The New Game Of Telephone!

It has never been more important than now to have a very well planned and executed Customer Loyalty Program. Customer Loyalty has always been important because we naturally want to share our stories and experiences with one another… it goes back to that fundamental desire for us to be known by others.

We have more and more ways to communicate and share our stories with others. It is no longer a select few people who have a voice beyond just their family and friends… now the whole world has access to our stories in many cases.

I am “relatively new” to the social media space over the last five years and I personally have:

  • 565 friends on Facebook
  • 600+ Connections on LinkedIn
  • 184 followers on Twitter
  • … and a couple of hundred subscribers on each of my two blogs

That is nearly 1800 “quantifiable” people who I have access to hear my stories about the good and bad experiences I am having with products, services, and companies… but anyone can read my tweets and read my blogs so it is actually much larger than that!

So, in a world that is more and more interconnected we never know who we are making loyal or disloyal. The lowly system administrator (so says the former technical geek) may also be a very successful social media guru and have over a million people they can reach with their stories. If you are not creating a place for EVERYONE to share broadly about why they are loyal or disloyal to your company…you are running a high risk of missing a vital opportunity to turn around those disloyal customers.

Loyalty study objectives should be:

  • Give every single customer a voice
  • Measure loyalty (statistical and anecdotal)
  • Find out what things to improve/change to increase customer loyalty (continuous improvement)
  • Leverage extremely loyal customers (references, etc)
  • Turn experiences around for disloyal customers

Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa… so much potential, but ends up disappointing!

This summer I decided it was time to take my family on a memorable summer vacation. It had been nearly 3 years since we had been on a true vacation due to my work commitments after the company I work for was acquired. Don’t get me wrong, I still spent lots of time with the family, did some weekend getaways, and even had multiple “workations” where the family traveled with me and they played while I worked… but we hadn’t had a true “bona fide” vacation for way too long.

After looking at our options my wife and I agreed it would be great to visit Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. We figured this would be the perfect mix of driving distance from Seattle (14 hours), outdoor adventures, and great selection of hotels. I started mapping our journey and decided we would stop at Missoula Montana for one night, then head onto West Yellowstone Montana for two nights, and then Jackson Hole Wyoming for 4 nights and then map a new route home while in Jackson Hole. I don’t know about you, but we are pretty frugal with our money. When we go on vacation however we try to have a portion of the trip where we get to live it up for a few days too. We mostly stay at reasonable hotels under $150 a night and then we always pick one really nice resort type hotel in the $300 range that we stay at for a few days too.

Ok, so now that you know the back story and how amazing our trip was, let me focus on one part of our journey that had so much potential, but ended up disappointing…

When I was searching for hotels near Jackson Hole I found a lot of potential hotels that looked good, but decided to use Trip Advisor to find the “cream of the crop” for the price range I was looking for. I heard really good things about the Teton Village which is outside of Jackson and ended up looking for hotels in that area. I came across “Teton Mountain Lodge”. The reviews were amazing, it had 192 reviews and was rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by those reviews… I thought to myself…. Jackpot! I went on their website and found a really good rate, plus I found a coupon to reduce the rate and give us a daily breakfast credit. I booked my reservation and was all set to go. I decided to call them the next day to inform them this was a special family vacation and we would appreciate a great room assignment. The person on the phone was VERY helpful and said I was booked on the 5th floor (top level) and facing the Teton Mountain range… perfect!

When we arrived at the Teton Mountain Lodge it was right at the foot of the Teton Mountain range and the scenery and hotel were both beautiful. I went inside to check-in and the front desk staff was again VERY helpful and welcoming, a bellhop was immediately there to help me and he was one of the best bellhops I have ever had. The bellhop gathered our luggage and room keys and we took the elevator to the second floor?? .. ok I wasn’t going to say anything even though I was a little surprised… we got off the elevator and walked down a long hall and took a left… but wait… the mountain was to the right… hmmm…. when he opened the room it was really VERY nice accommodations and had a balcony… so again I didn’t say anything. Once the bellhop left I decided to go out onto the balcony and check out the view… I still hadn’t decided if I was going to say anything to the front desk. When I opened the sliding glass door I immediately heard this really loud wind sound… it actually sounded like a hurricane! I looked down and there was a large metal grate on the ground floor the size of two large SUV’s…I think it might have been a really large air conditioning unit… whatever it was.. it was VERY loud! Plus the view although decent was of the valley NOT a view of the mountain!

