Empower team members by having them focus on guest needs and saying “yes” to every guest request.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Medallia Institute Customer Experience Certification workshop. Intended for program managers, analysts, researchers, customer-experience champions and brand managers, the workshop is focused on helping participants learn how to put feedback into action by embedding the voice of the customer into day-to-day operations and key decisions in their organizations.
I can highly recommend this workshop for its practical guidance designed to help unlock the potential of your customer-experience program. The workshop delivers an excellent hands-on learning experience for attendees just starting their customer-experience management programs as well as those with mature programs already in place.
During the workshop, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with one of the subject matter experts, Blair McHaney, VP of strategic initiatives at Medallia. What struck me about McHaney was his nearly 40-year quest to build his independent business by making it organizationally and operationally aligned around the customer experience. McHaney has owned two Gold’s Gyms, and his operations have year in and year out produced customer satisfaction scores in the top echelon of the brand.
He and I shared a number of customer-experience stories during our time together, including the nuances of providing customer service. We soon found our discussions regarding how to establish a service culture in an operating unit landed on a consistent theme.
I mentioned to McHaney that while a hotel GM with Embassy Suites in the mid-1990s, I established a philosophy at the hotel whereby the only person in the hotel permitted to say “no” to a guest request was me—the GM—and I wouldn’t ever do so. As such, I implored my team to find a way to say “yes” to every guest request.
If the guest escalated his or her request to the hotel GM, there was a very high likelihood (100% chance, in fact) that the request would be granted. I shared with my staff that I wanted to support them in every way, and as long as they found a way to say “yes” to guest requests, I could. If they told a guest “no,” they were disabling my ability to support them.
This approach resonated with McHaney, who shared with me his similar philosophy of giving his team the following guideline: Only ask permission to tell the customer “no,” but you don’t have to ask permission to say “yes.” How perfect!
Whether you reserve the sole right to deny customer requests in your operation or require your team to only ask permission to say “no” to your customers (while enjoying complete freedom and satisfaction from saying “yes”), the key is to make it easy to focus on the customer’s needs and empower your team to deliver against them.
Of course, this isn’t always easy. There is a tremendous amount of training required to build the confidence necessary for team members to behave in an empowered way (including training on how to deal with customer complaints), and you must make sure your operational processes and procedures enable this type of empowerment as well.
The investment, however, is well worth the effort and the return in happier team members and more loyal customers drives lower turnover and higher profitability.
Until next time remember, take care of the customer, take care of each other and take care of yourself.
Jim Hartigan, chief business development officer and partner joined OrgWide Services, a learning, communications, surveys and consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim brings to OrgWide a reputation for driving change through improved business processes and developing comprehensive strategies that streamline operations, drive brand awareness and preference, and increase customer satisfaction.
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