As business people, we know that creating memorable customer experiences isn’t as straightforward as we’d like. Consumer preferences and behavior are constantly changing, and companies must keep up — ideally, stay ahead — of these changes. With 86% of buyers saying they’re willing to pay more for a better customer experience (source: CEI Survey), it’s no wonder company decision makers now believe a good experience is critical to success (source: Forrester).
While customer experience is a multi-faceted effort, it’s imperative for businesses to realize that customer experience is fundamentally about the human experience. Which aspects of your product or service bring happiness, comfort, relief, etc. to your customers? How does your company deliver a memorable experience to encourage your customers to stay with you?
Let’s take some lessons from the hotel industry, rated in the top three of the 2014 Forrester Research Customer Experience Index. Below are three examples of how top-rated hotels create memorable customer experiences by delivering on simple human desires and needs.
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, rated fourth in Forrester’s customer experience survey, keeps its eye on the individual guest experience while providing a local flavor at each of its worldwide locations. As Hyatt VP of Branding Carina Chorengel explains, “[T]hrough our interactions with our guests, we endeavor to create distinct experiences for them, while always keeping in mind local culture and each guest’s individual needs.”
Examples abound of Hyatt’s focus on local culture:
Grand Hyatt in San Francisco commissioned local artists to paint its walls with images that embody the essence of the city.
The upcoming opening of Hyatt’s Andaz luxury hotel in Tokyo will deliver “an unscripted, Japanese inspired experience to guests that will help them feel truly connected to the heart and soul of Tokyo.”
The Grand Hyatt Taipei, with its courteous staff of locals, has become an “iconic” symbol of the capital by both nationals and tourists.
Delivering a taste of local culture may not be relevant for many businesses, but the takeaway here is that businesses with multiple customer-facing locations have the opportunity to differentiate by customizing the experience at each property while at the same time maintaining the brand’s fundamental values.
2. Little Things That Make A Big Difference
It’s a well-known fact that satisfying customers is not a nice-have but a must-have. When businesses go above and beyond this threshold, customers notice. As the hotel industry exemplifies, exceeding customer expectations can be accomplished by the little things.
Doubletree by Hilton, rated third-highest on Forrester’s customer experience index, provides guests with a warm, signature chocolate chip cookie. It’s a simple gesture, but as the writer in this article gushes, these free cookies are a delightful treat that Doubletree customers look forward to.
#1-rated Marriott constantly delights customers with little, unexpected gestures as described in these tweets:
Customers expect solid service. But businesses that deliver small, unexpected gestures create truly exceptional experiences.
3. Engaged Employees
Whether a company sells a widget or a bed, online or in a store — all business transactions boil down to one thing: people. People — not brands — bring experiences alive. That’s why exemplary businesses invest in employee training programs and empower all employees to service customers.
Marriott trains every employee — from maintenance, housekeeping, to concierge — to interact with guests. Like any business, Marriott wants positive and authentic interactions between staff and customers. How do they make that happen? Marriott HR executive Gary Dodds says the company pays close attention to employee satisfaction scores, making necessary improvements to maintain a high level of employee happiness. It’s all part of the winning culture established by founder J. Willard Marriott, who said, “You’ve got to make your employees happy. If the employees are happy, they are going to make the customers happy.”
Now that’s exceptional customer experience from the inside out!
As business and technology continue to advance, let’s remember that delivering on human needs and desires is fundamental. It’s not just the customer experience; it’s the human experience.