I went inside and my wife asked me what was wrong… because I don’t have a great poker face. I told her I was pretty disappointed with the room because I had gone through so much trouble to make sure it was going to be that “cream of the crop” part of the trip. Yes the room amenities and decorations were great, but the valley view and the fact that I had a constant mechanical hurricane out my balcony really diminished my “value for price” assessment of the room. At that point I decided to approach the front desk with the issue and explain gracefully the whole situation.

The front desk supervisor was again VERY pleasant, but she was unable to find another room that night and said she might be able to move us up one floor and on the mountain side the next day… but we would need to be out of our room early in the morning and would not have access to our new room until late in the day. It sounded less than ideal because we have 2 young kids that sometimes need to take naps, but I told her I would talk it over with my wife and let her know. We decided it would be too difficult to repack everything and not have access to the room all day, so I called her and told her that wasn’t an option for us and we ended up staying in the mechanical hurricane room. When I asked her why we lost our assigned room she was not able to give me a straight answer. I found out from another staff person that the Teton Mountain Lodge is run like a hotel, but each room is independently owned and if one of the owners decides to come… even last minute… they get priority. That makes sense for the owners, but can leave guests like us out on a limb.

I bounced back and enjoyed our stay. The hotel staff was great, the food was good, the location was great, the room setup and décor was great… and overall it was a good stay, but on the day of check-out I decided to give them one more chance to recover my business and told the front desk manager what had happened. She was VERY polite, apologized, and even offered us one free night stay during our next visit. I know this was a nice gesture, but it just didn’t sit well with me or recover my loyalty. I would have much rather had a credit for one night rather than a hook to get me back for another visit. I thanked her and left still feeling disloyal to the Teton Mountain lodge.

After getting resettled at home and work for a few days I started reflecting on our trip… and then I received a email survey from the Teton Mountain Lodge. I took the survey to see what would happen… my whole blog is about “Fantastic Failures” and I wondered if I filled out the survey would I receive a follow-up and would they recover my business and loyalty. A few days letter I received a personal email from the front desk manager and she said she remembered talking to me at check-out and re-iterated her offer for a free one night stay in the future… I was really happy they followed up on the survey to “close the loop”, but if the offer didn’t sway me the first time it wasn’t going to work the 2nd either.

Yes the trip was fantastic, but as a Loyalty professional I like discussing my real life experiences here on my blog and what I find that make people loyal or disloyal… this is a perfect example. Since I run a Net Promoter Program, I asked myself:

On a scale of 0-10, How likely is it that I would recommend Teton Mountain Lodge to a friend or colleague?
My Answer when I checked out: 0
My Answer after the follow-up Survey and email: 2
My Answer if they would have given me a partial refund: Probably a 9

At this point I would NOT recommend Teton Mountain Lodge to anyone and even if I use that one night stay voucher, we’ll probably only stay there one night. This got me thinking about what was missing and how they could have better handled the situation… and it boils down to one thing… an open conversation on what it would take to recover my loyalty. If they simply ASKED “what” they could do… I probably wouild have asked for a one night credit… which would be the same cost as what they offered me without the “hook”. Yes, sometimes you get people who ask for the moon, but an open discussion leads to better outcomes and would have turned this failure into a Fantastic Failure!

Overall our trip was amazing and one of the best vacations I have been on in my life. We got a lot of quality time together as a family and saw lots of breathtaking nature scenery. Here is a small sample of some of the photos we took on this trip:

If you want more info on *Net promoter, please visit the Net Promoter Website

Other External Links:
Teton Mountain Lodge
Trip Advisor for Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole
Yellowstone National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Bain & Company
Satmetrix

Net Promoter, NPS, and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, and Fred Reichheld.

Expensive Purchases Require Top Notch Service!

This week I have a great guest blog from my friend Kyle Mott who had a recent experience with a local car dealership… the story underscores that a great product and even good price does not build customer loyalty alone… it takes people who care and show it by their actions on how they serve us as customers!

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Customer service is an oft-overlooked art-form. All too often I’ve seen good products and services go to waste simply because there was not enough customer service (or the customer service was bad/inadequate). I’ve always operated under the assumption that if I am forking over my hard-earned cash, there should be something more than just a “product” or “item” I get in return. Relationship (IE, the process by which a company sells something to a given person/company/entity) is what makes people come back again and again, and also helps foster customer loyalty.

My wife and I decided to purchase a new vehicle this year. After much thought and deliberation, we decided to go with a Nissan Pathfinder at Bruce Titus Tacoma Nissan. While our experience during the initial negotiation phase went well, after we decided to purchase the vehicle we had a series of events happen that soured our opinion of the dealership, and definitely brought our customer satisfaction of the dealership to new lows.

