Every day we go through a wide range of experiences as customers; while buying and using products or services. These could mostly be categorised as good, bland or bad.Very few really turn out to be a true Delight.
What constitutes an experience with Delight?
The good or bland ones would be those where one’s immediate functional need got met. These are the experiences which the customer may see with a sense of entitlement; “Of course they had to do it. It’s their job!” Or “Why would they not do it? We are paying for it!”would be the typical customer’s refrain. These are also the products or services that may not hold on to the customer.The customer, may move on to other lucrative options without any regret, since there isn’t any bond.
The ones that delight, invariably will be the ones that leave a lasting impression of a human touch; an experience beyond what the product gives. The customer, because of the many other good, bland or bad experiences, would stay on with the ones which delight, with a sense of gratitude. This in turn, makes the customer come back for more.
Customer Delight key to retention in the service industry
Today’s reality in the service industry, be it airlines, banks, hospitals, hotels, telecom or others is that they have all started moving away from delivering experiences that we relish and cherish. Cost consciousness, born out of increasing competition, is becoming one strong reason for this. With technology taking over many aspects of customer interaction, opportunities of delightful experiences with a human touch will only reduce rapidly.
E-commerce and other new age service businesses have, from day one, designed machine managed systems for customer connect.For them, the race is to deliver the best experience with zero human intervention. Some certainly deliver good experiences, but when others match similar technological skills and processes, where is the differentiator to retain customers? So pricing and lucrative deals are becoming the trick, which is very obviously a double edged sword.
The big disconnect happens when the customer has a product or service issue; and, the resolution doesn’t happen due to the pre designed, machine run, close minded processes. The customer reaches out to employees who are not empowered. They can only repeat words like “But that’s the policy, sir”! The customer leaves the brand in frustration. The biggest of global brands are also guilty of this.
Timely human intervention with empathy to resolve the issue swiftly can provide the delight and bring a sense of gratitude in the customer’s mind. This personal touch can make the lasting difference.
Customer Delight – with old fashioned hospitality
In such an era, it was a sheer delight to have an amazingly personalised experience during a recent visit to Vietnam.
We had gone for a short holiday to Hanoi, Vietnam. While the country was certainly a pleasure to visit, what keeps coming back to mind is the customer experience the hotel where we stayed at was consistently delivering.The Hotel La Siesta Central in Hanoi, in the heart of the city, was recommended by a friend who is a regular visitor there. When we went there, we realised why he had sent us there.
The hotel had its focus on delivering a great customer experience. To do so, it had clearly defined the reception and the restaurant as its two points of customer connect; while maintaining good standards in other areas such as housekeeping and general courtesy. They had a customer relations executive at both these points, whose job was to build the relationship with the human touch.
Most good hotels do give a great courteous welcome, a welcome drink and explain what we could expect at the hotel.The customer relations executive here went beyond that. She sat with us to understand our travel program and guided us on how to make the most of our visit. She did not show any hurry to wrap up our conversation, while the rest of the reception team continued to handle other clients. In fact, she delighted us by stepping out of the hotel and walking along with us for a couple of minutes to show us a particular location we were talking about. This was clearly beyond our expectations and brought in the sense of gratitude.
When we went to the restaurant after a while, the executive there seemed to have been already briefed about us. She seamlessly took over from where the reception executive had left us and continued the conversation with the personal touch. Our dietary needs were met by customising dishes, while she carried on a conversation about our tours and her own personal experiences and suggestions.
Both these executives became our go-to persons for guidance on any issue we had within and outside the hotel. They didn’t let us down and their warmth and alacrity gave us the delight in our entire experience in that country.
The key takeaways from this customer experience were
- Personalised interactions – recognising us by our names each time we interacted; getting to know us in terms of tastes and needs; narrating small personal anecdotes; showing warmth and care.
- Staying Engaged – Carrying forward the conversation from where it was last left; checking about the last experience; empathising and relating to our needs with personal concern.
- Spontaneity – Listening closely to issues and providing almost immediate solutions, going out of the way to ensure the customer is happy.
- Going beyond expectations – The executives could have restricted the conversations to the services at the hotel. By moving beyond these, to our travel program and giving insights and guidance, they built gratitude in our minds for the extra support.
- Empowered Employees – The executives and their immediate superior could confidently give commitments which were visibly beyond standard processes.
- Team work – The sharing of information between employees and the coordinated way of communicating with the customer was apparent. It built continuity in the conversation with the hotel, irrespective of who we were dealing with.
The stay at this hotel would have been comfortable even without the customer relations executives interacting with us closely. Efficiency in check in, check out, handling of our orders at the restaurant and general housekeeping could have done it. But that would have been so in most other chain hotels.
The difference was in the lasting impact made by the human connect and going beyond their standard duty that delivered customer delight!
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