Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What do The RITZ and Waffle House have in common?

I just returned from a trip to San Francisco and had the good fortune of staying at the Ritz Carlton. I arrived at noon and was greeted by a doorman (employee #1). He welcomes me to the Ritz, assists with my luggage and asks my name. The next employee (#2) then opens the door and uses my name as he welcomes me. This employee was within earshot of #1 so using my name was an easy feat. Here’s where it gets interesting – I enter the hotel and am greeted with, “Welcome Ms. Ford”. This employee (#3) had been seated at a desk, rose quickly and offered me a bottle of water as she walks me to the front desk. Now she could not have heard the name exchange that happened outside the hotel. When arriving at the front desk I hear, “We are glad to have you at the Ritz, Ms. Ford. How was your trip?” Just to keep it straight, this was the 4th employee to use my name and it all happened in about 60 to 90 seconds. I know you are thinking – It’s the Ritz, what do I expect. Yes, I do expect it. However there are plenty of places with great reputations where the experience does not live up to our expectations. So it is a delight to see their philosophy of “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” in action.

My question is: does it take a Ritz to make this magic happen? Nope. Let’s go back to the Saturday before my arrival at the Ritz. After a fun run at our daughter’s school, two families went to the Waffle House for breakfast. A smiling employee opens the door, greets us with menus, a “Good Morning” and directs us to a table. Immediately our waitress says, “Good Morning” and takes our drink order. No, they don’t ask for my name and use it four times. But my waitress smiled sincerely, served me with hospitality and called me “honey”. And at the Waffle House, honey is just as good as hearing your name.

Who would think the Ritz and the Waffle House have so much in common…. both know how to provide a memorable experience by paying attention to details that matter to their customer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Do you feel lucky today?

As customers we are impatient, demanding, time starved and knowledgeable. Given all that, we know what we want and when we want it. And contrary to popular belief, it does not always have to be fast. But it does need to be resolved by a competent person in a responsive manner. We really don’t want to be on hold for what feels like an eternity. But if and when we reach a human we want it to be the right person.

It is the same with your website, social media or however your customer chooses to reach you. If we have done the necessary navigation we want to know your company will respond with more than an automated answer to someone else’s question just not mine. We prefer to deal with one person, not two or three people who are not empowered to help us.

I love when I finish an interaction and feel, “I got lucky – I got the right person” or “Wow, that was easy”.

As a leader, what are you doing to make every team leader the “right” person?” Does every interaction leave your customer feeling it was their lucky day?

Customers are not that easy to come by. It is your job to make sure the customer’s experience is one that keeps them loyal.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Just What The Doctor Ordered

It was quite refreshing to read a recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about a local prestigious hospital, Emory Healthcare. This hospital has been hit hard like many other hospital systems. Patients are seeking healthcare with no insurance and the stock market has decimated their investments by $50 million. They are fortunate that during this tough period they have remained profitable. However the bottom line still suffered a $20 million dollar loss according to the CEO, Jeff Fox.

Most organizations facing this type of loss would start looking at layoffs. In the healthcare industry, this would affect customer care. Emory decided to try another approach first. It is an old fashioned tried and true technique – talk to all employees, explain the situation and ask for their ideas on how to get through it. Employees suggested hundreds of cost saving ideas which translated to a savings of $30 million dollars. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered!

The ideas ranged from employees reducing paid time off by one day to giving up benefits in order to save jobs. All employees will feel the changes in their pay. That obviously was a small and acceptable price to pay when the alternative was job losses and reduced patient care. No layoffs are scheduled at this time. I wish this stuff was rocket science then it would be easier to not act because you just aren’t smart enough. It is not that tough so there are no excuses.

Employees will rally and support leadership when engaged in the process. Are you willing to ask employees for their ideas. The team knows these are tough times. They will buy in to tough decisions if you involve them. Start talking, leading and asking. They get it.

Make something good happen today.