A Simple Way To Win Your Customers’ Loyalty

The Roger Smith Hotel, New YorkI’m going to tell you a story about my weekend. Bear with me – it goes somewhere…

A tale of service

This weekend Caralin and I flew down to New York to see our favourite comedian Eddie Izzard at the Madison Square Gardens. I’d heard great things about the Roger Smith Hotel from people like Chris Brogan, Keith Burtis and Julien Smith, and after spotting their Bacon Package online, it was a natural choice for our place to stay.

When we arrived, we immediately noticed that the bacon truffles promised in the package we’d purchased (no, really!) weren’t in our room. No biggie, but as we’d looked forward to trying them I called down to the desk and mentioned it (I threw out a tweet too). The person manning the desk said they’d check into it, but that perhaps they were meant to arrive the next day. A few minutes later, we received a call from the front desk manager, who apologised and said he’d like to send us a bottle of wine for the mix-up – would we like champagne, red or white wine? I also got a response to my tweet (and subsequent “wow” tweet) from @RSHotel – their own Twitter account. Needless to say, we were very impressed, and my non-social media friend accompanying us was floored.

Fast forward a few hours (and a bottle of wine), and as we tried to sleep we discovered that our room’s heater apparently had a whole family of badgers in it – that, or the steam made it incredibly loud every few minutes or so. As a result, we slept very poorly and were exhausted in the morning.

After staggering downstairs bleary-eyed we mentioned it (sheepishly – I don’t like complaining) to the front desk staff the next morning. Without skipping a beat, the lady at the desk apologized and immediately offered us an upgrade to our room, to perhaps the nicest suite I’ve ever stayed in.

The point of the story

This isn’t a story about our weekend in New York; it’s a story about customer service winning-out over problems which could have become a focal point of our stay in New York.

Yes, the problems could have been avoided. The room might not have been possessed, and the truffles (which I now crave, as we never did receive them) could have been there as promised. Still, these things happen sometimes. However, the response of the staff at the Roger Smith Hotel to these problems was fabulous. From start to finish, they completely won me over with their friendliness and helpfulness, choosing long-term reputation and loyalty over short-term savings. No amount of marketing budget could build the impression I have of them now. Lots of companies could benefit from this approach.

As a result, despite the problems (in fact, perhaps it’s because of them) I’ll be staying at the Roger Smith Hotel whenever I travel to Manhattan.

The moral of the story: It’s not just the problems that matter; it’s how you respond to them.

What other companies have you had this kind of experience with?

(Image credit: Retro Housewife)

24 comments
Keith Burtis
Keith Burtis

Dave, I'm glad you had the chance to stay there. The sleep thing surely sucked, but your point is well put. They do have a culture of service there and they extend that out to the digital world as well. We all know there is never a dull moment at Lilly's as there is always a friend close by.

Keith Burtis
Keith Burtis

Dave, I'm glad you had the chance to stay there. The sleep thing surely sucked, but your point is well put. They do have a culture of service there and they extend that out to the digital world as well. We all know there is never a dull moment at Lilly's as there is always a friend close by.

Chris Brogan...
Chris Brogan...

It's a quirky beast, the Roger, but I love the way they handled it all. Top shelf, naturally.

: )

Chris Brogan...
Chris Brogan...

It's a quirky beast, the Roger, but I love the way they handled it all. Top shelf, naturally. : )

karim kanji
karim kanji

Great post about customer service. I think this story is more about great customer service than it is about social media. SM, in and of itself, i think, is not a solution but part of a customer service and marketing strategy. Or at least it should be.

In this hotel's case, it seems they have always had great service and are using tools like twitter to help them provide their outstanding service.

