In Trends

Specializing in hotel, resort, travel and lifestyle marketing, as we do, we’ve been hearing a lot about the “customer experience” lately. Which is not to be confused with “customer service.”

So, how do we describe customer experience? And what is the difference between customer service and customer experience?

Let’s crack the distinction.

Whichever meaning we’re talking, it has substantial meaning. Attaining excellence in both areas is vital.

We consider great customer service the price of entry in this business, satisfying those essential, traditional standards that must be met.

Upon arriving at a hotel, having someone greet you kindly and tote your luggage is pleasant, but it is also predictable and not necessarily memorable.

Customer experience, on the other hand, can truly set your brand apart from your competitors. It’s about going above and beyond what’s expected—and making conscious decisions to give customers the best possible service—to create an exceptional, overall experience.

Reach out and touch(point) someone.

Personalization is key with customer experience, more so than with a basic customer service ethic.

And remember: These tailored-to-them touchpoints should begin the second they first find you, continue through their time of booking or buying, and last through consumption and any follow-up. Together, they become the complete customer experience.

Hotels and resorts, for example, can start by looking at things from the guest’s perspective. Think about their travel pain points and how to relieve them. What’s it like for them to be on the road and away from home? What can you do to make their stay outstanding?

Once on-site, welcome them in a way that’s custom-made. Ask guests if they’re thirsty and offer water. Learn more about them and their individual needs, wants and stories, so that you can strive to fulfill them.

Determine what’s “best” for your brand.

It doesn’t matter whether you fall into the budget or ultra-luxe category, or if you’re independent or part of a great, big, world-famous chain. Crafting that customer experience should be a strategic priority, and it doesn’t have to be costly.

Assess your core values and brand voice. What do you want people to take away from interacting with your brand? Now, how can you make that happen? Make it uniquely you, unable to be duplicated, and personalize it to your customers.

Empower—and trust—your own people.

Whenever we discuss this topic, it all circles back to your brand’s smiling faces, those talented employees you’ve hired to mingle with customers directly.

Nurture your staff to truly be brand stewards, by altering your culture to one that enthusiastically embraces the superior customer experience.

Create touchpoints with which employees can reach them on that level. Enable them to personalize those touchpoints to each customer. Inspire them to be better and different, to take those moments a step further and make them special.

Organically, your very own ambassadors will be the ones who champion your brand and values, help you hit goals—and elevate the customer experience.

Some ways you can make it happen?

Here are a few examples from diverse brands, spanning the industry:

Hilton Wilmington/Christiana – Our Delaware client hosted an introverted pilot who found it draining to be around people while trying to recharge. So, an employee decided to set aside a tray of breakfast and tea each morning, just for him, to enhance his customer experience. Though a Hilton, this hotel strives to signify—and succeeds at—an unexpectedly familial and bespoke vibe.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Across Value, Moderate and Deluxe Resort levels, or even if staying off-site, a “magical moment” is always a possibility. You might return to your room to find surprise birthday gifts with a personalized card from Mickey. Or your child’s stuffed animals, staged by housekeeping into a welcome party. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, my own family was plucked from a long Kali River Rapids line by a Cast Member, who took us on a behind-the-scenes tour, then led us right on to ride it with us. A free thing to do—and we’ll never, ever forget it!

Alaska Airlines – Carefully plotted an up-close viewing of the recent total solar eclipse. From on-board experts illuminating them with scientific details to a champagne toast, the unrivaled party wowed passengers, including a NASA astronaut, social media contest winners and other guests. One couple bid $21,000 on their charter flight seats at a benefit auction!

In 2016, the airline also slightly altered a flight’s departure time, at the request of eclipse chasers, to maximize their viewing chances. To quote Chase Craig, Director of Onboard Brand Experience, “We recognize our customers’ passions. Certainly we can’t change flight plans for every interest, but this was a special moment, so we thought it was worth it. Now we have a plane full of customers who will be treated to a special occurrence.”

Ultimately, it pays to be generous.

That tingly feeling of goodwill should linger far beyond the moment. You’ll profit from a superb customer experience in endless ways. Building repeat business and brand loyalty. Increasing positive reviews and gushing referrals to new prospects. Ensuring unceasing success.

When it comes to customer experience…

There’s simply so much to contemplate. Email me, Lynn Kaniper, at—or call 609.466.9187, ext. 117—to chat some more!

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