IT’S THE CUSTOMER – STUPID!*
No the customer is not stupid, the stupid person is the business owner that doesn’t focus on their actual customer or potential customer.
One of the biggest lessons that I learned (way before I ever thought that I would run my own business) was that the customer was your number one priority. What they did – and more importantly, what they said – was the key driver between success and failure. Great customer service is what all business should be striving to achieve. And where did I learn this lesson? Well it was while I was working for Royal Caribbean, the second-largest cruise line in the world.
WHAT DID THEY DO?
How was Royal Caribbean able to grow its business, to the point where it was building two new ships each year at a cost of USD$500million each? Quite simply, they listened to what each and every customer had to say about their experience and then acted on the feedback.
At the end of each cruise (it didn’t matter if it was a three-day cruise to the Bahamas or an 18-day cruise through the Panama Canal), the company got every guest to complete a survey that asked for details about every aspect of the ship’s customer service. They wanted to know everything that the customers liked or didn’t like. How clean was their cabin, was the food good, did they enjoy the entertainment? What was the overall impression of the whole ship, and could they name a staff member that gave exceptional service?
HOW DID THEY DO IT?
Here’s the interesting bit – the company actually got about 99% of customers to fill out the forms at the end of the cruise. I know, that sounds like an incredibly high response rate but in reality it was easy to obtain: the simply offered a bribe for participation!
That bribe was the opportunity to win a FREE cruise to the participants (sorry, only one winning couple per cruise). This was pretty cheap for the company to provide, as their ships are already committed to sailing each week (depending on the itinerary) and having two extra guests on a 2500+ passenger ship is a drop in the ocean, if you’ll pardon the pun. The information they got from these rating cards, however, helped drive their growth exponentially. They were able to fix and perceived problems the same day as they received the rating cards and put additional resources into place if required.
Although negative feedback is often too late to change retrospectively (ie. the people that received the bad/average experience) everyone else in future benefits from the constructive criticism. Every week the hotel manager, heads of staff on-board and the office in Miami went over the data, benchmarked it against the averages of the fleet and looked at what they could improve upon. Every year the company grew and grew. Any issue that they felt needed addressing they could always contact a previous customer (who filled out the form and provided their contact details) and make amends. This was done as part of a commitment to exceptional customer service, and it’s something that can turn ordinary customers into brand advocates.
Anyone is business knows that brand advocates that go out and actively promote your service or product are marketing that money cannot buy. There is nothing better than getting people to tell all their friends, relatives and anyone who will listen how great your product is.
HOW WE DO IT
Unfortunately we are not in a position to give away a free cruise every week (or even go on one) but we do reach out to our customers after their events and ask them to provide feedback on our services.
We ask them to rate our services and provide feedback here. We also use Facebook as an alternative method of communication.
Going back several years we used to send feedback forms out in the mail with a return envelope and a $2 Tatts scratchie as a thank you. Eventually though we moved to online reviews, partly because they’re more responsive but mostly because they’re also more transparent. Our reviews are submitted to a third-party site, which prevents us from editing the review, quoting it out of context or just cherry picking the best bits (as the author Jeffery Archer was once found to have done). We hope it results in reviews that you can actually trust.
Any time I see a very short review on a company’s own site, I am always wary that it could be very heavily edited or even a fake. I once saw two versions of the same feedback on a competitor’s site once. Either they didn’t have enough reviews to fill the space or the website administrator made a genuine mistake – either way though, it made me chuckle.
WHY WE DO IT
We are genuinely interested in finding out if our customers’ parties are a success and if our services met their expectations – we like to think that this is old fashioned real customer service. Too many businesses ignore a client once they have been paid and don’t even bother to ask. Many may be too afraid to hear what their customers really think of their service or product, and therefore simply won’t ask. They may get some unsolicited feedback, usually very good or bad (most indifferent customers don’t bother to reach out unless prompted) but by building this feedback request into our process it has helped us understand our customers and grow our business. We also think it helps our future customers.
In our opinion you would be stupid not too!
PS: We would love to know your thoughts on the subject! Feel free to leave us a comment below, or contact us on Facebook
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