This article originally appeared on CX Cafe.
It was the eighth week in a row checking into the same hotel in downtown Philadelphia. I recognized the attendant behind the preferred status check-in counter—he had checked me in a few times over the last two months and never missed shouting the obligatory “Good morning!” in my direction as I started out for the day. This was clearly the expected behavior of the front-house staff as everyone would address me in the same practiced way. Despite our previous interactions, it was clear the attendant didn’t recognize me now.
He thanked me for my loyalty upon verification of my identity and, when prompted by the check-in system, for my return business. While he confirmed my details (which hadn’t changed since my first stay), I played his script through in my mind, anticipating each question: Points or breakfast? Did I need my loyalty benefits explained? Help with my bags? Was I familiar with the hotel and amenities?
On this occasion there was one new question: Did I want my room serviced, or would I prefer a new “green” option that meant no housekeeping during my stay? I considered the option, but while I am generally happy hanging my own towels and making my own bed and am in favor of limiting my personal carbon footprint, I appreciated the convenience of housekeeping given we were working fairly long hours. And I wasn’t receiving any discount on my fairly pricey room, so I declined the more environmentally friendly option in favor of a fully serviced room.
The next day on my return from work, I was surprised to find that my room was in the same state I left it in that morning—bed untidy, towels still wet and unfolded, and the light in the bathroom still on (so much for environmentally friendly!). I found a housekeeping supervisor in the hall, told her my room hadn’t been serviced and asked her to make sure it was cleaned the next day. To her credit, the room was serviced on day two, but on my return on day three of my stay, I once again found my room unkempt. This time I called the service line, only to be told that I had been registered for the “green” option on check-in and my room was not scheduled for servicing. I asked if I could please change my preference and have my room serviced the next day, my final full day and night in the hotel for the week. It was.
There was no mention of the service request or mistake in registration when I checked out, but I did receive an email from the hotel’s manager after departure. I read the note expecting some acknowledgment of my negative experience or an acknowledgment of my loyalty and frequent stays at the hotel. Rather, the email was a generic reminder that I was likely to be receiving a survey about my recent experience at the hotel with the suggestion that I contact the hotel staff with any concerns about my recent stay. The note also recommended I provide any positive feedback about my experience in the survey (presumably to ensure the hotel received full credit for positive experiences delivered). When the survey came, I provided my feedback on the week’s stay, including some suggestions on how my service issue with the room could have been handled better. I didn’t hear back from the hotel or the franchise.
This story is just one of many examples of how otherwise successful and sophisticated companies treat the customer experience. These companies wonder why their metrics don’t improve despite all their significant investments in out-of-the-box expert training programs and practices, but my experience illustrates some of the endemic issues companies face:
· Too much focus on the score and not enough on the lessons and customer dialog
· Staff focused on compliance to procedures rather than on the customers themselves
· Staff operating within their silos and not cross-functionally to resolve underlying issues
· Products, policies and services that have a customer “gloss” but often do not consider the end results or truly reflect customer needs
The Philadelphia hotel’s approach to customer experience is not only less effective but, over time, actually has the negative potential for training customers to be on the lookout for compliance failures and to treat any asks for feedback with cynicism, holding back valuable information from the company and its employees.
In contrast, companies that truly delight their customers have built systems for continuous improvement that empower their employees to listen to, learn from and act on customer feedback. The best systems for continuous improvement have several elements in common:
· Feedback is collected frequently from customers, and employees follow up to recover bad experiences and learn more about what they can do better next time
· This feedback from surveys and follow-up conversations is provided in real time to all “on-stage” and “off-stage” employees who touch the relevant customer experience
· Every team in the organization has regular customer “huddles” to discuss lessons and develop team action plans
· Each individual in the organization has a personal customer action plan and coaching to support the plan
· Teams have a way to escalate customer issues beyond their control and work through cross-functional customer issues
· Leaders actively model expected practices, and incentives, reward and recognition are aligned to customers as a top priority
At Bain, we help companies develop their own customer loyalty systems for continuous improvement and learning called with the Net Promoter System®. While all our clients are at different stages in developing customer capability, I have been continually impressed by the results that empowering employees to serve customers in this way can deliver in a very short period of time.
At companies that have implemented Net Promoter we continually see improved customer experience, employee engagement, and productivity and innovation. As just one of many examples, I recently worked with a US cable provider that installed the Net Promoter System in its billing contact centers. Within an eight-week period, the pilot teams in the billing center moved from middle- and bottom-of-the-pack performance to the top three performing teams on the operational scorecard. There were double-digit Net Promoter Score® improvements in customer and team scores during the pilot, and agent attrition declined to a remarkable 0% for the period. The teams also surfaced a number of near-term opportunities for the company to improve the customer experience and reduce significant bad-call volumes.
We can easily imagine that if Net Promoter been in place at the hotel in Philadelphia, my experience could have been very different in a number of positive ways. For example:
· The front desk could have developed its own system for tracking frequent visitors and welcomed me by name
· The hotel might have upgraded the system at reception to better capture my preferences at the property based on an escalation received from the front line
· My issue with my room could have been discussed at a cross-functional team huddle and corrected the first time I raised it, and recovery planned for
· The manager might have encouraged me to share my full feedback on the survey to help his team learn from my experience and called me back to learn more
Company executives who feel they aren’t getting sufficient traction with customers and employees should ask themselves whether they have been investing too much in “scores and scripts” and not enough in building systems for continuous learning and improvement.
Net Promoter®, Net Promoter System®, Net Promoter Score® and NPS® are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.