Thanks for the story!

kk

karim kanji
karim kanji

Great post about customer service. I think this story is more about great customer service than it is about social media. SM, in and of itself, i think, is not a solution but part of a customer service and marketing strategy. Or at least it should be. In this hotel's case, it seems they have always had great service and are using tools like twitter to help them provide their outstanding service. Thanks for the story! kk

Archan Mehta
Archan Mehta

Dave: It is always a pleasant surprise to read your pieces because you write about interesting experiences. You have fascinating opinions to share with your readers. Regarding customer service: regardless of whether you are selling a product/service, always try to stay close to your customer(s). In this case, for example, maybe it would have been wise for the hotel management to have prepared a check-list. They could have called you in advance and asked about your tastes and preferences and tweaked the check-list accordingly. And then make doubly sure the room is in order! Make sure (in advance) to avoid inconveniences. These days, discerning customers appreciate a business that is prepared to go the extra mile. Customers also like it if the business takes their personal eccentricities into account. Businesses that are on the cutting-edge try to differentiate themselves by providing a product/service that "adds value" and is different from all others in the market. Hence, the focus on tailor-made and customized experiences to wow the customer. This can also encourage repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals. Great customer service also translates into a beneficial PR strategy. Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for putting in all the hard work, and would like to congratulate you for providing such an excellent blog and articles.

Archan Mehta
Archan Mehta

Dave:

It is always a pleasant surprise to read your pieces because you write about interesting experiences. You have fascinating opinions to share with your readers.

Regarding customer service: regardless of whether you are selling a product/service, always try to stay close to your customer(s). In this case, for example, maybe it would have been wise for the hotel management to have prepared a check-list. They could have called you in advance and asked about your tastes and preferences and tweaked the check-list accordingly. And then make doubly sure the room is in order! Make sure (in advance) to avoid inconveniences.

These days, discerning customers appreciate a business that is prepared to go the extra mile. Customers also like it if the business takes their personal eccentricities into account. Businesses that are on the cutting-edge try to differentiate themselves by providing a product/service that "adds value" and is different from all others in the market. Hence, the focus on tailor-made and customized experiences to wow the customer. This can also encourage repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals. Great customer service also translates into a beneficial PR strategy.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for putting in all the hard work, and would like to congratulate you for providing such an excellent blog and articles.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

"You don't like to complain"? But Fleet - you're a Brit! Great customer service is the new PR. True, customer service should always be great, but now that you have blogs, Twitter, YouTube and other channels there's no hiding place for bad service. Just as it's a great promotional place for fantastic service. I wonder how long it'll be before companies looking at social media will put as much energy and focus on keeping (or getting) the service right as they do the sales or the marketing? They're all closer to each other than many folks think. I take it you got your bacon terminator thingy? :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

"You don't like to complain"? But Fleet - you're a Brit!

Great customer service is the new PR. True, customer service should always be great, but now that you have blogs, Twitter, YouTube and other channels there's no hiding place for bad service. Just as it's a great promotional place for fantastic service.

I wonder how long it'll be before companies looking at social media will put as much energy and focus on keeping (or getting) the service right as they do the sales or the marketing? They're all closer to each other than many folks think.

I take it you got your bacon terminator thingy? :)

Promotional Products
Promotional Products

I consider myself a customer service snob. I will not go to a place where the service is bad. I will pay way more to be treated right. I think your post is a great reminder for everyone to think about. Treat people right, do good work, and they will stay with you for a long time and get you a ton of business.

Promotional Products
Promotional Products

I consider myself a customer service snob. I will not go to a place where the service is bad. I will pay way more to be treated right. I think your post is a great reminder for everyone to think about. Treat people right, do good work, and they will stay with you for a long time and get you a ton of business.

Dave Doolin
Dave Doolin

Stayed at the Cooper Square last April.

Outstanding customer service there as well.

It's a funny place though, real high tech structure: it "twangs" a bit.

And the walls are a bit thin (because of the high tech structural engineering), but that could well be seen as a benefit... Deetjens in Big Sur makes bank on that respect.

Dave Doolin
Dave Doolin

Stayed at the Cooper Square last April. Outstanding customer service there as well. It's a funny place though, real high tech structure: it "twangs" a bit. And the walls are a bit thin (because of the high tech structural engineering), but that could well be seen as a benefit... Deetjens in Big Sur makes bank on that respect.

