I’ve spent some time thinking about a topic for my inaugural blog post, when a topic presented itself thanks to an experience I had while visiting Los Angeles. Customer Service.
My wife and I booked a room at the Thompson Beverly Hills. The hotel was “fully booked” (I say overbooked) and we checked into a “lovely room on the seventh floor” with “a great view of Los Angeles”. Disappointingly, our guest room was the small salon room to a two-room suite. Our bed was a small pull-out sofa bed!
What is good customer service? Meeting a customer’s expectations is good customer service and exceeding those expectations is great customer service. In your business’ branding, marketing and sales efforts, what expectations are you encouraging your customers to have about your business? What promises are you making about your product or service? If there’s a mismatch between what your business promises and what you’re actually able to give, providing good customer service will be a hard hill to climb.
I’m a low maintenance hotel guest and don’t subject a hotel and its staff with demanding expectations. But one basic expectation I have of a hotel like the Thompson is to have a real bed in my room. In addition, since it was a salon room, it didn’t have many of the items I expect to find in a normal guest room, such as end tables, hotel guide, luggage rack and a clock within reach of the bed.
Receiving a terrible room was enough to mean poor customer service, but how the hotel went about it, made it worse. They presented the room as a standard room and when we inquired about why our bed was a sofa bed, their reaction made us feel like we were high maintenance guests. How should your business deal with potentially poor customer service? Should your business be proactive or reactive? If the hotel had been proactive, explained the situation and offered us a guest room at another nearby hotel or an affiliate hotel and perhaps given us some small complimentary items or services, we would have felt the hotel provided good customer service despite the hassle of going to a different hotel. By not being proactive, the hotel dug itself an even deeper customer service hole from which to climb out. A company trying to pull a fast one with a customer is a sign that it doesn’t care about its customers’ experiences.
Proactive actions may often cost a business more in the short-term, but it helps build a foundation for longer-term repeat business and favorable word of mouth. Reactive actions may often avoid costs in the short-term, but destroys longer-term relationships. In our case, the hotel received a couple of nights of room charge, parking and internet service revenue. However, they lost food & beverage revenue and any future visit revenue from us and perhaps others.
Of course, there may always be those folks who aren’t satisfied no matter how much your business tries to meet their expectations. Still, you try your best and when you realize that their expectations are out of whack with what you’re offering, then it’s time to part ways. They’re a disproportionate drain on your time and resources anyway.
This concept of customer satisfaction could be expanded to how people in businesses interact with others. Everyone else that you interact with is a customer. Within a business, your boss, subordinates and colleagues are your customers and outside a business, employees at your vendors and customers (in the traditional sense of the word) are also your customers. Why should you give your subordinates and vendors good customer service, after all don’t they work for you? Because by giving others good service, you’ll receive better service yourself. After all, you can’t do everything yourself anyway.
Providing good customer service should be a primary goal of every company that wants to be successful and every person that wants to succeed at work. Treat everyone as your customer, present your capabilities realistically and exceed expectations.