After a long day of business meetings, sightseeing or catching up with old friends, travelers appreciate arriving at a comfortable and clean hotel room to rest their heads. And, generally, all anyone really wants is a clean and quiet place to shower, shave and sleep. Everything else is gravy.
Yet, I would argue that hotel staff and managers have the hardest customer service jobs out there. Travelers have all sorts of peculiar needs and expectations. And, in my experience, luxury hotels do an amazing job of providing them. Below, I’ve listed three things businesses can learn from the hospitality industry to create a more seamless and memorable customer service experience.
1. Attention to detail
Some of the most impressive things hotels do go unnoticed. From the careful setting of toiletries to the thoughtful placement of furniture, hotel staff have paid close attention to dozens of minor details that collectively enhance the quality of your stay.
In 2012, travel writer Sarah Lee noted some of the neat extras that came with her room at the Shangri-La Toronto. These included an in-room iPad, a Nespresso machine, complimentary bottles of water, remote-controlled drapes and blinds, a nightlight, steam-free mirrors and under-floor heating.
Although these amenities may seem superfluous, they go a long way in making guests feel right at home.
2. Personalized experiences
To effectively serve its guests’ unique needs, Accor Hotels piloted a new customer recognition program. For a month, staff checked guests’ public social media profiles to learn their interests, and what they then did with that information is inspirational. Hospitality marketing expert Josiah Mackenzie explained the personalized offerings for a variety of types of guests:
“For the guest who likes fine dining, [Accor Hotels provided] an all-day behind-the-scenes tour of Tru in Chicago [a luxurious French dining experience], along with a night at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower.”
“For the guest who likes fishing, an eco-friendly fishing trip in the San Diego Bay.”
“For the guest who likes luxury cars, a certificate to drive a Ferrari and Lamborghini.”
“For the guest who likes lounging in spas, a day at the Hela spa in Washington, DC, plus an overnight stay at the Sofitel.”
“For the guest who likes sports, VIP tickets to a hockey game between the San Jose Sharks and the Red Wings.”
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts is another hospitality company that has focused on "personalized" experience. Because travelers visit new places to seek out local experiences, Hyatt improves guests’ experience by bringing local culture to its hotels. According to the VHT blog:
“Grand Hyatt in San Francisco commissioned local artists to paint its walls with images that embody the essence of the city.”
“The upcoming opening of Hyatt’s Andaz luxury hotel in Tokyo will deliver ‘an unscripted, Japanese-inspired experience to guests that will help them feel truly connected to the heart and soul of Tokyo.’”
“The Grand Hyatt Taipei, with its courteous staff of locals, has become an ‘iconic’ symbol of the capital by both nationals and tourists.”
3. Going 'above and beyond'
Ritz-Carlton guest Chris Hurn relates the above-and-beyond customer service his wife and two children enjoyed when they returned home after a stay at the Ritz-Carlton. They arrived home only to realize that a family member named Joshie had gone missing.
Joshie, was, and is, none other than a stuffed giraffe; and Hurn’s son was particularly fond of the toy.
In a blog post, Hurn wrote, “[My son] was absolutely distraught when faced with the idea of going to sleep without his favorite pal.” So, to ease his son’s mind, Hurn fabricated a story about Joshie taking an extended vacation. By a stroke of luck, the Loss Prevention Team at the Ritz phoned the Hurn family that very evening to tell them they had found Joshie.
On that call, Hurn made an unusual request. “I came clean to the staff about the story I told my son and asked if they would mind taking a picture of Joshie on a lounge chair by the pool to substantiate my fabricated story." The Loss Prevention Team happily joined in the ruse. Wrote Hurn: "I hung up the phone very relieved.”
Pretty good customer service, if you ask me. But what the staff at the Ritz did next surprised everyone. “A couple of days went by, and we received a package from the hotel," Hurn says of what occurred. "It was my son's Joshie, along with some Ritz-Carlton-branded ‘goodies’ (a frisbee, football, etc.)."
Also included in the package: a binder that meticulously documented Joshie's extended stay at the Ritz. This quirky photo evidence of Joshie enjoying his time alone at the Ritz absolutely delighted the family. And by offering it, Ritz-Carlton transformed what could have been a family tragedy into an opportunity to deliver happiness and a lot of smiles.
So, what is your company doing to transform its customer service? The next time you stay at a fancy hotel, be mindful of the things the staff does to make your stay exceptional. Perhaps you'll learn something!