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Don’t Just Meet Customer Expectations–Exceed Them

In a recent article about customer expectations, I negatively criticized a hotel for charging me for things I felt should have been part of the high price of the hotel. They “nickel and dimed” me. I received several comments. A few of our readers criticized me for being so negative, but all of them felt […]

In a recent article about customer expectations, I negatively criticized a hotel for charging me for things I felt should have been part of the high price of the hotel. They “nickel and dimed” me. I received several comments. A few of our readers criticized me for being so negative, but all of them felt that the charge for using a towel at the workout facility—after they were already charging me an extra fee to be there—was excessive.

As I thought about the comments, something became obvious. Except for the charge for the towel, any of the extra charges by themselves would not have seemed that excessive. Was it the cumulative effect of all of them? Yes and no. It was actually one thing, most likely the towel charge, that was the “tipping point” that caused my dislike for this hotel. I would have accepted the charge for toll-free phone calls. I would have even accepted the charge for the workout facility. But it was the extra charge for the towel that made me start to pick apart everything about the hotel. That is the real lesson here.

Customers will put up with a lot of negative stuff. They shouldn’t have to, but they will. However, at some point, they get fed up with it all. What causes that to happen? It is usually just one thing that puts it over the top—one thing that causes the scales to tip in the wrong direction. Then, the customers start looking at everything. The things they would have tolerated before become unacceptable. One thing causes a cumulative breakdown.

Let’s look at a story about a different experience at a hotel.

Just last night, I arrived in Orlando and went to the Portifino Hotel. My flight was late, and I arrived late to my client’s cocktail reception. The staff had already taken away most of the food. However, one of the servers noticed me looking for something that might have been left on the buffet table.

This gentleman informed me that all the food had been taken away, but please wait just a moment or two. Within a few minutes, he brought me a huge plate with a sample of most everything that was on the buffet. I couldn’t even eat it all. Wow!

I walk over to the closing bar and ask for a glass of water. The bartender tells me that they had taken all the drinks away; however, wait just a moment. Within a minute or two, the bartender returns with two bottles of spring water. I was VERY appreciative!

My experience at this hotel started out just great and exceeded my customer expectations. I appreciated and respected their efforts. They won my trust and my loyalty. Just moments after walking through their doors, I became impressed with their high level of service. The bellmen and doormen all welcomed me,  asked if they could help and guest reception checked me in quickly. They paid attention to opportunities to take care of and impress their guest. They were proactive in trying to respond before they were even asked. So what if the bar was closed, it wasn’t a big deal to get a guest a bottle of water. And there was lots of food that was taken back to the kitchen at the end of the reception. How hard was it to bring a plate out to a late guest? Not very!

Here is the lesson: Set the customer’s expectations. Meet them—maybe even exceed them—right away! Do it as soon as possible. This sets the tone for the rest of the customer’s experience. The key is to continue to meet and exceed customer expectations. That is what great service is all about!

Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at www.Hyken.com. Connect with Shep on LinkedIn.

(Copyright ©MMXI, Shep Hyken)

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