How do you deal with the pains of customer service?
I work in the hospitality industry, and I spend a lot of money on what I call "guest investments" where I give some sort of discount, free merchandise, etc. in order to win back customers when something goes wrong. I can't tell if it's working or if I'm throwing money away. How does your business deal with the challenges of customer service and keeping people happy?
First, it isn't a pain. You exist because you have customers. Second, invest in training your employees rather than in fixing problems that they've created. The most highly trained employees (in customer service) at Disneyland are the people who are continually sweeping up in the park -- they're the people with whom visitors most often come into contact, and Disney recognized that they (the sweepers) needed to have lots of customer service training. Guy
Free anything should be a Last resort. First you need to decide how petty or unrealistic their complaint is and how important their business is to the company. I would estimate that 25-33% of the complaints fit the "Not important" category and can be let go. The rest of them need to be addressed and answered. Giving anything away is for the best customers that have been around and keep the business running. Words and deals in writing mean more than a "Gift" that they didn't earn..
Business is about customers. Every business needs to be customer centric. Customer service should be looked upon as an opportunity to please customers so that they return time and time again. The most successful companies have established an emotional bond with their customers so that their brand and the customer are synonymous.
Hi Jason, this is a great question and especially in the hospitality industry your best bet is to look for a proper customer loyalty programme. Instead of just giving customers discounts here and there you move it in to a manageable programme that could help you establish loyalty, branding and will also help you sell more of your products and services.
A loyalty programme should always be customized and never generic. Don't just give things away. Yes, if a customer complains about a bad experience, you have to do some damage control by giving away certain services for free, offering free memberships/ breakfast, a free golf lesson etc. However to make sure customers are coming back, it is vital especially in your industry that you have a good designed loyalty programme. The programme should benefit the customer but also your business. It's a win-win if you will.
Many golf clubs have different membership levels and a loyalty programme could benefit each membership level in a different way. This would add value to the clients but not necessarily give everything away for free.
We deal a lot with businesses in the hospitality industry and in our experience, giving away things for free doesn't necessarily provide value to customers. Adding them to a specific service they receive/ purchase does provide value.
I've seen on your website that you do have a loyalty programme (Lynx Card) but it seems to be restricted to residents of Florida. If your main clientele is people from the area then that's fine however I guess you have a lot of people travelling from other places who are not "locals". Am I correct in saying this? Therefore I would suggest to look into a programme that could benefit both locals and non-locals alike.
I like the esign up but again, it is not providing immediate value to clients.
If this is the case, I would see if you can redesign the programme to suit your needs.
Other than that you could add a referral scheme for somebody who brings a new member. A referral scheme could be a monetary compensation in form of a check, gift voucher etc. or a service (1 month membership free if you introduce somebody/ an overnight stay with b&b in your lodge etc.)
Customer service is always mistaken by just giving away products and services but it is much more than that.
Something you could do immediately that will help you evaluate your customer service levels:
- Mystery shopping/ secret shopper - you can find out how friendly your staff is to the customers, how attentive they are, how they upsell/ cross sell etc.
- Show customers what is available in the area. If you are working with local vendors you could help them get more business as well. Show your clients what's available when they check in (I'm sure you do that already).
- Make sure that all your staff is trained to the highest standard of service (that includes the waiters/ waitresses in your establishment). A lot of times we find that servers are overlooked and underestimated when it comes to great customer service and they don't get the treatment that they should get. They are the face of your company and dealing with customers every single day, selling your products and services. If one of the is unfriendly, has a sour-puss (grim face) all the time, not smiling, not attentive, than this reflects back to the business. Getting the server staff trained is a great investment, even if they only stay for 1 year with you. You will find that most servers would stay longer if they are trained and coached properly and have a positive work environment
- Make sure that every person that checks in is aware of the Lynx card (or loyalty programme) and get them to sign up on it to receive immediate benefits. The receptionists are usually the ones who should take care of this.
- Up-selling is not sales but good customer service that will end up bringing more revenue to your business and in turn makes your customers happy. Don't underestimate up-selling. Many people believe it's a sales technique to get more money out of a client. This is not the case. A great up-sell is to provide additional value and benefits to customers and give them the power to decide if they want to go ahead or not. It provides the right information for what they want to do and considers their feelings and needs at the time of purchase. It's not about pushing more products on to your customer but to really provide information that is necessary to make a valued purchasing decision.
I hope this is a bit helpful and if you would like to get some more ideas, I'm happy to talk to you personally to brainstorm a bit more.
You could also have a chat with my business partner Aga who looks after customer service and loyalty (my core expertise is sales growth while Aga is looking after developing customer service and building loyalty for our clients.
Let me know if you have any more questions and I hope this is of a little bit of value to you and your business.
Feel free to connect on LinkedIn if you would like to discuss this further.
Thank you and wishing you success.
Please don't take this personally (I do this for a living), but the "pains" of customer service? Honestly, with that attitude you are probably throwing money away. If you believe that making good on your commitments or managing a positive customer experience is a "pain" then you should probably take a serious look at what you do, what you offer, and the expectations that you set with your customers and make sure those are in line with what you and your staff can reliably deliver time and time again. Perform a customer experience mapping and lay out what a positive customer experience looks like in the eyes of your customers (i'd highly recommend enlisting some of your customers in this exercise). Then look at the people, processes and systems you have in place to support this experience. For the gaps that surface figure out where you need to invest vs where you need to reset expectations in the customer experience.
"Guest Investments" should need to be made as infrequently as possible. If they happen on a regular and reoccuring basis, you should be taking a look at the root cause of the problem because you will never get ahead unless you fix what's causing these investments to happen. Being good at "fire fighting" is great but not scalable or financially viable.
My guys were once working on a $225 job and scratched up a wall that required a $600 paint job to fix. Did I pay for the paint job? You bet I did! I've now got a loyal customer for life. She knows we stand by our promises.
I mean, sure, some of the money ends up being thrown away. But even that's an investment because you can't know ahead of time which customers will turn into long term very profitable customers.
That's a different issue from the training. If my guys scratch a wall again, then it starts coming out of their paychecks. So I view all "guest investments" as an alert that we need more training to reduce the mistakes.
Also, in my world, customer service is never a pain. Customers that complain are a blessing because they help me fix problems before those problems sink my business. Some customers will never be satisfied, and I fire them. And I embrace customer complaints (and make them right) because that helps me build a stronger business.