Technology can be a wonderful tool. Thanks to advances in data analytics and the use of algorithms to predict human behavior, businesses are more equipped than ever before to anticipate, target, and/or attend to our every need and want. But true customer service is measured by what we do with this data, not just what it tells us. It is about exceeding expectations, not just meeting them. Moreover, in an age when customer service has been largely relegated to automation, I appreciate the human touch more than ever.
On a recent trip to our capital city, I was thrilled to find a great deal at a new favorite hotel, the Capital Hilton. Thrilled, because I love the location and it’s convenient proximity to my various comings and goings while in D.C. Thrilled, because the Hilton hotel chain has always been known for reliable quality and service. Still, as Stan Phelps writes about in his book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish, it’s the marketing G.L.U.E. (giving unexpected little extras) that differentiates one hotel/chain from another and solidifies our preference.
I remember walking into my hotel room last Wednesday afternoon, tired from the day’s events, with little more on my mind than a good nap. I walked in to discover a tiered tray with wonderful snacks accompanied by a small vase of beautiful orchids. There was no note and no card. This must have been a mistake, I thought to myself. I checked with the front desk to confirm. No — it was not a mistaken order. They were sent for my enjoyment.
From the morning breakfast staff to the bell desk, I continued to enjoy a degree of service and friendliness that I’ve come to appreciate when I travel. While some people prefer the anonymity that hotels afford, I prefer engaging with others, having learned from a lifetime of international travel that hotel staff often have some of the most interesting stories to tell.
It’s Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. Checked out, but without the requisite daily parking fees on my bill, I went to pay for my car. The valet staff suspected a mistake. If the hotel didn’t charge me, they would need to. I checked again with the front desk. “No, Ms. Reed, there’s no mistake. There’s no charge.”
Mystified, but deeply appreciative nonetheless, I headed out to spend time with friends, later receiving an unexpected text: “Did you enjoy your time at the Capital Hilton? Did you get the basket/food I sent to your room?” An old friend from high school with business ties to the hotel industry and to this property in particular had seen my ‘check-in’ at the Capital Hilton via Facebook (data-driven marketing at its finest) and arranged for the basket and parking.
That day my expectations were truly exceeded, in business and friendship, reminding me that good service, like good friends, is priceless. And my hotel of preference for my next trip to D.C.? You betcha — the Capital Hilton.
I’m curious… In an age of automated efficiency, how important is personal customer service to you? What role does it play in brand loyalty? How has technology changed the way service is delivered? In what ways have others exceeded your own expectations, whether by thoughtful gesture or exemplary service?