Recently, I was travelling extensively for business in the United States. I flew various airlines, stayed at different hotels and ate in numerous restaurants. Of course, where I travelled influenced the kind of experience I had (hard to beat the Midwest and South for congeniality), I give credit to the organizations for creating the right environment for their employees to be successful.
Here are two companies that stood out primarily because of the employees I dealt with:
Marriott (congrats on taking my business away from Hilton - you earned it!)
Here's a shining example of how my loyalties will shift. I have always gone out of my way to stay at Hilton Hotels - I could always count on affordable options, great staff and comfortable rooms (especially for business). I was a happy and satisfied customer. On a recent Hilton stay, I found out that I could not earn award points (for my Hilton rewards program) because I booked my stay via a third party (a silly policy). I challenged it with the front desk and after getting nowhere contacted customer care. When I still couldn't make any progress, I wrote a respectful letter to one of their executives. Not an even a response. Suffice it to say, I was ripe for the taking.
So I decided to try Marriott. Here's how easily they took my business from Hilton. I encountered the exact same problem. I joined their reward program and booked via a third party. Once again, and only after I finished my stay, I learned that my three nights wouldn't qualify for rewards points, a policy that is absolutely not customer friendly! This time, after my average Trip Advisor review of the property, I received a note from the property General Manager (same day!) to address the concerns I had from my stay, including the points issue.
In this case someone reached out to me proactively, the best first step for any company to make when made aware that a customer wasn't entirely satisfied with his/her experience. This makes us feel like you care and that you are interested in understanding what went wrong, even if you can't resolve things to our full satisfaction. It took only two back and forth same day exchanges with the General Manager to secure my repeat business.
I received the 3 things that most of us are after when not entirely satisfied with a company's experience:
- An apology - For my average experience and one that was SINCERE
- Empathy - I felt like I was being heard and that there was GENUINE care to make things right
- Resolution - I was given full credit for the rewards points I hadn't received
United - Your employees saved the day!
The greatest challenge facing North American airlines is on time departure and cancellations. Now, I am a safety first kind of guy, so I applaud airlines for making decisions that negatively impact the customer experience in the interests of passenger safety. The challenge is that flight delays and cancellations aren't always related to flight safety - other operational issues present themselves too.
Recently I flew United on an international flight, connecting via Chicago. By subscribing to their smartphone app, I was able to track my flights. I would get notified of any delays, enabling me to move about while in the airport and not be bound to my gate - a great customer first initiative! On this occasion, weather was the reason my first flight was canceled. I waited for my turn to speak with a United gate agent to rebook my trip but I wasn't optimistic as my final destination was a smaller U.S. city with limited flights in and out.
The mood was tense as United agents and passengers alike were anxious to learn if they'd spend the night at the airport. In this regard, United could have been better organized and been more proactive keeping us informed. It's when my turn came up that I saw the terrific employees they had running the show. I was met with a smile, and immediately taken through every conceivable scenario to rebook. Along the way, and faced with a growing tension from the passengers in line, this group kept their composure. 30m later I was re-booked :).
Well done United! - your employees made a difficult and stressful experience much easier to handle! They also found a creative way for me to still make my trip the next day (an important meeting could not be missed). And they did things quickly and gracefully.
These are two example of company employees getting customer service RIGHT. There are great examples I come across every day, and it's important that as industry professionals we take time out to recognize employess working tirelessly to represent their brands and do right by their customers.
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