One of my favorite quotes is: “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” There’s much debate as to the owner of this quote but that’s not what matters. What matters is that this sentiment succinctly sums up the significance of stellar customer service, particularly in today’s competitive, highly saturated market.
In an instant, a poor customer experience with one of your brand’s associates—like a too-emotionally charged conversation or a lack of responsiveness—can wreck a previously solid relationship. After all, the hospitality industry is built on relationships, and customers vote with their wallets. It’s why 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, according to a CEI Survey.
Customer experience success, therefore, is built upon creating life-long relationships based on positive emotional memories. As customer experience leaders, our job is to inspire these values in our teams: Equip associates with the emotional key drivers and a strong functional direction that paint for them a clear picture of how their behavior will have a direct impact on business and financial success.
So what are three things your associates need to keep in mind to cook up a winning customer experience?
1. Know Your Customer: To best serve your customers, you have to understand them intimately—this means having a handle on their buying preferences, pain points and customer experience preferences. Invite your customers to tell you about themselves so that you can create an effective guest journey. And, as you develop your customer road map, be true to your brand, mission and the values that you want to bring to your customers. In so doing, you’ll ensure that at each guest touch-point, you understand their needs and anticipate their needs prior to asking.
2. Have a Personal Touch: Customer service cannot be plug-and-play or one-size-fits-all; rather, you have to understand what your customers need and deliver those personal elements to their experiences. Manage expectations so that you create a genuine, caring emotional connection to your guests.
3. Create a “Wow” Experience: Pay attention to the small details of the guest experience and to the clues customers give you to create legendary service. Anticipating the needs of your guests will differentiate you from your competitors. Be sure to share the “wow” stories with your team so they too can strive for creating those top-notch customer service experiences.
Memorable customer service is all about bringing your service skills to a higher level by understanding the difference between a customer who is simply engaged and one who is truly satisfied. Superior customer service—which leads to that “wow” experience—is about building genuine, caring relationships that will turn first-time customers into long-term brand proponents.
So pick up on clues (e.g., how observant your associates are in reading your customers and how satisfied your customers seem), always put your customers first, and reinforce company expectations continually.
And remember, at the end of the day, great leadership means leaving a trail of happy customers along every path you travel.