CX: Using Intelligent Generosity To Cultivate Customer Delight

Certain businesses deal with products that perish or become useless if not used by a certain date/time.  This is often seen as a problem – a problem of generating demand to drive sales, and a problem of inventory management. I have yet to see this viewed, by Tops, as an opportunity to delight customers, and cultivate gratitude / loyalty between the customer and the business.

What am I talking about? Allow me to illustrate using a recent experience.

Recently, I booked a double room at the local Hilton (St. Annes Manor) hotel via Hotels.com.  I made a mistake – I booked it in my name, and for only one adult. So when time came for my wife and daughter to go to the hotel I rang the hotel. The voice on the other hand was professional and warm. The young lady didn’t just change the booking. Once she learnt that the room was for two adults, she took charge, and without me asking, found a room with two beds. I found myself pleased and grateful.  Later that evening my wife sent me a photo of the room – it was a room with two double beds.  Delight – my wife was delighted, my daughter was delighted, and I was delighted.  Along with this kind of room came four towels – ideal for those of us who needed access to that room merely to shower – until the major renovation work is finished in our home.

Think about it. What did the hotel lose by giving us that bigger (deluxe) room?  Nothing!  It was late in the day, the room was free, and if it had not been used it would have created no value for anyone.  Through intelligent generosity the lady on the front desk did create value: for us (the customers) and also for that hotel. How so for the hotel? I am writing about the hotel right now am I not?  Also, it was the first time any member of the family stayed there – those that got to experience it (wife and daughter) love it and have been talking about it – recommending it to others: the room, the peaceful / beautiful location, the spa…..  I also suspect that sooner or later my wife will check us in there for a quiet weekend away from the children.

It occurs to me that every business that deals with ‘perishable’ inventory has an opportunity to exercise intelligent generosity:

If you are an airline then you can offer seats (that your analytical models show will go unfilled) to some of your customers for free – as a thank you;

If you are a hotel you can do as our local Hilton did and/or offer some / all of the rooms likely to go unfilled to some of your customers for free – as a thank you or as taster;

If you are a supermarket, you have an opportunity to give food that is reaching its sell by date to certain customers (you choose which ones) or to local community organisation / charity that supports those in need…..

I know that some organisations do something this  e.g. airlines which offer free upgrades to certain customers.  I know that some hotels do this also. What I am talking about here is this and more than this – in some instances giving perishable product away to customers for free – free flight, free hotel stay, free train ticket, free concert ticket……

The question I am posing is this one: what opportunities does your business have to exercise intelligent generosity – the kind of generosity that causes customer surprise / delight / gratitude, holds the promise of increased revenue and/or brand reputation over the longer term, yet costs you little or nothing today?

Before you dismiss the question that I have posed, I ask you to consider that if ‘perishable’ inventory is not used by its sell-by date then it is waste. Is waste a better outcome / way of showing up and traveling in life than intelligent generosity?  All I can say is that the field of intelligent generosity appears large and largely unoccupied.

I thank you for your listening, until the next time…

What Can The Hotel Industry Learn From Homelands B&B?

Homelands Bed & BreakfastDuring November, whilst on business, I stayed at Homelands Bed & Breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed my experience. It was so good that staying at Homelands occurred as staying at a home away from home.  My experience lived up to the five star rating that Homelands has earned on TripAdvisor.

Here’s what I think the hotel industry can learn from the folks (Erik and Nicola Burger) who own and run Homelands B&B Woodsmancote:

After Booking And Before Arrival

I think I made the booking via Hotels.com about a week in advance of arrival.  A couple of days after making the booking I received an email from Erik and Nicola confirming the booking, welcoming me, and letting me know that the normal check-in time is between 4 and 9pm. And if I was going to arrive outside of that window then they needed to know so that alternative arrangements could be made.

Further, they provided useful advice like which road to take and importantly which road to avoid unless I had strong nerves and a 4×4 vehicle.

