Visionary Experience Leaders, Are You Conquering Customer Loyalty?
by Kate Nasser |
Visionary customer experience leaders know that it takes more than a thin veneer of customer care to turn customers into their loyal advocates.
When you think of Ritz-Carlton, the image is one of universal excellence not because of the high end price tag but because the leaders consider every single aspect of delivering customer care. From vision through execution, the focus is success through the ultimate customer service.
This can happen in any organization of visionary leaders committed to superior customer experience.
It is a deep commitment, where loyalty takes root. The opposite of that — conquering customer loyalty with a few broad strokes — blocks the root of success and prevents growth.
Image by: Blockpartypress via creative commons license.
Plant Deep Roots for Customer Loyalty
The classic advice for building customer loyalty — from listening to the customer, planning & designing, to employee empowerment, brings success IF you attend to every aspect of it.
Recent Customer Experience: A Strong Growing Root Cut in Two Defensive Moments
- On several trips to Minneapolis area, I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Eagan, MN. As a Hilton Honors member, I checked the Hilton family of hotels first for my upcoming trip. The Garden Inn had the features that I needed: Clean comfortable hotel near the work site, restaurant onsite, shuttle service to/from airport, accessibility to taxis, and a good star rating.
The first trip delighted me with positive customer service attitudes from managers and staff. So I automatically booked the Eagan Hilton Garden Inn for the second trip. Again, the service attitudes were warm, welcoming, attentive to detail, and flexible on special requests.
I thus booked it for the third trip on this project. My customer loyalty to the brand and property was well on its way. They had removed all reasons for me to even consider another hotel.
And then it happened. During that stay, they reserved a taxi for me to get to the work site. I came down at 7:15am, went outside to the cab driver, and he asked me for my room number. I replied that for safety reasons of course I never give out my room number. I gave him my first name and asked him if I was his ride? He insisted on my room number. I asked if he would like to go back inside with me so they could indeed confirm that I was his 7:15 am ride. He agreed.
I described the situation to the Karen at the front desk, gave her my name, and noted that of course I don’t give out my room number. She looked in the reservations book, looked me in the eye, turned to the cab driver and said, “Her room number is 210.”
Karen gave out my room number and threw my request back in my face with blatant disregard for my preference and concern. Shocked, I said to her, “Excuse me, you just gave my room number to this man.”
Karen replied, “the cab company requires it”.
I thought to myself: You take orders from the cab company and push my preferences and safety aside?
Instead I repeated, “You just gave this man my room number.”
Karen replied, “Nothing has ever happened.”
I thought to myself: So you will change the procedure after something bad happens? There is a reason room keys don’t have room numbers printed on them.
Nonetheless, I simply repeated one last time, “You just gave out my room number. How are you going to fix this?”
She then fired the final bullet: “Are you going to argue with me or are you going to get in the cab?”
What??#!? Since when is a customer objection to a hotel’s mistake seen as arguing? I immediately asked to speak with a manager. She replied: “I am the manager on duty.”
After work I spoke with Jason, the general manager.
Even though he put me in a suite, comped me a room, and gave me dinner, he showed that he too defined customer experience as a veneer of customer care. He, general manager, severed my loyalty when, in the middle of telling me how sorry he was, added that Karen was a good manager.
Wrong Jason. A good manager doesn’t verbally attack a customer communicating a safety concern.
Karen’s approach to conquering my objection with an ultimatum about getting in the cab couldn’t even be called customer service. It was a rude, low class, insulting personal attack to silence me and get me out of the hotel. It showed defensiveness about her mistake and incompetence in service recovery.
If Karen were a staff member, you would consider remedial training. When a manager makes this attack and the general manager defends this manager as capable, it is a statement about the brand’s definition of a great service experience.
Although, they stated they would never again use any cab company that requires room numbers, their purely reactive view of great service means customers will suffer a bad experience before the hotel learns and improves. It also says nothing about delivering great care when a customer is highly dissatisfied — another critical moment, the studies show, for securing loyalty.
When I checked out the next morning and Karen was at the desk, I wondered how many other customers would unfortunately suffer that day and in the future. My memory is one of gross disrespect and disregard for me — not one of a free room and dinner.
I now have a reason to consider a different hotel brand for my next trip.
The root of customer loyalty grows from a deep and pervasive care about everything that affects the customer. The root at the Hilton Garden Inn Eagan stops growing at the bedrock of management’s expectations of its front line managers and the thin veneer of care that defines their view of great service.
In the next post, Part II of this customer experience, I will provide a deeper list of the steps to customer experienced based loyalty. In the meantime, ask yourself — How do your staff and managers react when customers object?
Do they listen with great care and use their empowerment to make significant changes? Or do they snip back to conquer the customers’ objections and pretend to care with a thin veneer?
If you think they are doing it right, dig deep to make sure. Almost sure isn’t enough to build customer loyalty.
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™
Related Post: THE Threat to Superior Customer Experience
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on customer service & experience, employee engagement, teamwork, and leading change. Kate turns interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.