Rob Lee
Rob Lee

Nice to hear that they made the effort to fix things, although they should learn from the experience and make sure there aren't things to fix in the first place. A lot of businesses see "Customer Service" as nothing but an isolated cost-centre, to be staffed at the lowest possible wages - to me, that's "penny wise, pound foolish" for two reasons: 1) True customer service isn't what your customer facing staff provide, it has to be what your whole organization is committed to providing, from one end of the experience to the other. If you isolate "customer service" to a department, a role, a call centre, etc, then what is the rest of your organization doing for your customers? 2) You get what you pay for, or in this case, the customer gets what you pay for - disengaged, stressed customer service representatives. The chance of them going the extra mile to make things right (like the staff at the Roger Smith Hotel did for Dave) is pretty slim, which is not going to win you repeat business. Good customer service isn't a cost to a business, if done right it's a revenue generator.

Rob Lee
Rob Lee

Nice to hear that they made the effort to fix things, although they should learn from the experience and make sure there aren't things to fix in the first place.

A lot of businesses see "Customer Service" as nothing but an isolated cost-centre, to be staffed at the lowest possible wages - to me, that's "penny wise, pound foolish" for two reasons:

1) True customer service isn't what your customer facing staff provide, it has to be what your whole organization is committed to providing, from one end of the experience to the other. If you isolate "customer service" to a department, a role, a call centre, etc, then what is the rest of your organization doing for your customers?

2) You get what you pay for, or in this case, the customer gets what you pay for - disengaged, stressed customer service representatives. The chance of them going the extra mile to make things right (like the staff at the Roger Smith Hotel did for Dave) is pretty slim, which is not going to win you repeat business.

Good customer service isn't a cost to a business, if done right it's a revenue generator.

Stefano Maggi
Stefano Maggi

The most interesting thing is - IMHO - that problems are actually opportunities. This applies to brands of all levels. It costs less than most people think to turn a critic into an evangelist. And this is what they did for you. Lots to learn from this hotel.

Thanks for sharing.

Stefano Maggi
Stefano Maggi

The most interesting thing is - IMHO - that problems are actually opportunities. This applies to brands of all levels. It costs less than most people think to turn a critic into an evangelist. And this is what they did for you. Lots to learn from this hotel. Thanks for sharing.

Chris Norton
Chris Norton

Dave, interesting post - I hope Eddie was good.

You can't beat great customer service - I often find it bizarre that service based businesses like utilities companies have terrible customer service - surely this is what makes you stand out from the competition. I think good service should be applauded as these days we don't always get what we deserve.

Chris Norton
Chris Norton

Dave, interesting post - I hope Eddie was good. You can't beat great customer service - I often find it bizarre that service based businesses like utilities companies have terrible customer service - surely this is what makes you stand out from the competition. I think good service should be applauded as these days we don't always get what we deserve.

Robin Houghton
Robin Houghton

You're absolutely right. The right response can turn things around dramatically. I think it comes down to people, and how they are treated by the company employing them. If someone is responsible for customer service they must be empowered to put things right when they go wrong. The company has to realise that if employees are encouraged to respond in this way, the majority of customers would feel the way you did - delighted. Unfortunately (and I'm sorry to say this happens an awful lot in the UK) hotels are staffed by minimum wage, put-upon and disengaged people who at best would like to help but can't, and at worst don't give a *$@!*. Scary.

Robin Houghton
Robin Houghton

You're absolutely right. The right response can turn things around dramatically.

I think it comes down to people, and how they are treated by the company employing them. If someone is responsible for customer service they must be empowered to put things right when they go wrong. The company has to realise that if employees are encouraged to respond in this way, the majority of customers would feel the way you did - delighted.

Unfortunately (and I'm sorry to say this happens an awful lot in the UK) hotels are staffed by minimum wage, put-upon and disengaged people who at best would like to help but can't, and at worst don't give a *$@!*. Scary.

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  9. [...] to Wanjiku and apologized and even offer to accommodate her gratis the next time she was in town. @Davefleet has an exceptional case on how best hotels should respond to win their customers’ [...]

  10. [...] this incredible recount by Dave Fleet on how to win your customers Loyalty – A Tale of Service. It shows an incredible use of Twitter by a Hotel which has made it the epitome of customer care [...]