After an email exchange it became apparent that Erik and Nicola make it a habit to welcome their guests. Yet few guests turn up on a Sunday night – business travellers don’t tend to stay there. And the Burger family had made plans to go out that Sunday evening.  This was not a problem we came to an arrangement that worked well for all of us.

What impression did this exchange make on me?  “Wow, these folks know I am coming. They want to make sure that I get there safely. And that when I get to their place they are either there to welcome me. Or at the very minimum, that I can get to my room without any problems. They are living up the praise they have received on TripAdvisor. I have made the right choice.”

Further because of this proactive email exchange I was able to let Erik and Nicola know that my breakfast needs were simple: fruit, croissants or cereal (granola), and a cup of tea.

Now compare this with the Holiday Inn Express where I stayed the first week of November. I made the booking. I heard nothing from the Holiday Inn Express. When I turned up I found there was no parking. Which came as an unpleasant surprise. And then I had to ask for car parking options.

Lessons:

  1. Reach out to your customers when they place an order and provide them with useful information.
  2. If standard ways of doing things don’t work  for this customer in this particular instance then look for creative ways around the standard ways. Creative ways that leaves the customer feeling valued. And yet does not damage the business.

Upon Arrival and First Night At Homelands

I arrived on Sunday night. It was dark. I was in the middle of the countryside. After asking a neighbour I found Homelands, used the pin code that Erik and Nicola had emailed me. Found the envelope with my name on it and key inside – as promised. Entered Homelands, found a friendly welcoming note for me. Then made my way to my room for the week. The room was tastefully decorated. The sheets were clean… Everything was in order – just as I had been led to expect it from the photos, from the reviews.

Lessons:

  1. The ‘product’  must match your description of your ‘product’. Put differently,  the ‘product’ must contain / do exactly what it says on the tin. In this case the picture of Homelands accurately represented Homelands. The decorations were tasteful – just as described…
  2. In the hospitality business the experience (total experience) is the product!  How you treat folks matters as much as the quality of the room you are selling or the breakfast you are providing.
  3. You must keep your promises – if you promise something then you must deliver it. Why? Because the customer is counting on you to deliver it.

First Morning at Breakfast Time

At the agreed time (7:50am) I came down to breakfast. I was greeted warmly and professionally by Erik. What I had asked for, for breakfast, was there: fresh fruits, jars of cereals, apple juice, orange juice, water….

During the process of getting to know one another I learnt that Erik was Dutch. That the night before he had gone to see the new Bond movie with his son…. I told Eric a little about me, like where I lived, why I was in his part of the world….

Then Erik asked me if there was anything else that I needed. Like a cooked breakfast. Or coffee. I told Erik that I was keeping things simple as I was on bunch of drugs due to back and neck problems. And that these medicines has a side effect: constipation.  So, I was being careful about what I did eat and what I did not eat.  Then Erik asked me if there was anything else that he could do for me.

After hesitating, I made my request. I told Erik that I had neck and shoulder pain. That he could help release that pain. And I showed him how to do it – by pressing his elbow at two points on the upper part of my body. Erik told me that this was the most unusual request any guest had ever made of him. And he accepted.  Frankly, I was surprised. After Erik had finished, I expressed my gratitude as I was truly grateful.

Can you imagine me making that kind of a request at a corporate hotel?  What do you think the likely reaction would have been if I had approached a staff member of Holiday Inn, Hilton, Radissan SAS.?  I guess I would have been told it is against policy for staff members to physically touch guests. Never mind press down hard with their elbow into the top of my shoulders!

Lessons:

  1. If the customer selects from a range of options then make sure that you deliver on the selection that the customer has made. No point offering / giving more than what the customer needs e.g. like laying out a cooked breakfast that a customer is never going to eat.
  2. What really takes the customer’s breath away and builds gratitude, loyalty, advocacy, is your ability to do something special (as defined by the customer) for the customer – especially when the customer asks for it.

