you are having a good year. @TimCook #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

In conclusion, these examples provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level, by offering more than mere customer satisfaction:

  • Surprise your customers with something unexpected. Whilst I know it is more difficult than ever to do these days with such demanding customers, it is definitely worth the effort to build their loyalty.
  • Touch the customer emotionally so your product or service resonates with them. (>>Tweet this<<) As Maya Angelou is famed for saying “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 
  • Strive for better in everything you do; never be satisfied yourself with just repeating previous successes. This is perhaps the greatest lesson from all these great companies. As the Hotel mentioned, they want to exceed the expectations of their guests.
  • Make it a part of every employee’s objectives to ensure products and services that not only obtain customer satisfaction, but go even beyond that in any way they can. As Tony Hseih says, customer service is not the responsibility of any one department.

I am sure you too have examples of companies that were not satisfied until they had gone above and beyond what you expected of them. In a previous post I mentioned Dyson; what others can you add to this list? Please share your suggestions below.

This post used an image from “Winning Customer Centricity” Denyse’s new book out next month.

Improving Customer Centricity in Hospitality

The title of this week’s post might surprise you. After all, the hospitality industry should be customer centric as it relies on satisfying its guests, no?

However, it has a lot it can learn from consumer packaged goods (CPG), as I shared recently with industry experts at a Faculty Day of one of the leading hospitality schools in Switzerl and. If you would like to learn what I revealed, then read on.

Both the hospitality and CPG industries have their customers at their heart. They both are founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clientele in the quality of the products and services they offer. However, as the world changes, customer dem ands increase and companies need to stay current if not ahead of these dem ands in order to ensure continued growth.

During my short presentation earlier this week, these are some of the points that I covered:

#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE

There has been a lot of talk recently on moving from a return on investment to a return on relationships. Whilst I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement, since honestly, who wants to have a relationship with a br and?! Br ands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back; to the br and, the product, their website, their communications. Coca Cola and Red Bull are great examples of this.

#2. Build Relationships with Strangers

Customer centricity means building relationships with strangersWhilst the hospitality industry has been based on serving and satisfying its guests, in todays connected world it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but could potentially become guests. These might be the friends of current guest, which for example the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico tries to attract. This wonderful hotel encourages its guests to photograph their experiences during their stay at the resort and then to post them on Facebook. This not only provides free publicity for the hotel, but also enables it to start engaging these friends, whom one might assume are potential clients since they are probably similar to their current guests.

#3. Value is more Important than Price

Having additional control in their lives today means that customers are re-evaluating what they are offered. They have higher expectations and are more discerning in their choices. They expect recognition at every touchpoint, even if in reality their peers influence their decisions more than does traditional marketing. The internet enables them to compare offers, so they are less interested in bundled propositions,preferring to decide what is best value for them personally for each element.

#4. Renovation is more than Buildings

Most CPG companies have annual targets for Innovation & Renovation, sometimes 30% or more of annual revenue. They also have mid-term innovation pipelines which can include partnerships in joint ventures with what were previously only competitors. These help each partner by building on their individual talents and enable them to develop better products and services. For hospitality, innovation can no longer be purely physical or rational; we need to consider more emotional and relational ways to satisfy. The Rosewood Mayakoba resort, already mentioned above, is one good example of this; the Art Series Hotels are another. Check out the latter’s recent ad to underst and better how they excel at underst anding their guests: Art Series Overstay Checkout, or why not review the picture posted on MayaKoba Facebook page?

#5. Loyalty is never really Won

One of the reasons that I believe we need to work on building engagement and in all industries, not just hospitality, is because customer dem ands are constantly evolving. What satisfied them yesterday can bore or even disappoint today. To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. This means that loyalty is much less long-term than in the past and lifetime value is now measured in months or a few years, rather than in decades.

#6. Dialogue don’t just Communicate

In today’s connected world, customers want a say in not only what they consume, but also where, when and how they are marketed to. They want a say in what they buy and expect a rapid resolution to any queries or complaints. According to a recent Edison Research, 20% expect a company to answer to their social media post within 15 minutes, 42% within the hour! That means 24/7 monitoring for all organisations if we are not to disappoint are most engaged customers.

