October 17, 2011

Great Customer Experience = Empowered People

Location map of ArgentinaImage via WikipediaSo I have been on the road for the last couple of weeks. My trips took me to Buenos Aires and  Mendoza, Argentina, then Santiago, Chile.  During our stay in Argentina and Chile, Manon and I discussed how good the service was in our hotels. We stayed in some pretty nice places and the staff was very much on the ball and going the extra mile.

An example: We get to this hotel in Buenos Aires and the first thing I do after a long flight is run for the shower. I get in the shower and the water is only lukewarm. It's somewhat unpleasant, but not so much that I want to call about it and I'm thinking that tomorrow it's going to be fixed magically. The next day it still is the same. I decide to call. I kid you not, less than 2 minutes later someone is knocking on the door to explain they have turned up the water tank temperature and it should be fine in 5 minutes. Indeed the water is then really warm and all is good again in my universe. We get downstairs at the front desk and then the person there tells us they are happy to have fixed the issue, "but please next time don't wait, let us know right away, we want you to enjoy your stay!"

Another example: We're in Santiago and our flight is at 7 pm, so really we have a day to spend in Santiago and we're not looking forward to carrying our luggage with us all day. So we ask the front desk about it, and the response is"Yes, how about you keep the room until you leave, so you can take a shower before you go for your redeye flight". I don't know about you but I think this is another great attention. Try to get this from a hotel here in North America and let me know how that conversation goes.

These two examples are from South America. They are not from world renowned brands either. They are boutique hotels, 20 room max places. South America is not a culture of commerce by any means, but they do know and understand that going one step above what their customers' expectations are makes a HUGE difference. This special attention makes customers talk and refer business and ultimately bring business. So without any further ado the two boutique hotels are
Customer Service Experience Design

Well the people we spoke or interacted with were not the owners of the hotel nor were they the managers. They were the staff. Yet they pay attention AND they want the customers to enjoy their stay. What is missing in our big hotel chains here, if you ask me, is that employees on the front line here don't own the customer's experience. I should say they don't believe they own the customer's experience - and this is a big difference. The managers of employees in big hotel chains unfortunately rely on and believe a customer experience is all about processes and forms and a completely deterministic model. 

The big challenge when designing a customer service experience is to think more than strictly in terms of objectives it should deliver against. Objectives are important but it's only one aspect that needs work. Statements like our customer experience is one of pro-activeness, caring etc. are very common. Objectives are not the whole thing; we need to look at a bigger picture. 

An aspect that will trump all objectives is empowered people. Customer facing people and owners of customer facing artifacts must believe and be fully engaged in owning the customer experience. The hotels I stayed at in South American all understood that its people were all about making me happy with my requirements. 

Great experience starts with the people hired. Then it's the time the organization spends helping those employees understand how that same organization paying their salaries empowers them to deliver a unique and great customer experience.  Then and only then can we start talking about objectives. 

The difference in a great customer experience service delivery and a so-so one is the people on the team and their understanding of their central role in the experience the customer perceives. My opinion is that the company culture is at the centre of everything we do. Evaluating how the company culture is enabling our people taking ownership is vital. 

1 comment:

Simon T. said...

I am the first to admit that whenever a company is going the extra mile for me, be sure that I am going to let people know about it ;). But its also important not to let little thing pass, ex shower in Buenos Aires. People are afraid to complain to companies about small things like that but how can they fix it if they don't even know there is a problem.

Just pick up the phone and ask nicely if someone could come fix the problem. If you hadn't call the next day you would probably have kept a very bad impression of the place and talked about it in bad ways to your friends. The hotel would have been unhappy and you too because you had a unpleasant stay.

Great post Frederic