Customer Loyalty is STILL About the Humans – Part 1

smile-woman“Customer loyalty is STILL about the humans. Despite all the new industry buzzwords and CRM technology, in the end, customer relations in 2018 will depend, as it always does, on the Customer Service Representative.”

– Nancy Friedman, President of Telephone Doctor Services

It’s the Friday before Memorial Day.  Unlike most people who are headed on vacation for the weekend, I am headed home after a month away on San Juan Island and I am eager to get home!  My day starts with a two-hour ferry delay and then we have a long, but beautiful trip across the Rosario Strait and finally, make it to the mainland!  Only 5.5 hours to the wonderful Oregon coast.  I turn my audio book on and set the GPS for home.  It calculates 14.5 hours!  Traffic, holiday weekend and accidents. Sigh.

The air conditioning in my car is not working, which typically is not an issue for those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest, but today it feels like it is 1000 degrees. It is actually only 75, but I am used to a mild climate and when stuck on I-5, over hot asphalt, completely stopped in traffic, with no AC, it is hot! My two dogs are with me and they, too, are hot, restless and unhappy.

After about 5 hours in the car, I have only made it to North Seattle which should have taken 90 minutes.  Going on just a few hours of sleep and suffering from the above-mentioned ailments, I pull off the highway.  I make a split-second decision to find a hotel for the night and try again tomorrow.  I get out my phone and start searching.  About 50 sites immediately pop up, as do several advertisements from social media outlets.  I click on some third-party hotel sites, a few ads and a couple direct websites for hotels and I am soon overwhelmed and confused.

The mobile sites are hard to follow and depending on where I click, I get rates varying up to a $300 difference per night for the same room!  When you’re using the phone to search, it’s hard to tell who has rooms available and who allows pets.  I was about to give up and sleep at the rest stop when I have a flashback to a hotel that I once trained that is only about 20 minutes away if I take the side roads.

After a few dead-end clicks on their webpage and a 3rd party booking site, I do the almost unthinkable in this day and age… I pick up the phone and call them!  What a concept!

The woman who answered the phone recognizes my name!  Or at least pretends to and is quite convincing.  How nice!  She asks how I am.  I give her my ‘spiel’ about the long, day I’ve had.  She tells me to come over right away and she will take care of me.  She shares that she can give me a special rate (about $150 less than anything I found online) and says she will have everything ready when I arrive.  I am WOWed and relieved, and feel like someone has hugged me, across the phone, when I needed it most.

Upon arrival, the employee I spoke to is waiting for me with a cold bottle of water and two dishes filled with water for my dogs!  At the front desk she has a bottle of wine set out with my keycard AND a travel packet of Advil from her gift shop (my headache was one of many complaints when I called!)  She also printed off a list of local eateries that will deliver so I do not have to get into my car again.

In my room she has placed bath salts, dog treats and dog beds.  Very nice, especially for a mid-scale hotel.  She calls to check on me a few times and before her shifts ends she says to call her cell phone if I need anything!  She even called me the next day, after I had checked out, to make sure I was doing well.

This is NOT an advertisement for this hotel, though I give them my highest recommendation!  This experience made me stop and think and I realized that with all my internet searching, a few things really stood out to me:

  1. I did not choose to stay the Seattle-suburb hotel for their Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. I never even made it that far in my search.

I chose them because they answered the phone quickly and due to the warm, genuine, ‘can-do’ attitude of the employee who answered the phone.

  1. I did not choose my Friday before Memorial Day hotel for their Trip Advisor scores. Though, when I went to post my own after my stay, no surprise, they are leading the pack.

I chose the hotel because the employee made me feel special and welcomed.  She made it easy for me to stay there and she was proactive in getting me everything I needed.

  1. I did not choose my hotel because of an email, text, or Facebook message I received from them, though I do receive emails from them monthly (which, I’m slightly ashamed to say, I’ve never opened).

I chose them because when I had a need, they were there to make me feel appreciated and secure.

This experience reminded me that no matter how far we come in terms of technology, there is NOTHING that takes the place of a human delivering good customer service!

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