Like all business owners, I know only too well the importance of effectively managing customers and making sure their expectations are met at all times.
However, sometimes the best lessons on customer service are learnt when you are a customer yourself (on the receiving end, so to speak).
Recently, our entire extended family went to Devon (UK) for a weekend to celebrate a 50th birthday. Obviously it was a weekend which we wanted to be as memorable as possible – for the right reasons.
We arrived at the hotel and everything was perfect. The weather was great, the other guests were friendly and the staff were fantastic.
I spoke with the hotel manager who said that he would deal with the restaurant booking for us and make sure everything was spot on for the celebration the following day.
Safe in the knowledge that the evening’s festivities had been taken care of, we enjoyed an entertaining day exploring the Devon coast.
When the evening came, all the family was in an excellent mood aided by a few glasses of champagne in the hotel bar.
However, when we arrived for our meal, no amount of champagne could have prepared us for the disappointment. We discovered that the restaurant had received no booking from the hotel. I was particularly upset as I had relied exclusively on the hotel manager to, in his words, ‘look after’ us!
Despite frantic efforts to ‘sort something out’ we never quite had the evening we anticipated and it certainly wasn’t the memorable event we had expected. We never really got to the bottom of what actually occurred, but the restaurant stated that it would only accept a booking for a table of our size with a faxed confirmation. It said that it never received the fax.
This sequence of events made me realise that all of us are vulnerable to points of weakness in any process. When I began to relate it to the services my company offers, it certainly highlighted just how important it is to have supply chains and communications that are efficient and as fail-safe as possible. It also struck me that while the customer service at the hotel had been fantastic, it had failed to effectively deal with a weakness that to some extent was outside its sphere of control.
We all know the statistics connected with the cost of winning customers versus the cost of retaining them and the impact of losing them. But this sorry episode brought home the importance of knowing where you are with your customers at all times, ensuring that you are managing them beyond their expectations and matching your own.
PS: We ended up eating in the local fish and chip shop.