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

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

Nordstrom Service Failure becomes Loyalty Maker!

I recently endeavored on a 2 week business trip to Boston, Massachusetts. Growing up on the West Coast and working in high tech companies my whole life, I have very little formal wear in my wardrobe.  I actually only have 3 dress shirts, 3 ties, & 3 dress slacks for when I have to do “executive level” presentations, go to weddings, etc. Although I had never been to Boston, I did know that my minimal “business attire” would not be sufficient for a 2 week trip to the East Coast.  Thus began my search for some updated clothes.

Wanting to look sharp and have the clothes fit correctly, I bought some dress shirts and took them to Nordstrom in Tukwila, Washington to be tailored. I also took a new leather jacket to have the arm length tailored. When I walked into the men’s suit department, I was greeted by Jerry Stellick, who asked how he could help me. I explained that I bought these dress shirts elsewhere, but I would like to have the sleeves tailored for my arms. He said “no problem” and took me into the tailoring room and got a tailor to come pin my shirts.  Jerry was very professional, accommodating, and provided the perfect customer experience from start to finish. He even gave me his card with his cell phone number on it, in case I had any questions or issue.  The experience reinforced what I had heard many times about Nordstrom’s excellent customer service!

A few days later, I got a call from Nordstrom’s saying that my shirts and jacket were ready to be picked up.  Since she was already in the area, I asked my wife to pick them up for me.  She brought them home and hung them in our closet.  Since I did not have to pack for a few days for my trip, I did not bother to look at them.  The next afternoon I decided to put on one of my newly tailored long sleeve dress shirts for a meeting I was going to.  I put the shirt on and as the sleeve slid up my arm it just kept going all the way up to my elbow,  I asked my wife if there were pins holding back the sleeves and she said “No honey, that is the length of the sleeves”. I checked the other shirts and all of them had wrong lengths and to various degrees.  My leather jacket sleeves were also a bit too short and had a weird curve in the sleeve.  I started freaking out because I only had two days before I had to leave on my business trip.  I was having visions of wearing these shirts in Boston and assuring people “This is how we roll in Seattle”.

I called Jerry right away on his personal cell phone and got his voicemail.  So I called the Nordstrom store and talked with a gentleman that asked me to come in ASAP to see what could be done. On my way to the store, Jerry called me back and said he was not working that day, but he assured me that anyone in the department would be able to help me.

When I arrived at the store I was greeted by Marisa Johnson in the same professional manner that Jerry did the first time. I explained what happened and she was apologetic and asked if I could try on one of the shirts so she could see the problem. When I came out with the sleeves half way up my arm, she looked like she was going to pass out; her eyes got really big and she said “Wow I have never seen something like this before.  I am so sorry Mr. Antonelli.”  Her reaction was about the same with each shirt I showed her and with the leather jacket too. She said she had never seen this type of problem before, but they were committed to fixing the issues. I explained I had to leave for Boston in two days and needed to figure out what to do. She asked where I had bought the shirts and as I told her I thought, “Here we go with the typical ‘not our product, nothing we can do’ excuse” – but the exact opposite happened. Marisa asked for my receipts for the shirts and the tailoring fees.  She credited me the tailoring fees and found a shirt that was the same price as what I paid for mine.  Then, Marisa returned the new item three times in her system in order to credit that amount to my card as well. She asked if I could go down the street, repurchase my shirts, and bring them back to her.  In the meantime, she would make sure one of her senior tailors was available to assist us. I went and bought the shirts and brought them back to Nordstrom’s.  The tailor immediately fitted my shirts again and said he would get them to me the next day. She also took my leather jacket to ask the head seamstress what could be done to fix it also.

The next day I came back and was honestly holding my breath.  When I arrived, I was greeted by Jerry and Marisa as well as another lady, who I later found out was the head seamstress, Coco. They had me try on each of my shirts.  All of them fit perfectly and so did my Jacket which now looked great. Coco explained the jacket was not sewn correctly the first time and the shirts were not pinned correctly. She said she was able to go back to the tailor who helped me the first time and re-train them on how to properly measure, pin, and write the order so it would be done correctly for future customers.

All three of them apologized again for the failure.  They also commented on how patient and nice I was throughout the entire ordeal. I explained that I was only patient and kind because I was handled perfectly throughout the entire process by all of them and that they went above and beyond to make sure that I was satisfied. I also explained that I am not a very nice guy when I get terrible service and there have been many other customer experiences where I have talked to multiple levels of staff, managers, and even demanded at times to speak with executives until I find someone who cares enough about my bad experience to make it right! This was the most opposite experience to those bad experiences that I could imagine. Even after there was a devastating failure of workmanship at Nordstrom, Jerry, Marisa, and Coco were instrumental in recovering with flying colors and have converted me to a Nordstrom customer – for life!

This reinforced my long standing belief that even when our customers experience those “fantastic failures” with our products and services, that it can actually be turned around and end up creating customer loyalty… IF… it is handled correctly, every level of employee goes above and beyond the customers’ expectations, and we all care about the customer being satisfied. An old saying goes “Your heart will be where your treasure is”… well more companies should realize that the treasure is in our customer’s loyalty.

Chris Antonelli