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Good timber

According to a study by J.D. Power and Associates, when a hotel guest’s problem is resolved perfectly, it results in overall satisfaction averaging 80.7, compared to only 74.9 if there was no problem to begin with.

And the more satisfied a hotel guest is, the more he’ll likely spend. The same study found that guests who rate their overall satisfaction as a perfect ten on a ten-point scale, on average, spend about 40 percent more on ancillary services—like hotel restaurants, gift shop, business center, and other offerings—than guests offering a rating of six or seven.

It may seem counter-intuitive for satisfaction to increase when a hotel guest experiences a problem but when you think about the different relationships in your life, it begins to make sense.

All of us have relationships with others ranging from superficial to deep. Superficial relationships are those where conversations revolve around “safe” topics such as the weather, pop culture or the big game. These relationships are rarely tested in any meaningful way. Instead, they are predictable. Loyalty and commitment do not come into play.

We also have relationships that are deeper and more substantial. These are relationships that have been tested—experiencing both highs and lows. We tend to feel more of a responsibility to these relationships. There is greater loyalty and commitment.

J.W. Marriott, Sr. had a favorite poem, Trees, which was inscribed on a piece of wood outside his office door:

The tree that never had to fight for sun and sky and air and light, but stood out in the open plain and always had its share of rain, never became a forest king but lived and died a scrubby thing…Good timber does not grow in ease: The stronger the wind, the tougher the trees.

This poem reinforces the connection between tension and growth. Although it’s human nature to label problems as bad and try to avoid them at all costs, it turns out that the conflict we often encounter as a result of problems experienced may actually reinforce relationships.

A solid relationship, like good timber, does not grow in ease. When customer relationships are tested by the inevitable setbacks that occur in a complex business with lots of moving parts, reframe these problems as opportunities to strengthen relationships.

And be encouraged by the poet’s conclusion: The stronger the wind, the tougher the trees.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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