Service on the Road: The ROI Behind Creating Stress or Creating Queens

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Customer service When you’re on the road and this is particularly true for frequent travelers, you pay more attention to service, because great service can really make or break your experience, particularly when you’re longing for a bit of home comfort.

I have written extensively about service and the decline of it over the past decade, most evident in the United States, a country that was world renown for incredible service in the 50s and 60s.

On a recent trip I took to Las Vegas, I had a handful of what I’ll call “remarkable” experiences because of people who didn’t show up to do a job, but showed up to make their customers feel like queens.

I also ran into a couple of situations like we all do when we travel, where things may not go smoothly and the person you’re dealing with does little to make it better and in many cases, makes it worse.

This journey included two hotels, one rental car company, one restaurant and an online retail company.

The first hotel was the Southpoint Casino and Hotel, which is on the outskirts of Vegas. I called the front desk to ask for a late checkout one morning because I had barely slept the night before because of a report I was working on and a scratchy throat was in the making.

Despite re-emphasizing the fact that I was feeling sick and reminding her that it was in the middle of the week during a non-busy time with no major conventions on, she gave me the standard late check out. I requested another hour which she not only refused but did so gleefully, in that tone that makes you feel not just bad about asking, but inferior because of the power she commanded in our exchange.

Erica’s refusal to grant another hour under the circumstances, which cost the company ZERO, led to my immediate disatisfaction with the hotel (remember I was feeling ill when I called). What a price to pay given that I’m a frequent traveler who will share that experience with hundreds. What was she thinking? Isn’t it common sense?

After getting nowhere despite two calls to her directly, I tried another avenue and ended with Joanne. Have a listen to this dialogue:

Me: Joanne, I’m feeling a little under the weather, have a scratchy throat and barely slept last night – what can you do about a late check out?

Joanne: I’m so sorry to hear that you’re not feeling well. What time would you like the check out for? Would 3 pm work? If so, I’ll call down and let them know and you’ll be all set. And, let me know if there’s anything we can bring up for you to make you feel better.

HUH? Is this the same hotel and casino?

My question to you is this: How many Joannes do you have working in your organization and how many Ericas do you have? If you don’t know, FIND OUT and weed out the Ericas and make sure you only hire Joannes.

This isn’t rocket science folks. There is CLEAR ROI in your employees creating stress for your customers and creating a negative memory or turning all your customers into queens. Joanne made me feel like a “queen” in one sentence. ONE SENTENCE is all it took.

And if you’re not sure what the ROI is from an attitude that makes customers feel like queens and kings, look at the books and success of Zappos and Tasca Ford (who became the top Ford dealership in the world). Both companies built their entire vision statement around exceptional customer service…..real customer service, where each customer leaves the experience (whatever that experience may be), feeling like a king or a queen.

I repeat: how many Ericas do you have and how many Joannes do you have? And, what are you going to do to ensure you have all Joannes in your organization? (this applies to start-ups and established companies).

Speaking of Zappos, I finally went on the Zappos tour during this last trip to Vegas. They walk their talk folks……inside and outside Zappos’ headquarters walls.

Delivering happiness Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness is more than inspiring. Using his model to make customer service a core priority would dramatically change our experiences with stores, restaurants, vendors, hotels and retail outlets, every single day.

The passion and energy of the employees is addictive. I shot two videos on-site last week: the folks who work inside the Zappos Blog Bus and the head of the call center group. Not surprising, they’re all Joannes.

It doesn’t end there. I was invited to the Zappos holiday party and while I know Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, the customer service employee who invited me did not know I had any Zappos connection.

While I was at their offices, I was running around shooting “shoes” of all things and when one of the employees saw my passion for shooting “all things shoes,” he pulled out his 1920s rogues. After hearing my enthusiasm and learning that I used to spend a lot of time swing dancing, he invited me to their annual bash.

But, it doesn’t end there. Two employees hand delivered the tickets to my hotel, but they didn’t just drop them off at the concierge or valet. As soon as they got close, they called my cell and said, “hey, meet us downstairs at valet…..we’ll be in this fun colorful truck that says Zappos along the side.”Renee and jeni at zapos party

Their addictive enthusiasm and “happiness” was so intoxicating that despite the fact that I had not yet showered, I flew down to meet them. How do you think they made me feel? Like a queen.

