Most of the time businesses are great with customers, but sadly it’s still easy to find miss steps.

We have been lucky enough to go away for a weeklong break. The hotel we chose came recommended, but has changed hands in the meantime. It seems it has changed culture as well.

The usual in-room information was mainly about what they could sell you at the spa and the restaurants. But it also had, in two separate places, the following statement:

“The slippers provided are yours to keep. Other items will be charged if damaged or missing from the room as per below. The below list is not exhaustive, management reserves the right to charge for other damages or missing items as necessary”.

Then followed a price list for just about everything, including the toiletries, which were screwed to the wall.

Management clearly expects its guests to steal from them. Assuming the worst, that we are thieves.  It’s not a great way of greeting your guests. It didn’t seem hospitable to most of us who have no intention of stealing.

 Give the right impression

The more we show we care about our clients and customers, the more we can build a relationship with them, which better for us and for them. Treating everything transactionally leads people to only deal in transactions. You, as business owner, get to set the tone. Do you want relationships, or just transactions? We understand the cost pressures that drive people towards transactions, and it may be that some of your customers will be transactional. But not all will. Our blog on The Rules of Business gives indications as to what to expect and how you can respond.

We hinted at a cultural change at the hotel, but we can’t be certain. But when we did ask questions, about simple things like the courtesy bus timetable, everything had to be reserved for a manager’s decision. We got the impression, rightly or wrongly, that this was an atmosphere of fear and highly hierarchical. Nobody was empowered to do anything.

To some extent, it doesn’t matter whether this is true or not. That was our perception, and therefore that was our reality.

Given that hospitality has had such a bad time of late, and still faces challenges, particularly around staffing and capacity issues, the industry must do its absolute best to be welcoming and open. Mostly, from our perception again, it is. So, it’s very sad to find something that isn’t.

Not trusting your customers is almost wilfully trying to fail.

We got the impression of a business being run by accountants and therefore more interested in cost reduction rather than revenue generation (Yes, the irony isn’t lost on us!)

On the whole, customers have sympathy for businesses which have been closed throughout the pandemic. We will put up with the odd error or something being a little slower, or not available. But we won’t, and shouldn’t, put up with an attitude that we are not valued as people but only valued for what’s in our wallets.

Empathy works

None of this is difficult to fix. Unless you consider cultural change difficult. We don’t. It’s not difficult to treat people the way that you would want to be treated. It’s how we bring up our kids, it’s how we treat people in the rest of our lives, so it should be fairly simple to continue that in our business life. We’ve complained before about the Doctor Jeykll and Mr Hyde attitude of when managers are at home or at work.

We may all talk about being customer friendly, but we tend to hedge that with restrictions designed to protect us.

We need to treat customers as friends, people who are well intentioned towards us as we are to them.

We often finish with a reference to helping in a crisis stories of how we helped 6 local businesses turn things around in the early days of the pandemic. What we did was more of what we have always done – listened, thought of what was best for our client and then made sure they got it. Does empathy like that work in business, or is it only a fluffy feel-good concept? Microsoft became a $2 trillion company using empathy as the cornerstone. It works.

Might this have been better?

As for that hotel, wouldn’t it set a different expectation and atmosphere if they had worded that message something like this?

The slippers provided are yours to keep. If you’d like some of the other items shown below, please do take them and we will adjust your bill accordingly”. 

This sets a different expectation. Perhaps that engenders different behaviours in their guests as well.

That’s just one example of trying to make the whole customer experience joined up. And focused on the customer, not the firm. What could you do to make your customers feel more valued? It’s not limited to hospitality. Would it cost us to be more hospitable and keep the customers we have?

Helping hand

At Hixsons we make sure our clients are agile, flexible and resilient so that they are better able to respond to shocks and uncertainty.

In the spirit of helping our business community we have resources in our  learning centre  where you will find various tools and templates for your business. We do not ask for your data, and it’s completely free.