Black Meetings and Tourism

Sept/Oct 2012

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ICI •pg_19-28__BMT_pg3-58 12/21/12 3:16 AM Page 21 HOW TO SATISFY YOUR CUSTOMER EVERY TIME No business is more dependent on quality customer service than travel, tourism and hospitality. It pains me to say this, but I can remember every bad experience I've ever had at a hotel, BY MICHAEL BENNETT rental car counter, airline and restaurant. That's not being cynical or negative, it's true of most of us because of expectations. When we stay at a hotel or dine at a restaurant we expect, in fact, we downright demand a certain level of service and when it doesn't come we notice. In today's technology driven real time world, a bad experience goes viral in a matter of seconds. Have you ever looked at some of the complaints on the website Yelp or the more than 50 social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook. It takes a split second to undo that reservoir of goodwill you've spent years filling. Businesses have begun to fight back against this technology driven onslaught of negativity. Two technology firms have approached me in recent weeks that provide real time solutions to handling customer complaints for hotels (we have intentionally not mentioned them here). One was through the download of a mobile app, the other through tablets strategically placed around hotel properties. Both platforms sent emails and text messages directly to hotel managers in real time to handle any problems that arise. As the world gets more connected these apps will become the standard for evaluating and improving customer service. I recently read the story of Peter Shankman, a networking guru and frequent traveler who loves dining at Morton's Steakhouse. This native New Yorker is connected to his favorite steakhouse through social media, primarily Twitter and Morton's outstanding Customer Relations Management (CRM) system. When he calls for a reservation from his cell phone, their CRM system quickly identifies him by name so the person answering the phone can address him accordingly. But there is more to this story. On a recent flight back to Newark, he jokingly tweeted to Morton's, "can you meet me at Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours." He was exhausted after a long day of work, which included a roundtrip flight to Tampa. To his surprise not only was he greeted by his driver at the airport, someone from Morton's had taken the time during his flight to prepare his meal and drive 23 miles to the airport with that porterhouse. He tweeted his experience for the world to read. You can read his story at Back in July, I stayed at the W Hotel on South Beach in Miami. Gabriella DiFalco an Insider at the hotel greeted me at the front desk and handed me her business card. I'd never heard of an "Insider," but welcomed someone so attentive to my needs after a long flight. She asked permission to send text messages to my cell phone for things like happy hour, restaurant reservations, shuttle services and pretty much everything going on in Miami. I could have easily gone to my room and read all about the property and Miami, but who wants to be bothered after a day of airports and flight delays. I love technology. Not only was she an outstanding resource, her people skills were second to none. I never got to thank her personally, but the power of technology allowed me to express my appreciation. While technology is a great tool to increase customer satisfaction, nothing replaces good people skills, communication and direct contact. On a recent trip to Baltimore, I arrived in the hotel lobby about that same time as a gentleman who just completed a 20-hour flight from Australia. He goes to check-in only to discover the hotel had given away his prepaid room. This despite the fact he alerted them to his late arrival and his need for a non-smoking room for health reasons. The front desk clerk compounded his misery by arguing with the customer in a lobby filled with guests. So tip number one: the quality of customer services will never exceed the quality of the people who provide it. Now businesses don't want to hear this, but you get what you pay for. If you put untrained low-wage workers at the front desk you'll come to regret the day you allowed them to represent your business. BM&T ••• September/October 2012••• 21

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