Saving the Customer Experience: A Case Study

Saving the Customer Experience: A Case Study

During my most recent trip, the importance of the customer experience was greater than it’s ever been.

The customer is always right; that’s what we’ve been told forever, and, for better or worse (often for worse, because of how often the customer is wrong) it’s what we believe. So, when it comes to the importance of the overall customer experience, a bad one can really hurt a brand. For the first time in my personal experience during my most recent trip to Las Vegas, I saw just how important the minutiae of an experience really are.

How It Started

I was checking into one of the higher-end hotels on the Strip (which shall remain nameless). I got to town early, so my expectation was that I wouldn’t have a room ready right away. Not a problem; I was expecting as much. Check-in started at 3, I got there at 10. Upon my check-in, I was told that a room should be ready shortly as they were expecting a lot of check outs that morning so that I should expect a text message notifying me of my room availability pretty quickly. Great!

Hotel Check In Customer Experience

I had a morning meeting, followed by a lunch in the hotel, and really only needed my room for a 2:30 conference call, which would have been a little difficult to handle in the middle of a crowded casino. Luckily, that was over four hours away, so I had nothing to worry about. Wrong.

Hours pass, no message and I find myself needing to make the conference call from a car. Not ideal. (I know what you’re thinking, why not just go ask? Lines were enormous, and the overall chaos of what seemed like twenty tour buses arriving meant there was no way I would make the call on time if I did.) After the call, at around 3:30, I made my way to the front desk. There, the check-in line bouncer (as I’ve come to call him) informed me, when I asked him why I hadn’t received a message and it was already after 3, that, “Just because check-in starts at 3, doesn’t mean you’ll get a room at 3.”

Hmm. That seemed odd.

Me: “So you’re telling me that even if I had gotten here at 3, there was still a chance I’d be waiting for hours.”

Bouncer: “Yes, sir. That’s how it works.”

Me: “So, if check-out is at noon, does that mean it just starts at noon and I can stay in my room until I’m ready to leave?”

Bouncer: “The lady at the counter will be able to answer any other questions you have.”

Not a great start. On to the counter, where I’m told that a text message was sent to me at noon. Of course, I had not received any message. When I explained that I didn’t get a message from the hotel, I was assured that it was sent, and that my carrier settings may not be set correctly: “It’s a big tower so maybe your signal wasn’t that strong.” It wasn’t worth getting into the technical specifications of my phone and its settings, so I simply waited for my keys. Those I received pretty quickly. What I did not receive was the thing that really would have made it all better: an apology, or a simple acknowledgment that something went wrong.

I know that might seem petty, but in a luxury property, the expectation is such that when a customer’s experience is not optimal, the hotel would, at the very least, show a degree of sympathy and apologize that something hadn’t gone right. I didn’t get that. I’ve stayed in just about every hotel in that city, so it was pretty easy for me to decide that I would not stay at this particular property again.

How It All Changed

On the third night of my stay, after three days of meetings and running around in the unforgiving Las Vegas heat, a client had to cancel a dinner reservation at my hotel. Not the worst thing in the world, I thought, I’ll have a relaxing dinner on my own, which can always be an enjoyable treat.

This is where the entire experience turned around.

Everything was perfect. It was a late dinner, and I was seated at a large four-person table alone in a fairly quiet section of the large, Forbes Four Str Award-winning restaurant, so I received plenty of attention. And not just high-quality service, but personal touches. The flawless recommendations were being made before I had a chance to ask for them, and I was greeted by name by every member of the staff that walked past my table. What’s more, in the most professional and modest, classic Italian fashion, I would ask for something, and one of the members of the waitstaff would tell me that they had a better idea, and they were always right.

At the end of the night, I had the chance to talk to the manager, share my experience, and he sat with me for an additional half-hour, genuinely interested in hearing about my issues at check-in, relay those to hotel management, and find out more about what made my restaurant experience so outstanding.

It was during this experience that my entire opinion of the hotel and my time there changed. Granted, this did not change my check-in experience, but the taste that I was left with (pardon the pun) after my time in the restaurant augmented the overall experience on the property and persuaded me to completely shift my opinion of the hotel as a whole. The small details, the personal touches, and the authenticity of the staff completely made up for what I had been unhappy with originally. Take this out of a restaurant or hotel setting and apply it in just about any industry and the reality will be the same; millennials want a personalized, authentic experience if they are going to be loyal to one brand over another. There are a lot of great restaurants and hotels in Las Vegas, and I could have a wonderful experience at any one. Those small details in the customer experience this one time, however, place this particular restaurant a notch above the rest in my books.

If you want to know which restaurant I’m talking about, I would be happy to let you know privately, so feel free to reach out to me to ask for more details.

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Corey Padveen is a data-oriented marketing professional with a focus on statistical analyses of human behavior. This specialization has led him to speak and present at dozens of conferences around the world, to write for a variety of reputable online and print publications, and recently, to publish ‘Marketing to Millennials For Dummies’ as part of the world-renowned ‘For Dummies’ series. He regularly shares real world examples and findings from his research, and discusses how members of society are evolving as consumers, communicators, and a global network as a whole.
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