The first (and biggest) thing we had happen was that we were forgotten about for 2 hours after we decided to purchase the vehicle. They were a bit busy, but we were told the wait would be about an hour, which is understandable. However, after sitting around for 2 hours, I decided to check in and see what was going on, at which point our sales associate told us the person in finance that was meant to close our deal forgot about us and left the building. We had to wait for another person in finance to be freed up before we could go in and finalize the purchase.

Because we had been “stewing” in our own juices for 2 hours, when we got to the paperwork review, we felt a bit rushed. It was a necessity because they were getting close to closing the dealership for the evening, but it would have been nice to actually review each of the items he was giving us in a bit more detail so we could feel a little more informed and not so rushed.

My wife had given her credit card to our sales associate for the down payment. However, once we got to finance, they couldn’t find her credit card. After searching for 20 minutes, it finally turned up, but it was quite surprising to us that they could lose something as important as a credit card for a $30k purchase, even if it did eventually turn up again.

Once the paperwork was completed, we had to move all of our stuff from the old car to the new one. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but since it was so late at night (remember, they “forgot” about us), they left us in the parking lot to move everything over, and didn’t leave the old car unlocked. Because of that, we ended up locking ourselves out of the car before we could get our CD’s moved over, and had to come back a week later to pick them up.

Call me old-school, but I have always believed that if you are plunking down your hard-earned cash for any purchase (doesn’t matter if it’s a $5 burrito or a $30,000 car), you should always be treated as if you have The Golden Ticket, and that Golden Ticket is worth something to the company providing the product and/or service to you. Even though my wife and I felt short-changed on customer service, there are (and still is) ways to win back our loyalty, but I haven’t received any type of “olive branch” offering from Bruce Titus Tacoma Nissan. I don’t have any animosity towards the dealership because of our experience–after all, we live in a broken and imperfect world where things just get messy sometimes–it’s what a company does after that bad customer experience that tells you the most about them and if they are really willing to go above and beyond. Thus far, Bruce Titus Tacoma Nissan has not been willing to go above and beyond to rectify our experience.

At the end of the day, my wife and I were happy about the deal we got on the Pathfinder. However, the customer service was very poor and the general business processes around the purchase were very cumbersome, and even confusing at times. I highly doubt we will be doing any future business with them, and would not recommend them to anyone else.

Kyle Mott
http://chaos.untouchable.net/index.php/Contact

Can Customer Loyalty be Cyclical?

Do you think Customer Loyalty can be cyclical?

Definition of cyclical: A group of events that happen in a particular order, one following the other, and which are often repeated”.

My wife and I are loyal customers of our monthly maid service because the same 2 ladies come each time and they have always provided excellent service. They are friendly, fast, and our house looks and smells clean when they are done. We have been with this service for about a year now and so this is our first Christmas season with them.

They have done such a great job each month that we decided to give them a small Christmas Bonus as a thank you… They were very appreciative and left smiling ear to ear… this got me thinking… If I give my maids a Christmas bonus for their excellent service throughout the year… does that make them even more loyal to me as their customer and therefore they do even a better job or at least continue to provide the great service that made me a loyal customer to begin with? I believe it can! I believe that Customer Loyalty can be cyclical because encouragement and affirmation are lost art forms in the world today… we are so used to negative reinforcement, complaints, and dissatisfaction…not encouragement and positive affirmation when things go right.

I have to admit I am a pretty hard customer to please… mostly because I expect people to care about the service they are giving. I have asked for a manager many times in my life to complain about bad service, but I also cannot count the number of times I have asked for a manager because I want to give them some positive feedback about my experience… the response is always the same… The employee looks at me with a horrifically concerned look in their eyes and then goes to look for the manager… and then the manager comes over with the same horrific look, but trying to hide it through a fake smile. I always try to eliminate the pain as quickly as possible by telling them “I wanted to tell you what a great job your team is doing”… and then go on to affirm them with what their employee(s) did to impress me with their service. They always seem so shocked to hear the positive feedback, but they seem even more appreciative that someone would take the time to provide the positive feedback!

We so often think people must know how we feel about them and therefore we can miss out on this important way to use the power of our tongue to encourage and affirm those around us, especially those serving us in our day to day lives… I once heard someone say “Catch someone doing something right, and tell him about it!  Better yet, tell him about it in front of others!”

Let us make ENCOURAGEMENT and AFFIRMATION a goal this holiday season… If we are open to it… I am sure we will have plenty of opportunity! … and who knows we might even be starting our own loyalty cycle!

Chris Antonelli
FantasticFailures.com #fantasticfailures