What is the singular reason behind the success of a business? Here’s a clue: it has very little to do with the product, the employees, or the boss.
The answer is the customer.
Why then, do so many businesses try to give the customer what they want. Wait, what? Notice that I didn’t say “give the customer what the customer wants.” And that’s the problem. All too often, the customer is given what the business projects them to want, meaning what the business wants them to want, which many times is not at all aligned with the customer’s true needs.
Check out 3 hotels that are absolutely crushing what it means to provide great customer service:
Company: Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Case Study: In 1999, the (now) Chairman and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Barry Sternlicht ignited the transition from ill-thought bedding to the now infamous Westin Heavenly Bed® by investing $75 million in 110,000 upgraded, consumer-tested beds. Sternlicht explained the customer-focused reasoning behind the overhaul: “I have always been somewhat astounded by how little hotel companies invest in their beds considering that our primary product is a good night’s sleep.” Soon after the transition, Starwood market share skyrocketed. Today, the company is a hotel market leader and sells the Westin Heavenly Bed® through their online marketplace.
Takeaway: Sternlicht knew that what was in the best interest for the company at the time (cheap bedding), was not in the best interest of the customer. Investing in his customer’s needs proved an immediate and massively successful return on investment.
Company: The Ritz Carlton
Case Study: When Chris Hurns’ family visited the Amelia-Island Ritz Carlton in 2012, they had a great stay, but it was what happened after they had departed that compelled the CEO of the Mercantile Capital Corporation to blog about their experience. Upon returning home, it was discovered that Joshie, his son’s beloved giraffe, had been left behind.
In an effort to subdue his child’s worry, Hurn reassured him that, “[Joshie] is just taking an extra long vacation at the resort.” After a brief call with the Ritz Carlton’s Loss Prevention Team, it was discovered that Joshie was safe, and the hotel assured Hurn that they would corroborate his story about Joshie’s extended stay. Two days later, Hurn’s son had Joshie back in his arms, along with a scrapbook of Joshie’s “adventures”. Turns out that the missing giraffe had visited the spa, made multiple friends, and was even given a Loss Prevention Staff badge that allowed him to be a part of the Ritz Carlton team.
Did Hurn’s son care much about anything aside from the safe return of his buddy? No. Did Hurn and his wife decide right then and there that they would be frequent return customers? You bet they did. Hurn was so impressed that he wrote a blog in the Huffington Post about this experience. Marketing literally doesn’t get any better than that.
Takeaway: The Ritz Carlton knows that personal attention to a guest’s needs will result in return customers and word-of-mouth marketing from the guests themselves. As if he were part of the Ritz Carlton marketing team himself, Hurn wrote, “Create an experience so amazing that someone can’t help but tell others about it, and you’re sure to succeed.”
Company: Marriott International
With the exception of Social Tables, this is the best thing to hit the hotel and meetings industry in decades. Marriott International has completely redesigned their customer service technique by taking the frustration and immediacy off of the shoulders of event professionals. Instead of offering the standard contact list of hotel staff, Marriott has literally placed the power to submit crucial changes into a planner’s hands.
Bonus: If you book 75+ rooms with the Marriott, they’ll give you a free mini iPad.
Takeaway: Marriott identified a need that wasn’t being met by their clients. Then they did something about it. Now, Marriott has considered an industry thought the leader in customer service.
Got customer service down pat? Learn how to retain customer loyalty here.