There's No Recession on Guest Expectations
By Rob Rush CEO, LRA Worldwide | August 07, 2010
Recently released unemployment figures indicate a continued rise in that cheery metric to 8.5-percent, a 25-year high. Even in light of some modest signs of life, the credit and housing markets continue to limp along as well. And despite the OK from President Obama to pursue business travel and corporate meetings, the damage may have already been done and those markets remained strained.
Human beings, however, must travel and, in fact, are traveling. I recently returned from business trips to Europe and South America, where most of the planes and hotels I saw were fairly crowded. I spoke with many folks genuinely excited to be on the road, scratching their burning itch to travel. Having watched the impact of at least two deep recessions and 9/11 on leisure travel during my career, I can report that this is a very resilient group. Despite the bad news and tales of woe on a daily basis, the need to travel is hard-wired into most of us. Volume may be off for a bit, but this market always bounces back as businesses conclude that one can only accomplish so much through a phone call or Web conference.
To succeed, businesses need to be face-to-face with prospects and customers, so I don't question whether a vibrant travel economy will return. It will. I'm more concerned by the damage some brands are doing to their customers and their reputation during this downturn, which brands will emerge in a better position...and which will be left in the dust.
Based on research my firm has conducted - as well as anecdotal information we've collected - customers are holding companies and brands more responsible then ever for delivering engaging and satisfying customer experiences. Simply put, customers are raising the bar. Quite frankly, they're not concerned with how the lousy economy may be impacting your business or how you've had to adapt to protect your business. And these expectations are coming in the face of staff and service cutbacks, where many businesses are trying to do more with less. Why now, you say, when many out there are struggling just to keep the doors open.
Reason Number One:
Customers (remember they're people) are a selfish, self-centered lot, principally interested in what's good for themselves. During this recession, I've found that many of us, including our customers, are understandably on edge. Feelings of entitlement are growing. Customers see every encounter they have with your business through their own lens and respond accordingly. They have zero interest in your company's organizational alignment or strategy, only how that impacts their experience. They expect your front-line people and managers to be good problem-solvers, resourceful and ingenuous, without regard to the company's rules and protocol. Patience is limited.