“Our strength is great customer service,” I exclaimed on my most recent sales call.
“Great, the last 10 sales people I spoke to claim to have the same strength,” said the planner from ABC Company.
It is our jobs to sell our strengths and win business against our competition, so we all better have “great customer service” or we are already fighting a losing battle. What we really need to focus on is not customer service, but “customer wowing”!
Customer service is actually an overused term that we beat our customers over the head with daily. How many times have you heard this claim to fame? Customer wowing, on the other hand, is an opportunity to convert one time buyers into life long customers by creating an environment that eats, sleeps and breathes service. (Now really – that should be easy for us…. we have food, we have beds, and well…. we have service, right?)
Going beyond expectations is the key. Being proactive, not reactive. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am NOT advocating spending oodles of money to get the same revenues. I am talking about, and advocating going above and beyond what the customer expects without the customer prompting us to do so thereby driving more revenue.
Here are a few NO or LITTLE money ideas:
1. At check in, instead of saying welcome and thank you for your loyalty to our rewards program, you say, “Happy Tuesday! If you are looking for a great meal tonight, the ABC restaurant next door is featuring all you can eat catfish! As a loyal ‘brand’ customer – just show your key to them and they’ll give you 10% off your check.” (BTW – please make sure what you are featuring is real and the restaurant really is featuring catfish and giving discounts!) Do you think your customer will remember this greeting versus the one they got at the last hotel they visited? This would also be a great opportunity for your sales team or GM to go to the restaurant next door, or down the street, and work out a deal for your customers. Think vendor partnering!
2. Instead of having just coffee, decaf and hot water in your coffee station, what about a flavored coffee/tea of the season (or a flavored creamer). Let the front desk know and share the information with guests checking in or checking out. “We have pumpkin coffee (peppermint tea, etc.) today if you are interested in a seasonal pick-me-up!”
3. Instead of a bottle of water at check in – give them something specific to your location, or seasonally appropriate. (You should have water available just in case the customer doesn’t want the special item.) If it is summer, how about lemonade or iced tea. If it is fall, how about apple cider or cranapple juice. If it is winter, how about hot chocolate or hot tea. If it is spring, how about a flavored fruit water. Make local products and beverages available for purchase in your Market.
4. What about smell? Have you thought to touch the senses of your guests with the smells of the season or childhood? Think happy smells like chocolate chip cookies, all spice, evergreen, gardenia, blueberry muffins, peaches, etc. All these types of potpourris are available and can be strategically placed to just “touch” the senses of your guests (just don’t overwhelm them!).
5. Pay attention to the way you and your staff answers the phone. Slow down, be clear and friendly, “It’s a beautiful fall day in Quakertown, thank you for calling the SpringHill Suites. My name is Linda, how may I be of service?”
6. At check out, or during wake up calls, tell the customer where they are and what the temperature/forecast will be. “Good morning. Welcome to Sarasota. This is your requested wake up call. It’s going to be a beautiful day with temperatures between 80-82 degrees and only a 10% chance of a shower!” Or, “We hope you enjoyed your time in Lake Placid. Button up – it’s a chilly 52 degrees this morning with chances of snow showers.” Be extraordinary – don’t settle for the same ole’ same ole’.
7. Make sure EVERYONE on your staff is prepared to speak with guests. Housekeepers may be asked about places to dine, maintenance people may be asked for directions…. it’s not just the front desk agents that get the questions. Instead of a housekeeper or maintenance person saying, “I don’t know, just ask at the front desk,” wouldn’t it be nice if they said, “my favorite Italian restaurant is Mario’s on Main Street. I always get the chicken parm and just love it”? Practice with your staff at departmental meetings and stand ups. Creating situations where associates are treated as respected members of the team empowers them and gives them pride in their job. Use departmental meetings to put together FAQ sheets with commonly asked questions. Work with your staff and help them design the responses and practice them in role play.
8. If you have associates with a lesser command of the English language, arm them with a series of flash cards. Create a card that says, “I speak Spanish fluently, but very little English. Would you like me to call my supervisor to help translate your request?” Teach them how to follow up with customers who need assistance! Arm your English speaking employees with similar flash cards but translated in Spanish, French, German, etc. that help non-English speaking customers! “Lo siento, no hablo español. Un momento por favor. Voy a llamar a mi supervisor.” Use Google Translate to help you create the cards.
9. At breakfast, have your breakfast attendant, GM, or sales person, cruise through the area with a pot of coffee (pitcher of water) going table to table offering refills. You will get to know the customers, nip any issues in the bud, or encourage guests to post their comments regarding service on social media.
10. Get an umbrella stand and put 4-6 logoed umbrellas inside. Keep them near the front door and encourage the guests to “borrow an umbrella” if the weather warrants. Don’t be the police and make people check them out. You will be surprised how few walk away. If you don’t feel confident with allowing guests to borrow umbrellas, station yourself near the entrance and walk the customer to their car! Keep a roll of large trash bags behind the desk to cover luggage or carry bags to protect them from inclement weather.
11. Keep an “in case of emergency” stash at the front desk. Stock it with socks, a tie, nail glue, disposable camera, flash drives, and other items not readily available in your market but critical to a business meeting or important event. Hilton calls it, “As If By Magic” program. Develop and customize a similar program for your hotel and wow the customer when they tell you they forgot to pack an item and you are (as if by magic) able to produce that item for them. DON’T GO CRAZY! I bought a few pairs of men’s black socks, 2 ties, a few pairs of nylons, and similar items when I stocked up our kit in East Hartford. Talk to your GSRs and ask them what guests have asked for in a pinch. Talk abut a wow moment when you reach down and pull out a pair of socks for the best man in the wedding!
12. Sales managers should invite key clients and potential clients to join them for breakfast. Most of you have complimentary breakfast, and what better way to show off your amenities by having them visit you on their way to work. This is a perfect way to showcase associates wowing other customers.
13. Have maintenance workers or housemen, clear windshields of snow in the mornings. Guests will be very appreciative of the extra level of service.
14. Pick one guest every day and upgrade them “just because”. If you are not fully committed for the day, select one customer who might be staying one night and wow them by giving them a free suite, spa room, fireplace room, or other specialty room. Why not – the room will go down empty anyway!
15. Station your GM or Sales Manager in the lobby during prime check in or check out. Lobby Lizards have great opportunities to meet/greet customers, talk to them about their stay, or rebook on the spot. It also makes any wait seem less when you are engaged in conversation while in line. You may also have a service recovery opportunity that might only have appeared when they complete their survey. Have GSRs or Lobby Lizards ask guests checking out “if you were to receive a survey regarding your stay in our hotel, were there any items/amenities/or situations encountered that you could not honestly rate us a 10?”. Hopefully the customer will give you feedback.
16. Create a “quiet zone” at breakfast. Select an area of the breakfast room and display signage noting that it is a “quiet zone”. Your corporate guests may be very appreciative. On the other side of the coin, if you have teams or groups of children full of energy, open up your meeting room during breakfast and display signage noting “team dining area” to encourage them to dine in this area and (perhaps) improve the noise factor for other guests not with the group. Of course you must be courteous and not tell a family with children that they can’t sit at the only open table in the “quiet zone” – you must be diplomatic and play every situation by ear.
The key here is to catch the customer off guard (in a good way) and show you genuinely care and that you are “listening” to their comments. Start simple with the way you communicate with your guests. Make it a point to dazzle your customers.
I’d really love to hear about your ideas!