Little things versus Wow customer experiences
Having real coat hangers in the wardrobe of a hotel-room might not make a Wow customer experience or a Moment of Magic. But, it’s a great illustration of how small things can make a big impact.
Stakeholders often baulk at the idea of improving customer experiences for fear that it will cost more, it will force employees to do jobs they are not targetted on or it will require new, complex processes. But those customer experience sceptics would be reassured by an example set by Marriott’s Renaissance Monarch Hotel in Moscow.
I’d been invited there to speak at a conference about customer experience. Always keen to observe and learn, I developed a real liking for the hotel and its people but at first couldn’t put my finger on exactly why. Yes, it was very nice but there was no fanfare, no obvious “Tad-dah!”, nothing forced. It just worked.
It became apparent that there was simply a series of little things that were personal and relevant when they needed to be. None of them are costly, none of them distracting for the employees and no complex systems involved. They could be done just as well by a 7-star hotel in the sun or a draughty backpackers in the rain. Here’s what I mean:
- It goes without saying that the people had the right attitude. They were attentive, engaging and helpful. They could spot this Brit a mile away and had their English reply to my awful attempts at Russian ready. A smile costs nothing yet its absence (we won’t go into the airport experience here…) can be so costly.
- Whatever training they have, it is effective. Everyone who worked there had a genuine desire to help their guests, something that was epitomised in the name badges of the front-line team – they were all called “Navigators”. Maybe a bit cheesy but whatever the label, the intent was authentic.
- I was joined at the event by Customer Experience Specialist and fellow CCXP Ian Golding. After our speaking sessions, Ian and I had the opportunity to jump on the metro for a couple of stops to visit Red Square and the Kremlin, places I never thought I’d be. The guy behind the hotel check-in desk was very helpful in giving me instructions and directions. In that, there was nothing special but just as we headed off, he produced a business card and said – in English – “Here. If you get any problems or have any questions, here is my number. Call me and I will help you”. In an unfamiliar city and with limited time to get back and catch a flight home, that was reassuring. I wondered how many hotel staff in the UK would afford a foreign guest the same level of respect.
- For too long, wi-fi connections in hotels have been used as an income generator and treated as a cost centre for which customers must pay. At this hotel though, not only was the wi-fi free (again, nothing particularly special there) but what was very helpful was that the connection remained valid for the full 24-hour period even after checking out. They know that many guests will continue to remain in the hotel and it actually encourages them to do so in order to have breakfast, hire meeting rooms or take lunch.
- It’s often said that a company’s true approach to its customers and employees is revealed by the state of the toilets. These were spotlessly clean as you’d expect but what I didn’t expect was that the urinals were filled with ice to reduce odours and maintain the cleanliness.
- And those coat hangers? Actually, it’s not about the coat hangers themselves; its about what it says. To me, it says “Welcome, we trust you, have a nice stay”. Compare that with the message you feel you’re getting with those hangers that can be removed but have no hook and are therefore useless anywhere but that (often just as expensive) hotel room. To me, that shouts out “Ha! Gotcha! Thought about nicking it did ya? Well we don’t trust you so we’re not going to risk losing the cost of one hanger every now and then just so you can feel at home”.
These little things make a big difference and for little cost. I have no connection with Marriott Hotels Group other than I am occasionally fortunate enough to be put up in one. But the point here is not about the hotel; it’s the food for thought that it gives about how other companies across very different markets might take the same approach. Forget searching for that contrived “Wow!” moment and understand the little things that are really important to your customers.
The ironic reality, of course, is that the combination of getting simple things right and executing the basics well every time gets close to being a “Wow” experience anyway. They are the things that make us feel like someone understands us and is on our side. It’s not much to ask but means such a lot. We’ll be a lot more forgiving if something does go wrong but the real commercial benefit is that we’ll tell everyone else about it and when we can, we’ll come back. I hope I do.
Let me know what you think.
If you have a customer experience issue – strategic, cultural or tactical – that you need a hand with, or if you’ve any questions about this blog post do let me know.
I’m on +44 (0) 7917 718 072 or email [email protected].
Thank you, I hope you found the post interesting and please feel free to add your own views below.
Jerry Angrave, CCXP
Wow, awesome I can only say! Many thanks for using your experience wiht us as apositive example. I fully agree with you sentiment and the simplicity of “it works” is more important than thrills that don’t. Growing up in one of the industry big 5 I have experienced too many times the attempt to be different to go for the latest or fastest or most digital, only for it not to work locally. When associates are struggling to grapple the concept of the new “thing” the message will be received garbled by the client and the promise is lost. Our destination is still in development state when it comes to understanding the customer and showing interest in the needs and not the process or the rules, but it is changing fast. A market in crisis, with diminished demand and growing supply should create energies to help this development through healthy competition and the need to differentiate, and I believe in that.
Thanks a lot for the blog!
well done Jerry! A good insight, I do agree. The little things are working better than WOW. And it came to my mind, that they reveal the good thinking while setting up processes and organization behind. Better the desing, smoother the daily routine. And that may be the KEY point while trying on delivering the RIGHT Customer Experience
Thank you Piotr and I agree that these little things that add up are there only because of robust planning and a strong culture behind the scenes.
It was a pleasure to stay with you and see such great people and thinking in action. You add some really good points too, thank you for sharing those thoughts. Jerry.