As a corporate housing company we are always looking for ways to add value to our furnished apartments, add conveniences, and increase the comfort for our guests. Whenever I travel, whether it be for business or personal reasons, I am keenly aware of not just the differences but the striking similarities that exist across the broad spectrum of travel and tourism service providers. There is a fairly predictable script that is acted out- a routine, a process, an itinerary, a schedule….a lot of “predictability”. From airlines, to hotels, rental cars, restaurants, conference facilities, and corporate housing – it’s all really very predictable. You book your place, reserve your spot, check in, check out, pay your tab, and it’s a done deal. When everyone plays their part the trip is uneventful and everyone is content. There is nothing really memorable – good or bad – about this experience.
But what happens when things dont go as planned? When the customer wants something different? What if their request doesn’t fit into the routine? These are the times that create memorable experiences, they are incredible opportunities for the companies that recognize them and incredible pitfalls for companies that don’t. For me, I don’t always remember the good service that I’ve had and I don’t always remember the bad ones. But I always remember the ones when my expectations were exceeded by a company that acted outside of their script to provide a solution to solve my needs
If you think back and try to remember an occasion where you had outstanding service, what comes to mind? For most it’s something that occurred outside of the norm. A company, a person, or a group of people that behaved in such a manner that made you feel unique, as if you were special, like their best customer. Perhaps it was a time where you needed something that didn’t fit within the typical “script” or maybe you were hesitant to ask for it because you were all too familiar with the typical response. And to your delight the company responded out of script to solve your needs, to act outside of the boundaries of the norm to treat you special. And you will likely always remember that company.
On the flip side. You might remember some of the more frustrating service experiences that you had. Maybe you had a need that arose, you asked for a solution, and not only was it not solved but their was no attempt made to solve it. Despite the fact that the company likely had the resources to solve your needs it simply chose not to because it didnt fit within their script, it wasnt in their “job description”, the person helping you had no authority to help you, and so on. You were left feeling as if you should have gone elsewhere with your business.
Creating value is great, adding comfort and convenience is also great- but they dont always create loyal customers. There is a long list of service providers that provide value, convenience, and comfort when it comes to corporate housing. But what happens when something goes out of script, how do they respond? Are their employees empowered to do the right thing or are they saddled with rigid corporate guidelines and procedures that don’t allow them to do what they know is the right thing to do. Or maybe it takes them too long to even react to something outside of the norm, leaving their customers waiting and wondering.
This last point is really critical. There a lots of good people that work for service companies. These people are smart, caring, and professional. But they are handicapped by the very organizations they work for. They are not allowed to react quickly to the changing needs of their customers and solve problems on the fly. In short, they are discouraged from seizing the very opportunities that would create loyal customers for their companies in the first place. This is why only very few service companies achieve the level of creating loyal customers, and for that matter loyal employees as well.
John Mackey, the co-CEO for Whole Foods Market ( a great Colorado company known for creating incredibly loyal customers and employees) was asked this question in a recent interview- What’s the secret to creating loyal customers? This was his response. “We’ve all been frustrated when an organization hides behind “I can’t do that” or “it’s against policy”. The policy is often stupid, and the person saying they can’t give you what you want knows it’s stupid. But their hands are tied. At Whole Foods, we empower our team members to do whatever it takes to make the customers happy. Does that mean that they occasionally make mistakes? Of course. But if serving the customer is the primary goal, it’s better to make a mistake by being too lenient than it is to alienate someone.”
John points to the heart of what truly matters when serving customers and creating loyalty. We exist solely for the customers, they are the reason we are here. So when your customers have a need your employees will solve it no matter what it takes regardless of what your procedure manual says. And when your company culture is supportive of this approach you will achieve extraordinary results creating loyal customers that will return to book your corporate apartments year after year. Finally, don’t wait for these opportunities to present themselves- go ahead and talk with your customers, seek out their opinions and encourage them to make you better. Go outside the script and surprise them with acts of extraordinary service. They will look forward to being delighted by your service and tell their friends and coworkers of the extraordinary experiences they have.
Housing Helpers provides corporate housing and services furnished apartments in Colorado for business travelers and those seeking a spacious alternative to hotels and extended stays. We look forward to delighting our guests and exceeding their expectations at every opportunity!