Reflections of the MP: Make your Customer Smile


Reflections of the MP: Make your Customer Smile

As I checked in the Taj President, Mumbai, the smiling receptionist handed me the forms to fill in. I was tired having awoken early to catch the flight to Mumbai, and of course the one and half hour drive to the hotel added to the weariness. The smile lifted the spirits as I looked around warily. After all, expensive hotels tend to have receptionists with plastic smiles.

The receptionist handed me the viagra online prescription free key jacket which contained a paper smiley. I couldn’t help but smile and looked in for more details. It was a small card by which you could commend a hotel staff who happened to give you extra-ordinary service during your stay. Great idea, I thought.

In business we all talk about our customers – they are the king or queen. We need to take care of their needs. Our growth depends on satisfying customer needs, and … umpteenth numbers of clichés where we celebrate the importance of customers. This is nowhere tested on a second by second basis than in the hospitality business, hotels being one such place.

With most products, you usually do not get to meet the organization or its people. But in a hotel, the ‘product’ begins from the doorstep. The doorman, the bell boy, the receptionist set the tone of the product. For instance, my experience at the President was that of genuine care you felt from all these people. Not the trained artificiality I’ve experienced else where.

Did the smiley card have anything to do with this, I wondered. So I met up with Rakesh Sahal, the Duty Manager. How long have you introduced this card? It’s been around for a year now. A year isn’t enough to build up genuine care. This takes years to build in any company’s culture. So the care I felt was before the card was introduced.

How has this helped the business? In many ways, Rakesh explained. First, the hotel guests get to smile seeing this simple card. And genuine smiles are always infectious! Then of course they are on the look out to find someone who has been most helpful – putting pressure on the staff to give their best, which they do anyway.

And what do you do with the cards? End of the month, the general manager picks the best cited staff and gives a complimentary coupon for the person to enjoy a free meal in any of the hotel’s restaurants.

Even if you have heard the clichés hundreds of times, a business’ survival does depend on customer satisfaction. And as customers come, they can easily go. Loyalty of customers is as fickle as a hot knife passing through a platter of soft butter. We need to really, genuinely care about our customers and change the quicksand of loyalty into a solid relationship.

I was reading an article in the Harvard Business Review on customer loyalty. According to research, on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being the highest customer satisfaction, only those who score a 9 or 10 are referred to others by customers. On the other hand any score from 0 to 6 will be quicksand. These customers will tend to spread the word against you. So the expectation of customers is extremely high and only highly satisfied customers will talk about you. As such, ignoring customer satisfaction will be to your peril. And do not take it for granted either. Building customer satisfaction needs be ingrained in your organization’s culture, just as much as I found this to be true in the Taj President.

What is it you need to do ensure customer satisfaction? Look at your processes where ever you have customer touch points. For example in the case of a hotel, the touch points are persons whom you may not care too much about – the doorman, bell boy, waiters, janitors, cleaners, any staff a hotel guest will bump into during his stay. The way any one of them converses with the guest will constantly move the gauge of customer satisfaction.

Look at every point where a customer has a ‘transaction’ with you, not necessarily a monetary exchange. Again, in the hotel, transactions take place when a guest is talking to anyone, taking a meal, having a shower, etc. Every single experience a guest will have is a transaction. How user friendly is each of these transactions? For a truly customer focused organization one would analyze each and every one of these transactions to make sure that the customer experience is painless and trouble free.

If we do our homework right, we will bring customer smiles ensuring the sustainability of our business, and bring smiles to our stakeholders.