Customer Experience

Here are 5 simple factors that you just cannot afford to overlook on your way to providing excellent customer service.

-Be polite (greetings, thank you, you’re welcome go a long way)

-Pay attention, listen to your customers

-Promise only what you can deliver

-Time is valuable. Especially customers’

-Provide personal attention

Practice these basics and you are well on your way to excellence! Missing any one results in unhappy customers.

Too many companies try too hard to exceed customer expectations! Establishments centre their efforts on creating the extraordinary, the wow moments and many times fall short of the ordinary. In our digital age, focusing on meeting the basic expectations on a consistent basis is powerful.

Paying attention to the basics such as answering telephone calls in an appropriate time and manner are non negotiable components of a pleasant experience. How many times have you experienced…your call being answered by an automated voice, press ‘0’ wait on the line for a human attendant and when one finally comes on and after narrating your concern you discover you are speaking to the wrong department and need to be transferred to the correct one…and the saga continues!

Don’t let it happen in your organization, because in this age you just can’t afford it! Because when a customer calls with a concern, there is a good possibility that she has tried to self serve and failed. In a sense, the telephone call and effort to speak with a human being is a desperate attempt to seek help! In most cases the customer has already interacted with the company’s website, automated telephone service and is frustrated with an impression already formed!

2 customer service basics that can really turn the tide in your favour:

-The person taking the call must be empowered to resolve the problem. Repeated transfers and making the customer repeat information is a sure way to lose a customer. This individual has to be able to take measures to correct the situation and quickly! The new world customer service is in the ‘Now’!

-The customer could be in a state of despair! Creating an emotional connection, listening and customizing solutions can be far more effective than taking the checklist approach. Personalizing your interaction based on the situation and the individual can have a very positive effect on the outcome. The word ‘Personalized’ has always carried punch, but in our new age it is the 1000 lb gorilla!

The new business climate demands organizations are staffed with well trained attentive, empathetic and empowered staff to interact with customers. Making certain that your website allows people to self serve easily might be the best decision towards proving a pleasant experience for your clients.

By Teg Brar, MSc.

If you are still playing the old customer service card and expecting to win…think again! In today’s age the customer service bar is much higher than what it used to be; the only way to win loyalty is to deliver an experience that exceeds expectations. The guest understands that no one is perfect and things will go wrong at times, however, what the new age guest demands is an honest effort to make corrections quickly. In many cases the guest is demanding this in public (online). If a business is able to resolve the problem to the client satisfaction, then it stands to gain a brand ambassador far more powerful than any ad campaign. However, if a business is not prepared to take responsibility and is sluggish in their half hearted effort, things could go very drastically wrong.
The magic formula undoubtedly is to ensure that every customer is happy. There is no such thing as ‘We can’t please everyone’! The benefits reaped by adopting this customer experience approach will far outweigh the costs incurred.
By Teg Brar, MSc.

Happy employees provide more personal and better service and keep guests coming back. Being considerate, fair and honest with your staff are the fundamental principals of keeping your people happy and motivated. I recently had the opportunity to speak at an event in a hotel in the Greater Vancouver Area. Just prior to the beginning, a member of banquet staff was setting tables and placing pre poured glasses of water in the same room where I was scheduled to speak in a few minutes. I asked if I could have a glass of water and was told that the water was part of the dinner setup and no effort was made to meet my request!! A few years ago I was returning to Vancouver on a ‘reputed’ international airline and needed a pencil to make notes in a book that I was reading. My request was declined, there was not a single pencil on board the aircraft!! In both cases staff made no effort to stray from the ordinary and were happy to take the easy way out. In today’s competitive business environment this is just not good enough!

If your staff is happy, they will be motivated to do wonderful things for your guests! Here are a few simple pointers for hoteliers…

-Give an opportunity for the staff to experience the product from a client’s perspective. Have your staff stay at the hotel with their family at least one night a year. This allows them to ‘tinker’ with the product and get to know it intimately. They also experience the soft side of the product as well.
-Inspire them to take extraordinary actions for the welfare of the guest. Encourage them to break the rules if they have to satisfy the needs of your customers. Empowering your employees to take action and correct problems is what new age customer service is all about.
-Make recognition an integral part of your culture. Never waste an opportunity to recognize. Don’t wait till the end of the month, excellence needs to be recognized right away. Strike when the iron is hot, recognize and celebrate as soon as an opportunity arises.
-Listen and value feedback. During my days at the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington DC, every employee was invited to have a ‘rap session’ with the general manager
-Listening is pointless if no action is taken. Keep your employees informed, follow up!
-Engage your employees, show them you care. Do small things like a box of chocolates on their birthday, and why not their children’s birthdays! Offer them meaningful benefits.
-Promote a culture of development and learning. Give them opportunities to broaden their knowledge and skill base. Give them a chance to learn new things and be challenged. Offer tuition reimbursement and mentoring programs.
-Open up to your staff and engage them. Show them the value of their efforts in the overall success of the product. Let them see what your days looks like!
-Serve quality meals in your staff cafeteria even if staff must pay for it. This is one of the most common pet peeves among employees.
-Pay a competitive salary, you have a better shot at excellence!
-Be transparent, share company information with employees and set up a system to obtain anonymous feedback.