Second Night At Homelands

One of the most frustrating things I find at hotels of all kinds is that they don’t feel like home. At home, if I need water I can just get some water. If I want some fruit juice I can get some fruit juice. At hotels I am stuck, at best with an overpriced, mini-bar.  And that leaves me feeling like I am being milked for all the milk the hotel can get out of me.  I usually respond by either buying a large bottle of water from a restaurant – which is still cheaper than the hotel. Or by finding a local store and buying it from there and taking it to my hotel room. I have an aversion to being milked!

Not at Homelands. At Homelands there is kitchen and in that kitchen is big fridge. And in that fridge are fruit juices, and water bottles. There is milk. And there are extra mugs….

So when I woke up in the middle of the night and had to take some pain killers and muscle relaxants, I made my way to kitchen and helped myself to the Apple juice. Exactly the kind of thing I do at home. I wake up, I find myself in pain, I walk down the stairs, I find a glass, open the fridge…..

Lesson:

  1. It is amazing how the little things – like being able to get a small glass of fruit juice, or water without having to pay – matter. And how much they matter.  But to understand which little things matter and how much they matter you have to be able to access your humanity. To genuinely have walked in the shoes of the customer – as a normal every day human being rather than a marketer or a process/six sigma guy…
  2. There is absolutely no substitute for kindness / generosity. Stan Phelps calls this Lagniappe.

Second Morning at Breakfast

After waking up and having a shower, I took the time simply to gaze out at the fields, the green grass, the trees, and the horses. Such a refreshing change to staring at buildings, tarmac, and hearing the noise of vehicles on the road.

When I made my way down to breakfast, I noticed that the range of fruits had increased. In addition to melon, and grapefruit there were berries and prunes.  If you don’t know, prunes help with constipation.  Clearly, Erik had listened, used his listening to learn about me, and most importantly acted on his insight into my health and condition.

How did this leave me feeling? I say it again, it left me with the feeling of being at home away from home. Why is this important? Because home is where I feel safe. Home is where I am with people I know care for me. And people I know I can count on for help if I need help.

Whilst having breakfast Erik and talked a little bit more.  I learnt that Erik is Dutch. That he is into nature and conversation. That Erik and Nicola make their own honey…. A human conversation the kind that I am used to having at home whilst I have breakfast.

 

Lessons

  1. If if you show up in the correct manner and simply engage in conversation, customers will tell you a lot about themselves, the situation they find themselves in, their hopes and fears, the constraints they are working within….
  2. Insight in and of itself has no value. Value, as experienced by the customer and repaid through loyalty, is generated when you act on the insight in a manner that leaves the customer feeling grateful because your action/s have made his life easier, simpler, richer.

Time to stop. I could go on and on. And my back is beginning to hurt and that is not good.

By writing this I have kept my word. What word?  Upon leaving Homelands for the second and last time, I told Erik that Homelands had occurred as home away from home.  And that I would be writing about Homelands and sharing my experience.

If you are on holiday or on business and looking somewhere great to stay then I thoroughly recommend that you check out Homelands Bed & Breakfast.  I cannot praise it highly enough. And neither can all the other folks that have stayed there – Homelands gets a five star rating on TripAdvisor. 

A la prochaine – until the next time.

Hall of Fame: Why I Am Willing To Buy From And Recommend Tesco Mobile

Honouring One’s Word v Keeping One’s Word

As a ‘graduate’ of Landmark Education I came across many valuable distinctions.  One of the most powerful of these distinctions is this one: honouring one’s word. Notice, that honouring one’s word is not keeping one’s word.

When one operates from a stand of ‘honouring one’s word’ then one cleans up the mess that occurs or is likely to occur when one does not keep one’s word.  And one does so gladly as one values the other, values the relationship, and values one’s word as one’s self.

Tesco Mobile Honours Its Word After Having Not Kept It

What has this to do with Tesco Mobile?  You may remember that it occurred to me that Tesco Mobile had not treated me fairly given the situation I found myself in. And the way that I had sought to work with Tesco Mobile to come to an amicable resolution – one that was fair and worked for both Tesco Mobile and myself.  I wrote up my experience in the following post: Why I Will Never Buy Anything From Tesco Mobile Again!

