The Importance of Creating Legendary Customer Experiences

By John Ely Senior Vice President of Marketing, Signature Worldwide | October 28, 2008

A new trend is shaping customer service, and it goes well beyond simply providing what guests expect. Today, customer service is being measured against a guest's experience in total - all of your guest's interactions with your company, your facilities, your products, your services and, most importantly, your people.

While customer experience has fast become the industry's new buzz phrase, most are still having a difficult time differentiating between good customer service and a legendary customer experience. The following story helps separate the two.

In my previous job, I was responsible for a project that involved bringing the company's 200 largest clients to the corporate office to get to know the senior management, tour our facilities and learn more about our new products. As part of the tour, I brought the guests in a day early and took them out for a nice dinner with our senior managers.

On the surface, the mere scheduling seemed daunting. Each of our clients would send multiple representatives, and I scheduled up to four clients on any particular tour. Also, I had as many as five or six colleagues joining us for dinner, which meant I was responsible for more than 50 corporate dinners that included anywhere from 12 to 20 people.

For my own sanity, I created a rotation of four restaurants. The first round of dinners went just as planned. All of the restaurants served fantastic food, had great atmospheres and offered quick and attentive service. For all practical reasons, I was completely satisfied. Then came my second trip to the first restaurant in the rotation, which made clear the difference (and value) in creating a legendary customer experience versus simply satisfying me.

Upon entering the host said, "Welcome back Mr. Ely, we're glad to see you again. The last time you were here, we noticed you had a large party, and it seemed to be business related." The host went on to say, "I saw on the reservation that you had a party of 15 tonight, so I reserved one of our small banquet rooms for you at no extra charge. I thought this would create a better atmosphere."

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.