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Customer Satisfaction

By Jim Mikula, Presdient/CEO



Working in the hospitality industry, much of my time was focused on measuring guest

satisfaction, working on guest service improvement, designing guest service recovery systems, and seeking innovative new services to drive guest loyalty. Since the beginning of the year, in conversations with several Chamber members and other Fredericksburg citizens, they have lamented about the decline of customer service in our town. Typically, I am skeptical of anecdotal information. However, this time the number of comments and their similarity made me wonder if, indeed, we are experiencing erosion of service in our community.


Today, let’s look at business to consumer (B2C) service. According to the customer relations software giant Salesforce, Inc., 76% of customers say it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere. Price Waterhouse research states that 73% of customers say their service experience is the key factor in their purchasing decision. Another study found that 52% of consumers stop buying after a single poor customer service interaction. These statistics reinforce my opinion that excellent customer service is more important than an excellent product.


During my time with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, I had a private meeting with the company’s founder Isadore “Izzy” Sharp. After a few questions he asked about my family and me (he always focused on the human being first), he asked me if I had any questions. I used the opportunity to ask if achieving 100% guest satisfaction is possible. I explained that our hotel typically ran 95-97% guest satisfaction scores. I shared that we worked diligently to improve our service and while we were close to 100%, it seemed impossible to get there.


Izzy shared one of the best nuggets about guest service I have ever heard. He said the key to reaching 100% guest satisfaction is to catch an unsatisfied guest and fix her/his issue before they leave the hotel. In addition, he said that when you turn an unsatisfied guest into a satisfied guest you create a more loyal customer. As a General Manager for several hotels and resorts, I put this advice to work.


At a resort in a ski destination, I made it a point to be in the lobby on days during heavy check-outs to observe interactions between our staff and guests. Plus, I was on the lookout for any guests who might not be satisfied. On one of those days, I noticed a woman was crying as she was checking out. I approached her and asked if she was OK, to which she replied that the tears were from relief to be leaving the hotel. That was a crushing statement to me as we worked hard to provide excellent service. I asked why she was felt that way, and she shared that having small children on a ski vacation is no vacation for a Mom—it was hard work. Getting them into ski clothes in the morning, rushing off to ski school, eating in restaurants for every meal, and so on was exhausting.


Well, I couldn’t fix her experience, but I could make sure that we created better experiences for the Moms with small children who visited us in the future. We began collecting information on the ages of children to help us prepare for every family’s stay. We also assigned a manager to each Mom to offer assistance during their stay, including getting the children to ski school. It was so rewarding to help Moms have relaxing vacations!


Luckily, in the hotel business, we usually have the opportunity to follow up with our customers. I shared the program with the Mom who had the tears of relief when leaving the hotel. She said she appreciated that we learned from her experience and took action.

As a business owners or managers, what can we do to get at the elusive 100% guest satisfaction mark? How often do we let the opportunity slip by to gain customer feedback that could help our businesses? Are we actively seeking honest feedback? Are we identifying chronic problems or complaints? And if so, what action are we taking?



On the flip side, as customers, are we just walking away in resignation after a less-than-great service experience? What could we do differently as customers? 

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