A client recently told me he prides himself on sending handwritten notes to employees.
As the vice president of a large hotel chain, he has never met many of these people in person so this is his way of making a connection. Like his hotel brand, he strives to create an experience that is memorable, personal and increases guest loyalty. He’s trying to get his property managers to look for ways to show appreciation to their own employees.
While not suggesting they begin a note-writing campaign, he says it’s like a trickle-down theory. If managers express appreciation to employees, those workers will feel valued and that will spill over to how they engage with guests. Well put. This is a guy who gets it.
Yet so many brands focus on stuff. How many bottles of shampoo should be put in a room? Should extras like mouthwash be provided? Cafés might agonize over what type of napkin or plastic silverware to use. Car dealerships are big on free coffee and snacks.
While extras are nice and some, such as those warm, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies served at Doubletree hotels, are clearly memorable, most people don’t remember the little stuff. They remember the experience. They remember the value.
At a hotel, that might translate to front-desk service, food quality, comfort of a bed and perhaps the strength of a shower. If it’s great, they may be willing to pay more. But in all cases, they’ll remember the people they came in contact with and how those people made them feel.
As an example, a J.D. Power and Associates’ 2012 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study reported that “loyalty rates are much higher among guests with a high opinion of the hotel staff.” Not only will travelers repeatedly return to the same hotel, but they are more inclined to use various hotel services, such as eating at a hotel restaurant.
Jessica McGregor, senior manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates, says: “A friendly, service-oriented staff helps drive top- and bottom-line financial performance, not just satisfaction, by also generating greater repeat business and positive word of mouth.”
Loyalty rates among happy customers surely apply across industries. Look no further than Apple or Amazon.com, companies that continually exceed customer expectations. A recent study reported that seven out of 10 Americans shop at Macy’s at least once a year. That’s 70 percent of our population.
In published reports, the company’s chief marketing officer said Macy’s isn’t focused on getting more customers but rather they want to enhance the experience for existing customers so those people spend more time at their stores.
In today’s age of social media, word of mouth is the most powerful advertising tool you have. Customers perceive who you are as a company or brand by the way you interact with them and they are a click away from telling the world about that experience. So if you truly want to maximize loyalty and brand recognition which equals profits, try minimizing the focus on stuff and maximize exceptional communication and service.
A few weeks ago, I had a bad experience at a national office supply store. I filled out a complaint form online and was willing to give it another chance, but my complaint was never answered. I was annoyed and decided I’ll never shop at that store again.
Interestingly, as I was researching information for this article, I learned that 50 percent of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them. Additionally, nearly 90 percent of consumers switched to a competitor following a poor customer experience (the source on that is RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report).
We continually tell our clients that communication is about connecting. Online or off, when you establish an emotional connection with someone, even if it’s something as simple as knowing their name or sending a thank-you note, you create a more personal experience that says we care about you. You can give away gift cards, coupons, amenities or an endless variety of stuff, but it’s the human connection that will keep your customers coming back.