An interaction with a hotel rep last week reminded me again of how a company’s people make more powerful impressions than anything else.
My wife was taking our niece to a concert about 2 hours (with traffic) from our home. It didn’t begin until 9:30 PM, so I figured I’d get them a hotel room near the venue to stay the night.
I popped onto the chain’s website and used points to book a room at one of their nicer properties. I realized afterward that the reservation didn’t have my wife’s name on it. Out of caution, I figured I’d call the hotel directly to make sure she wouldn’t run into a problem while trying to check in that night.
I was put through to reservations, and I quickly explained what I needed. It was a pretty simple request.
But, instead of the, “Oh, not a problem at all,” type of response most would expect to get, the agent said in an annoyed tone, “Well, next time, call us directly for a stay using points. That’s how we’d prefer you to do it.”
That statement raised my eyebrow. I replied, “Uh, I’m sorry…is that a new policy? Your company does everything in the world to encourage us to make all of our reservations online.”
She said, “Well…we like handling rewards bookings directly.” I asked, “Who’s we? It doesn’t say that on your website.” She replied, “Well, I’m not sure what’s on the website.”
I chuckled, “You don’t know what’s on the reservations section of your website?” Her response suggested she really didn’t.
I was able to grumble through and get the reservation adjusted without escalating the argument much more. But I got off of the phone feeling like my simple request had put her out somehow.
For whatever reason, that employee chose to insert a little reprimanding into what should have been a relationship-strengthening interaction.
(Why do some people so enjoy scolding others?)
A longtime customer using “loyalty points” was turned into a negative encounter. So, I got a “free” room and ended up feeling less goodwill towards that hotel chain than before.
I’m betting that’s not exactly what management wants from their loyalty program.
Technology is cool. Rewards and free stuff are great, as well.
But never forget that our demeanors and personal interactions with customers make the most impactful impressions.
What impressions will you and your team make this week?
My wife and I have different TV watching habits. She actually likes many reality shows.
I would rather stare at the rug than watch one.
On the other hand, I record and watch several sports talk shows. My wife believes you actually lose IQ points each minute you watch one.
So, when she recently told me she had found a show that she likes and thought I would like as well, I was a bit skeptical. But she was right.
The show is called, “Blue Collar Millionaires,” and it highlights folks who have come from humble backgrounds and become wealthy through, well, blue collar type work.
I found myself smiling as the show shared stories of folks who started from little, took chances, worked hard, and eventually could afford lifestyles they’d never imagined.
The millionaire worm farmer from California who said she’s happy that they can now go to Olive Garden whenever they want - and not have to worry about the bill - was pure gold.
But a comment made in another story struck a nerve. A fellow named Greg Hulett is the founder of a company called Mid South Engine and Machine. It’s a company that now does about $20 million in annual business with profits of $4 million. And Mr. Hulett is enjoying a very nice lifestyle these days.
In the show, we see pictures of his early days fixing diesel engines as he basically lived in his old service truck with his dog. He said he’d have to beg customers to pay their bills and often had trouble even affording dog food for his sidekick.
In the midst of those struggles he came to a realization. He said his sales strategy had been to be cheaper than everyone else.
Then, he discovered the way to actually get business - and keep good customers - was not by being cheaper than everyone else, but by being better than everyone else.
To many, that probably sounds like a trite statement. But I’d suggest it’s one of the most useful business “revelations” a person or business can have.
Hearing it, I was reminded of my first boss in banking. He drilled into us that if we always had to charge the lowest or pay the highest interest rates to compete, we would always be at the mercy of our dumbest and/or most desperate competitors.
Strive to give your customers the best possible service you can.
You’ll be the best “deal” for them, regardless of your competitors’ prices.