While it appears as if the need for customer service is going away, eventually the consumer has to have human interaction. We in destination marketing know a traveler can make a hotel reservation and book a flight online. They can get tickets to a show or attraction online. They can check luggage with minimal personal interaction and the flights offer minimal personal interaction. Eventually though they get in a taxi, get to the front desk of a hotel or are greeted by the wait staff at a restaurant. There is where the visitor must encounter exceptional customer service.
Pete Winemiller is the Sr. VP for Guest Relations for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shared recently that 32% of customers leave a business due to death, moving away, friends’ influence, being lured away by the competition or dissatisfaction with the product. 68% though are turned away by an attitude of indifference on the part of a company employee. That visitor center volunteer’s customer service wasn’t necessarily poor, but it wasn’t so good either that the consumer felt that it truly mattered to that volunteer that they were visiting Anywhere-ville!
Pete puts it another way: “People will forget what you did. People will forget what you said. But they won’t forget how you made them feel.” The Certified Tourism Ambassador Program suggests we exceed customer expectations making for a memorable experience. I’ve been delighted to experience customer service at its best or at least to the point that it created a truly memorable experience!
Last summer, my family traveled with two other families to Wisconsin Dells. After a night at an amusement facility (think Chuck E Cheese on crack), on the way back to the resort we stopped at a convenience store to get something to drink. I went in with four kids under 10 years of age. You don’t typically think of convenience store clerks as the most customer friendly but this guy gathered the kids around the counter and did a magic trick! It was a simple thing with a quarter and a slight of the hand but to a 10, 9, 9 and 6 year old, it was cool! And after spending a week in the Waterpark Capital of the World, you know what they talk about just as much as the water slides? The magic trick! Clearly a memorable experience!
A conference took a colleague and me to Claremore, Oklahoma, in the end of January. We stayed in a Comfort Inn. I’ll admit, my expectations weren’t too high. I considered driving to and from neighboring Tulsa to stay in something a little higher on the hotel food chain than a Comfort Inn. But I conceded and stayed in Claremore. While we were there, overnight a thin layer of ice covered the town. As we left the property, the sidewalks had de-icer tossed on them. When we got to the vehicle, I was pleasantly surprised to find the hotel staff had tossed salt on the parking lot between the vehicles! The ice wasn’t completely melted as we got into the vehicle but it clearly exceeded my expectations of what a hotel staff would do to the sidewalks and parking lot after an ice storm! That exceeded this customer’s expectations!
Our family just visited Branson over spring break. We visited a small pizza place in West Branson. As a customer, I expect drinks to be refilled without even asking so I was initially bothered when the nice lady asked the table if we needed refills. When my 10-year-old son said yes, she turned to me and asked if it was okay. As I checked out, another little girl came to the counter and asked for a refill. The waitress told her ‘just a minute’. After she got my credit card slips to sign, she went to the table where the girl was sitting and asked her mom if the girl could have a refill. I realized she was getting parents’ permission before giving kids another serving of sugar water! Greatly appreciated! When she came back, I asked her if she was a mother herself. She said no. “I just assume all families have been at Silver Dollar City all day drinking pop and the last thing they need is more caffeine and sugar this close to bed!” I pulled out cash and doubled her tip! That’s customer service!
I am sure you can think of a time when your expectations were exceeded, when someone truly showed appreciation for your business, when they created a memorable experience! I challenge you to model their actions or those examples above. Together we can exceed customer expectations and create a memorable experience for our guest!