April 15, 2011
My family and I recently returned from a four-night stay at the Crystal Peak Lodge in Breckenridge, CO. The only feature of the resort that was more impressive than its pristine condition and luxury amenities was its location alongside the ski lifts at the base of Peak 7.
Yesterday I received an email from the lodge with a link to a web-based customer satisfaction survey. As I was completing it, two things stood out: Lodge management was particularly interested in whether or not guests felt pampered and treated as important.
Identifying these attributes as priorities did not surprise me considering the lodge’s condominium units were priced in the millions. (Disclaimer: I was renting.)
While I love the term “pampered” as it applies to customer service, there’s another word for ‘pamper’ that I prefer: cosset. (I like this word because it’s so unique. When is the last time you read or heard this word?) Too often, employees fail to pamper or cosset when doing so would make a positive lasting impression on the customer.
Whether employees are handling eggs or bread while bagging groceries, folding and placing garments in a shopping bag, or placing a passenger’s luggage on a conveyer belt during his airport check-in, they have opportunities to do so in a way that conveys to customers that they care about their groceries, garments, and possessions, and will handle them as if they were their own.
The second term, “important,” is often misunderstood.
Sometimes at my seminars, participants will push back on the notion of treating certain customers (e.g., United Mileage Plus 1K flyers, Marriott Rewards elite guests, AMEX Platinum Card holders, etc.) differently—as more important than other customers—because of their status.
The point I make when responding to these participants is that “importance” does not refer to one’s importance as a person. It refers to her importance as a customer and the value she brings to the business through personal spending, loyalty, and referrals.
So, the Crystal Peak Lodge was interested in my assessment of whether or not I felt pampered and treated as important.
Over the course of a four-night stay, there were only a couple of things that hit my customer service radar. In both cases, I didn’t say anything at the time. Like most customers, I generally just observe without making a fuss.
Interestingly, both of the issues I noted involved missed opportunities by the staff to pamper (or cosset) and reinforce the guest’s importance as a customer.
The first issue occurred during an encounter with three front desk employees. The lodge offers private movie theaters for guests and I had reserved one for my family to watch the new Narnia movie. Although each theatre has access to a kitchen containing a microwave to prepare popcorn (brilliant!), there was nothing to put the popcorn in (a missed opportunity).
When I inquired about containers for the popcorn at the front desk, I was told to “check upstairs” (presumably, the restaurant may have something…). Seriously? Is this response supposed to make me feel “pampered” or “important” —as three employees remain comfortably seated behind the desk?
The second issue occurred when I called the front desk from my unit to ask about trash and recycling disposal. (Since I was renting the unit directly from the owner, there was no daily housekeeping service provided.) Rather than offering to send a housekeeping employee to my unit to retrieve the bags, the employee gave me directions from the $1.8M unit in which I was staying to the trash room in the parking garage. I found that odd…
Again, is this response supposed to make me feel “pampered” or “important”? I certainly didn’t feel that way as I hauled two bags of waste from my fifth floor unit down to the trash room in the parking garage.
In reflecting on my experience at Crystal Peak Lodge, while its management may prioritize having guests feel pampered and important, ultimately this will happen or not happen based on the actions of employees. This reinforces a core truth in the debate over who’s ultimately responsible for poor customer service, management or frontline employees: Regardless of a company’s service culture or standards, excellence (e.g., making a customer feel pampered or important) results from employee choice.
That choice may be to dispatch a housekeeper to collect the waste from a guest’s condominium unit or to get up from your comfortable chair, invite the guest to rejoin his family in the theater, and go in search of popcorn containers.
It’s pretty simple when you think about it.
What’s your opinion about where the responsibility to deliver exceptional customer service lies—with management or frontline employees?
I welcome all questions, comments, bouquets, and brickbats.