A few years ago whilst working on the south coast of NSW, I stayed for a couple of nights at a hotel booked for me by my client and on my first night, I checked in around midnight.
The registration clerk who greeted me at the reception desk offered to collect my bags from my car and then showed me to my room. During the couple of minutes that this took, he had found out a little about what I did and he was also aware that I was feeling hungry after a long and very busy day. Unfortunately room service had closed, so there wasn't much that he could organise for me, other than suggest that I could grab a snack from on top of the bar fridge in my room.
He mentioned that the hotel's air-conditioning had been playing up, so he had put a small fan heater in my room about a half an hour earlier, so that the room would not be cold. I thanked him for his courtesy and after putting my bags in the room, he left and would not accept the customary tip.
After unpacking my bags, I then went to look at the snacks on top of the bar fridge but nothing was appealing, so I prepared for bed. A couple of minutes later, the phone rang and it was the friendly registration clerk to say that he had checked to see what restaurants were open in the area, and he could organise a pizza or some pasta and salad to be delivered to my room in about fifteen minutes. Again I thanked him for his courtesy but told him that I had decided to go to bed.
Before he hung up, knowing from our discussion when I arrived that I had an early start the next morning, he asked would I like a wake up call. This being organised, he then said those genuine customer service words that we all love to hear, ' Thanks for staying with us Mr. Ready; I hope you have a great nights sleep '.
Now I know that a story such as this always sounds much better when you hear it spoken rather than in print, however, I am sure that you can gain a feel of how this story exemplifies the importance of first impressions in business.
My story doesn't end there. My great first impression was progressively undermined over the remaining two days of my stay; by such things as a leaking toilet, a room that was very poorly cleaned and maintained, a lack of warmth in the room, a towel hook that hung from the back of the bathroom door, plus a level of service in the restaurant best described as ' memorably forgettable '. To top it off the desk clerk on the day shift was the complete opposite to his counter part that greeted me on my arrival. My excellent first impression had suddenly become a never-ending list of examples of poor customer service.
At the end of my stay I asked to speak to the manager to let him know how great the service was on my arrival and also how bad it got from there on coupled with the lack of response to my requests to have the problems fixed. As he was not available to speak me I left a message and my contact number for him and then made a point of calling the evening desk clerk that evening to thank him for his great service.
To this day, I have not heard from the manager of the hotel and I am sure that I never will. Despite the goodwill created by the registration clerk who greeted me and offered me great service when I first arrived, I won’t stay in that hotel again and my custom has been lost for good.
In absolute contrast to this experience of poor customer service, let me share with you how genuine service and attention to detail has turned me into a powerful advocate for another motel.
A year or so later, I was conducting a series of customer service seminars in the New England region, and once again my client had booked a motel for me to stay at in Glen Innes. Everything about the service I received at this motel was beyond what I could ever have expected. I was greeted on arrival, welcomed with a handshake and a friendly smile, and shown to my room. At 6.00 a.m. the next morning I enjoyed a country style breakfast and as I checked out the owner of the motel thanked me for staying with him and gave me a crisp, fresh, red apple to eat as I drove on to Inverell.
The Central Motel in Glen Innes is owned and run by David and Rosemarie Bryant and is one of some ten motels in the township and since that first visit, I have stayed at the Central Motel on several other occasions. However, the most significant fact is that in the course of that time I have conducted over 1000 seminars and workshops for over 70,000 people. At nearly all of these seminars and workshops; I have told my story about how the great service at the Central Motel and the little extra touch of the crisp, fresh, red apple on my departure encouraged me to stay again.
I have no vested interest in the Central Motel, other than being a delighted customer who likes to tell the story of how well I was treated. My story also reinforces that word of mouth endorsement and unsolicited publicity (which is often the hardest to obtain), will follow in abundance if you just treat your customers with genuine courtesy and respect.
If one thing can be learnt from my experience, it is that attention to detail pays handsome dividends when it is coupled with genuine and sincere customer service. It also reaffirms that most often it is the little things that count in business if you want to create and build long-term customer loyalty. These little things are the Moments of Truth in customer service that makes you say WOW - wonderful ooh wonderful, and cause you to spread the word.
Let me finish my story with a question. If you had occasion to stay overnight in Glen Innes, which motel would you choose? I am sure that the answer is enough to verify that we all need to look for the apples in our business ... then deliver them to exceed the expectations of our customers.
Written by Keith Ready and inspired by David and Rosemarie Bryant - The Central Motel in Glen Innes, New South Wales, Australia.
Since this article was written, David and Rosemarie Bryant have sold the Central Motel to Trevor and Michelle Staunton and I gather that they have continued to deliver the same level of extra-ordinary customer service.
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