Several days after writing the last post, a helpful chap (Niky McBride) from Tesco Mobile contacted me.  We spoke on the phone.  And the phone call ended with Mr McBride promising to look into the situation and find am amicable solution for all.

I had my doubts.  One part of me expected that Mr McBride would come back and tell me that he had looked into the corporate policy and he could not help me. The other part of me expected that the best offer would be along the following lines: you can terminate the contract by paying up the remaining amount on the cost of the iPhone and this months airtime-data fee.

Instead I received the following offer:

Dear Mr Iqbal

Thank you for your time over the phone today.

As discussed, we are unable to offer tethering on iPhone at present. As a resolution to the matter, we’re happy to:

1. Allow you to return the handset so we can cancel your contract without Early Termination Charges
2. Allow you to pay for the handset so you can keep this and use it on another network that supports tethering

Please let me know which course of action you would prefer so we can bring this matter to a resolution for you.

Kind regards,

Niky McBride (Mr)
Customer Service Executive
Tesco Telecoms

After consideration, I chose to return the handset and cancel the contract.  In part, this was because I wanted to see what my experience would be like if I did decide to return the handset.  Would it be easy or difficult?  Would I find that despite Mr McBride’s promise, I would find that the right arm didn’t know what the left arm was doing. And so I would find myself charged for cancelling the contract and returning the phone.

The return process turned out to be remarkably easy.  I was sent clear-helpful instructions on how to go about returning the iPhone. And on the appointed day-time, the courier turned up to pick up the iPhone.

Somewhat later, I got an email informing me that I would be charged something like £800+  for the early termination of the contract.  So that which I had envisaged had come true: the right arm did not know what the left arm was doing!  Just as I was about to consider my options, I found myself disarmed with the following email:

Dear Mr Iqbal

I am writing to prevent any concern, as there has been a charge applied to your Tesco Mobile account for the iPhone handset you returned. Please however, rest assured that we’ve asked for this balance to be cleared so you will not be charged.

This email is confirmation that you will not be charged.

Kind regards,

Niky McBride (Mr)
Customer Service Executive
Tesco Telecoms

Did Mr McBride live up to his promise?  Did he keep his word?  Here is an extract from the email that I wrote:

Dear Mr McBride,

I have just received my credit card statement and find that you have been true to your word …. I have not been charged by Tesco Mobile.

….. I thank you for all that you have done on my behalf. I find myself wondering what kind of world you-I would find ourselves living in if enough of us were to show up and operate in this world in the way that you have done – in helping me come to an amicable-just resolution……

It occurs to me that a great way for me to repay you is to thank you through a follow up post. You have done right by me. And now it is my turn to do right by you, and Tesco Mobile. If you are in a position to email me a photo of yourself, your team leader, or your team then please do so, and I will include it in the post……

At your service / with my love and gratitude
Maz

Does Tesco Mobile Now Offer Tethering On The iPhone?

Allow me to close out this post by dealing with the issue of tethering on the iPhone. Why?  It was the lack of tethering that drove me to look to end my relationship with Tesco Mobile.

Two readers have written to let me know that Tesco Mobile is now offering tethering.  I am assuming that this means that Tesco Mobile is now offering tethering on the iPhone; they were already offering tethering on other phones including my daughters £60 Samsung phone which made me see red as I had paid £660 for the iPhone 5s 32GB and could not get tethering when I needed it for work.

I cannot say whether Tesco Mobile is or is not offering tethering with the iPhone.  My recommendation is to check this before you enter into a contract.  Or to check it out as soon as you receive your iPhone. Why?  Because you have 14 days to return your phone and cancel the contract.  I believe this is a legal requirement when buying stuff via the internet.

What I can say is this: I find myself willing to buy from and recommend Tesco Mobile.  Why? Because Tesco Mobile, through Mr McBride, honoured its word to me as a customer. And that is all that I ask of any person-organisation that I do business with: honour your word.