These are just six of the many ideas I shared during my presentation. If you are interested in seeing the full talk, you can find it on SlideShare here.

Are you struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to support and catalyse your efforts. Please check out our website for more information and contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

What the Hospitality Industry can teach us all about Customer Service

One of the industries most sensitive to customer service errors is hospitality. If they get something wrong their clients will tell them immediately.

This is a great opportunity, since it gives them the chance to respond appropriately and save their reputation. However, it also means that they have had to adapt to being not just reactive but also proactive.

If you would like to see what you can learn from how they meet some of these challenges read on.

This past week I was in Miami and had the chance to visit and stay in various hotels both at the beach as well as in the financial district. With a presentation to give in January on the hospitality industry (more about that next month), I wanted to get some true-life stories from the people on the ground. Their comments and ideas were so inspiring, I thought it would be useful for us all to consider some of their solutions, even if we are not in the hospitality industry. Their businesses depend on excellent customer service; shouldn’t ours as well?

#1. Know your client

They all spoke about the importance of knowing whom they are serving. Are their guests on business or vacation? These two groups have very different needs and dem ands, and so it is vital that the purpose of their visit is clearly understood in order to better serve them.

Ask yourself: These hotels start with a simple two cluster analysis and then group each of these into subgroups. What does your own segmentation tell you? Is it too complex to be actionable? Would a simpler approach such as the one these hotels are using help? Check our website for more about customer targeting and segmentation.

#2. Imagine the clients’ needs before they ask

Another interesting similarity between these professionals is their pride in underst anding their clients’ needs. They actually feel that they haven’t done their best if a client has to ask for something.

Ask yourself: Are you continually updating your knowledge about your customers’ changing needs in order to anticipate them? If you develop a process to satisfy them but don’t adapt with each new learning, then you risk losing a deeper underst anding. More about this topic here.

#3. The buck stops with the person listening

The banquet manager at one of the hotels talked about the importance of representing the Hotel to ensure the clients’ needs are met. He said that telling a client that something is not his job / responsibility is unacceptable. Whomever the client is speaking with is the company (hotel in this case) (>>Click to Tweet<<) from his perspective, so the employee cannot just pass responsibility to someone else to get rid of the issue.

Ask yourself: Do clients get passed from one person to the other when they call your company? Does everyone underst and that it is their responsibility to find a solution to each client’s issue? They should only transfer them to someone else to resolve the client’s problem, once they have established that this is the right person to solve it. Read the 5 steps to customer care excellence for an example of simplified contact management.

#4. Speak to the decision maker

Another topic the banqueting manager mentioned was to always speak to the decision maker, not (only) the person making an order. For example, if it’s a wedding he speaks to the bride directly, not just the groom or the parents, even if they are the ones paying.

Ask yourself: Do you underst and the purchase decision journey of your clients? If the end user and purchaser are different people, you will need to underst and them both; (>>Click to Tweet<<) their reasons for using / buying the product they choose and how they came to make that decision.

#5. Your checklist is the start not the end

Most hotel departments now work with checklists, just like pilots. Whether it is reservations, the room cleaning, or meeting management, these lists have been built up over time to ensure that nothing essential is forgotten. However, if your customer service experts are still working to scripts, then their connection will seem false and uncaring in the eyes of your customer.

Ask yourself:Are all your scripts, processes and checklists absolutely necessary? Could you give your employees more responsibility and freedom to satisfy your customers? If you are concerned that they may take too many liberties and initiatives, you could set limits, such as decisions that cost less than a certain limit. As your confidence in their decision-making ability grows, you can increase this limit. And this makes good business sense. In Temkin’s 2012 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, they found that highly engaged employees are more committed to helping their companies succeed.

If you work in the hospitality industry I would love to hear your comments and ideas on the above. Would you add any other points? If you work in a different industry, I hope these comments inspire you to make your own customer services more caring and that the questions posed make you think about what we can learn from this industry that is not called hospitality for nothing. Shouldn’t we all be in a hospitable business?

Would you like to know just how customer centric you really are? Complete the C3Centricity Evaluator (it’s FREE to C3Centricity Members) and receive a summary report with suggested actions to take.

For more ideas about how to put your customer at the heart of your own business, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

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