Exceeding the Customer’s Expectations

The process isn’t that difficult, but it does take a few steps and some self-control.

We live in a world that is moving faster and faster everyday. Gone are the days of waiting. Those days have been replaced with digital downloads, self-service checkouts, and, at some hotels, self-service check-in. But in this world of fast, fast, fast, how do we stop and make sure we are exceeding our customer’s expectations? The process isn’t that difficult, but it does take a few steps and some self-control. Here are some things to remember:

1. Stop and listen to the customer. Good or bad feedback, we need to listen. Our guests have a lot to tell us. Maybe they want to pay a compliment to you or someone on your staff, so let them! Smile if they say something good. Pay attention and thank them for their feedback good or bad, and make sure even if it is something not so good to thank them for bringing it to your attention. We cannot fix an issue if we don’t know it exists.

A wise boss of mine years ago told me never to ask a guest “How was your stay?” Because they could answer that it was fine even if it wasn’t fine. Instead I was told to ask, “What is one thing we can do better next time you’re here?” And it worked. Often, the guest would say how wonderful their stay was. From time to time, they would tell me about an issue they had during their stay, and lo and behold I was able to resolve it before they had left. To this day, I still share that piece of advice.

2. Make sure you take the time to handle the situation correctly. A quick fix is great when it can be done correctly and to the guest’s satisfaction, but sadly, not everything can be resolved in five minutes. There are steps to make sure the guest knows we are in control of the situation.

Step 1: Adjust your tone when talking to the guest. There is nothing worse then being ready to strangle a customer service representative with your bare hands and having that rep gleefully grin back at you, making you think they are not taking you seriously.
Step 2: Take responsibility that you will fix the problem. Yes, you are at the front desk and you have never in your life fixed a toilet or an air conditioner or an odd drip coming from the ceiling, but the guest feels you are the best person to tell about the problem and that you should fix it NOW! NEVER, EVER say “That’s not my department.” Instead, let the guest know you can understand their frustration and you will be sure to get the issue at hand taken care of.

On a recent trip, my hotel room air conditioner was having a bad day, so I notified the front desk of the problem. The staff member said, “Someone will be up soon to resolve the matter.” I explained that I was stepping out and that they were welcome to enter my room when I wasn’t there. Imagine how happy I was to return to a nice cool room and to find a note left by maintenance stating that the problem had been resolved and if there were any more issues to let him know with his cell number on the card. Then, to top it all off, he left a small gold box that contained a piece of chocolate shaped like a hammer and a screwdriver. Fix the problem, make Scott happy, leave chocolate—now you are talking about love!

3. Not everyone is looking for a freebie. Several years ago, a well-known hotel chain started a 100 percent guarantee. I remember thinking when this first was announced, “Wow, good luck with that!” Here we are, a few years later, and it is still going strong and even branching into more hotels nationwide. What is interesting is that the hotel chain discovered that not every guest wanted their money back; some guests just wanted to let the hotel know they had an issue. Maybe the issue wasn’t taken care of before that trip was over, but the staff was able to make sure the guest was happy with compensation or a refund if necessary.

So remember, when exceeding guest expectations, it isn’t always about the giveaways or the freebies. Sometimes it is acknowledging the guest’s loyalty and business that keeps them coming back again and again.

Scott Merrick is a Training account manager at Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.


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