Monday, June 29th, 2009
Last week, my family and I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to attend a family reunion. While in Lincoln, we stayed at a full service hotel downtown. When we arrived at the hotel, we unloaded several bags from our vehicle onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel. Minutes later, a bellman passed by without saying a word and entered the main lobby from the sidewalk.
My wife and I fully expected that he was getting a luggage cart to assist us with our bags. When he did not return, I went inside the hotel and encountered him standing just inside the lobby. He looked at me and asked, “Can I help you with your bags?” Already, I was annoyed because he clearly saw my bags on the sidewalk yet I still had to track him down for assistance.
Now that we were being helped, we no longer felt ignored but did feel as if this bellman was treating us indifferently—as if we were just another “check-in” or transaction. It’s not that he did anything wrong during the remainder of the check-in process, it’s just that he missed several opportunities to anticipate our needs and make a lasting positive impression.
For instance, one of my boys complained about the weight of his backpack. The bellman just stood there as I relieved my son of his backpack and hung it on the luggage cart. A minute later, while I went back to the car to retrieve a cooler, my wife corralled our four children in front of the elevators to take a group picture of them. She commented to me afterwards that she wished she had asked him to take a picture that would have included her—another missed opportunity for him to make a positive impression.
Later, when we were in the guest room, the bellman simply offloaded the luggage near the door, accepted his tip, and bid us adieux with the transactional industry farewell, “Enjoy your stay.”
He failed to observe other cues that would have made the difference between an ordinary check-in and a memorable service experience. Although a cooler, Pack ‘n Play® travel crib, and wine tote were all visible cues, he appeared aloof from any customer service opportunities these items may have presented. In the first ten minutes after his departure I had already retrieved ice for the cooler (which required accessing the 4th floor as there was no ice machine on the 3rd floor where our rooms were located), phoned housekeeping for a sheet to line our toddler’s travel crib, and gone in search of wine glasses.
With so many missed opportunities, the potential for a unique and memorable customer-focused experience faded and we were left with an ordinary and forgettable process-focused transaction. As happens far too often, many service providers are lulled into the monotony of processing “each customer like the last customer” and, in so doing, treating the customer like just another transaction (in my case, just another “check-in”).
Service providers must recognize that each customer presents a unique opportunity to make a favorable impression. By committing to energize their customer service delivery by looking for visual cues, anticipating customers’ needs, and offering the unexpected, service providers will capitalize on opportunities to provide unique and memorable service experiences.