Today I begin a whirlwind visit of a number of cities and countries- Kitchener/Waterloo, Los Angeles, Papeete,Bora Bora, Pago Pago, Moorea, Apia, Aukland, Tauranga,Sydney… I’mpretty sure I missed a few… Going to be LOTS of customer service experiences.
To begin the journey, I called the Hilton Doubletree Santa Monica to make a reservation.The Hilton chain is one of the large hotel groupsthat has pretty much taken away any personal contact between customers and their hotels as far as reservations are concerned. Even if you call the hotel’s direct number, as soon as you ask for ‘reservations’, you get routed through to their call centre.
Somebody has convinced them that this is very clever.
The problem, of course, is that it creates a giant barrier to a hotel’s efforts to create a relationship with their guests. Here’s an illustration for contrast: There is a hotel – a Delta -just north of Toronto that I stay in a lot – somewhere between 30 and 50 room nights a year. That makes me a pretty valuable customer for that hotel. The reason I go there is because I really enjoy the people. I know most of them; most of them know me. When I call for reservations, it is fast and easy:
“Hi Mr. Belding! Same room type as always? Awesome! By the way, the housekeeper found a book left in your room last week, would you like to pick it up at the front desk? Perfect! Can’t wait to see you!”
You don’t get that from a call centre.
So, when I called the Doubletree, I found myself having to navigate through an unusually irritatingIVR, and talking with someone who has possibly never even been close to Santa Monica. No opportunity to tell me about the weather, or other cool stuff that might be going on. No connection. No sense of ownership about a guest coming to stay at her hotel. It is impersonal & uncaring. What a great way to start a relationship.
Here’s the deal: Be wary of the processes you choose, and the reason you choose them. Too many organizations buy into slick systems to create efficiencies and save money – then desperatelytry to convince themselves that it is actually enhancing thecustomer experience. If you’re in the loyalty business, as hotels are, why would you sacrifice an opportunity to create and strengthen bonds with customers? Yes, the bean counters will point to the numbers – the efficiencies. But these same bean counters invariably refuse to take into account the ripple effect of these efficiencies.
Don’t get me wrong. Process is agiant part of customer experience. But when process improvement isn’t done for the right reasons, it’s a mistake.