Happiness is contagious…when people are happy remarkable things happen!

By Teg Brar, MSc.

Seth Godin in his post ‘The problem with doing it by heart’ describes how he recently visited a noodle shop and clearly requested his noodles without the sauce! And he still gets the noodles with the sauce! The attendant responds ‘that’s the way they always come!’
The culture in some organizations discourages exceptional behavior, as a matter of fact behavior that is consistent and with the standard operating procedures gets rewarded. SOP’s if not introduced properly can themselves become stumbling blocks with employees experiencing ‘learned helplessness’. Everything goes well up until the time an extra ordinary request is received! Then the staff don’t know what to do; they either go to their manager for help or do it their way and the way they have always done it.
A key to providing dazzling service is to train, encourage and motivate staff to veer off the beaten path to please the customer. If staff feels really empowered to take matters into their own hands to make it right for the client, then an organization is on track to provide exceptional service.

Teg Brar

Technology presents a wealth of solutions for hoteliers wishing to wow their guests and get an edge over their competition and it necessarily does not mean a large investment. With a bit of creativity, it has become much easier to engage and build relationships with your guests resulting in loyalty and return visits. I  disagree that technology advancement has sacrificed personal service and on the contrary believe that the tools available today can make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. With a little bit of creativity your property can compete with hotels with much larger budgets.
Consumers now have the ability to seek out their preferred experiences and with a click can share their own experiences with the entire world through readily accessible social media platforms. For hoteliers this type of connectedness has its pros and cons.

  • What is promised must be delivered. Today’s guest demands transparency. The days of heavily overbooking certain room types, views and expecting guests to accept are over.
  • Reward those that share feedback or complain…because they give you an opportunity to make it right! The others might choose to share their experience with the world.
  • There can be no such thing as an unsatisfied guest; every guest must be satisfied before they leave the property
  • A happy guest is your best marketing tool
  • Build relationships with your guests
  • Treat problems as opportunities for improvement

Hospitality organizations that can build customer centric cultures will benefit greatly in our connected world. Social media amplifies the voice of the customer and satisfied customers are all hotels will need to be successful in the future.

Teg Brar

The cleanliness of drinking glasses in hotel guest rooms has been seriously questioned as evidenced in the video recorded in an investigation conducted by the hidden cameras of a TV station in Atlanta Georgia. Here are a few suggestions for hotels to ensure that drinking glasses are clean and sanitized. Read more…

The Concierge plays a significant role in the quality of a guest experience in a hotel. He or she is the ultimate insider who possesses a wealth of information and a network of contacts diligently cultivated over time. The ‘black or the red book’ may have been replaced by an electronic organizer, however the nature of the expansive knowledge remains the same. Their key to success is who they know! Their network of specialist contacts may not be necessarily listed in the yellow pages hence qualifying them as the scrupulously guarded secrets. Typical concierge requests may include restaurant reservations, theater tickets, a question about local transportation or where to check e-mail. But it’s the unexpected that makes this position so exciting. Obtaining a new passport in an hour, organizing an elephant for a photo shoot or planning an unforgettable marriage proposal for a client is what really puts the service to test! Read more…

My first post is dedicated to the greatest hotelier of all time – Cesar Ritz, whose name was associated with the famous Ritz Hotels known for their comfort, luxury and elegance. In 1898, he opened his very own first Ritz Hotel in Paris and also undertook management of the Carlton in London. The combination of both names ultimately resulted in the Ritz-Carlton that we know today!

Cesar Ritz was born on February 23, 1850, and was the youngest of the thirteen children of Johann – Anton Ritz and Kreszentia nee Heinen. They led a simple life in the small alpine community of Niederwald in the high lying Goms Valley in the Canton of Valais, Switzerland. The small remote village clings to the side of a mountain and at the time of Cesar’s birth, the population was a merely one hundred and twenty three inhabitants. Cesar attended primary school in Niederwald and like most children herded cattle in the alpine pastures during his holidays. At the age of twelve, he was sent to Sion, the capital of the canton of Valais, to learn French, German and English. At home, he spoke the Valaisan dialect with his family.

Read more…