(Photo to the right is Jeni (aka @spoiledtraveler) and I in full 1920s Gangster and flapper attire at the official Zappos holiday bash, both feeling like queens of course.)

Forward wind to a fabulous sandwich shop that I walked into on my way out to Red Rock National Park, about 30 minutes outside Las Vegas. I’m not much of a sandwich person frankly so was on the look out for a sushi or salad shop. Nestled between a Chinese take-out and a Mexican taco cafe was a sign I didn’t recognize called Capriottis.

Little did I know that the franchise was fairly well known in greater Las Vegas and they had won awards for their killer turkey sandwiches. When I walked in, I said, “Hey guys, I’m not sure I am in the mood for a sandwich so I’m just going to have a quick look at your menu, cool?”

Capriottis vegas corey melendrez owner tony and mike (9) Owner Corey Melendrez pipes up and says with enthusiasm and a smile, “I bet I can talk you into a sandwich.” Intrigued, I say, “yeah, but I’m really in the mood for chicken.”

“We’ve got chicken,” he says with the same enthusiasm, so I begin to look at the menu more closely and sure enough, they have chicken, roast beef, turkey, vegetarian, tuna, prosciutini Italian, eggplant, burgers, meatballs and more.

They also have their infamous Cran-Slam Club, which includes homemade turkey with cranberry sauce, ham, mayo and lettuce.

I opted for the Cole Turkey with cranberry sauce and just to assure that I was happy with my selection, Corey cut off a sample I could eat while I was waiting. They then helped me with directions and were so enthusiastic and passionate about Capriottis, I had to ask them to pose. Shooting them and later eating my sandwich in my rental convertible heading out to Red Rock, added happiness and joy to my entire day, not just the 20 minutes I was in their shop.

What’s the ROI of that experience? What’s the ROI of people like Corey and Joanne and Tony, Zach, Jerry, Jamie and Randy from Zappos? The ROI is a repeat customer for life, a company evangelist for life, a testimonial for life and someone who will continuously send referrals their way, for life.

And, most of the time, the customer isn’t asking for much when they’re dissatisfied, but they are asking for respect and to be heard. Have you ever heard the phrase, how you show up for anything is how you show up for everything? I bet that the Joannes and Coreys of the world have many more fulfilling relationships in other areas of their lives too.

Now meet David, who is the Manager of Fox Rental Car just outside the Las Vegas airport. I was late returning the car (by two hours beyond my grace period….largely due to getting lost in the desert), and seeing that I was flustered yet thrilled to finally get the car back, he doesn’t question, he doesn’t dig for more details to my story, he simply listens quietly and then says, “I’ll take off the additional charges so relax, don’t worry, you’re all set.”

David runs the contract in for me to make modifications so I don’t have to do a thing and helps me with my luggage, so again, I don’t have to do a thing. How do you think I felt at that moment? Like a queen of course. I later learn that his wife is applying for a job at Zappos. Why am I not surprised?

Finally, meet Willy, a bell man at the Flamingo Casino and Hotel along the Las Vegas strip. When I arrived, I changed rooms twice, the first time because the room was on top of the ice machine and elevator when I specifically asked to be far away from both in my reservation request.

The second move was because they moved me to a much older room that was renovated over a decade ago, and because the floor was so soiled and dirty, that they really should either use a throw rug in that room, or replace it, because it was beyond acceptable and likely not past sanitary standards. The light switch in the bathroom looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned in months.

Willy was the bell man sent to my room to deliver my luggage and he patiently waited while I was on the phone, with one big calming smile. When I finished with the front desk, he made me feel heard, understood and said he’d wait until I was sorted out, saying at this point, I should be upgraded to something at a level above my original reservation under the circumstances.

With the Flamingo for ten years, he has a history with the hotel and with both frustrated and happy customers. After getting moved to a room that was still an older refurbished room (the third try), I was too exhausted to say anything at this point.

At least the carpet was passable and there was a couch so I could work. The bottom line is this: what do I remember from that entire frustrating and uncomfortable experience where two hours of my time were lost and I was late for a meeting? Willy of course. He returns ten minutes later with my new keys and then says with a smile, let me know if you need anything else, extra blankets, or other amenities.

This memory too, will last a lifetime.

Attention Managers, Directors, CEOs, CMOs and CFOs: do you really need stories in this granular detail to learn that your companies are in severe pain if you don’t have a team on board that only consists of Joannes, Willies, Coreys, Davids and Zappos’ superstars?