Case Study 1: Hyatt
I spoke at a conference held at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta this past week. Upon check-in to this premium area hotel and well-respected brand, I was informed that they had ‘over-booked,’ and would be relocating me for the evening (at their expense) at the W hotel just four blocks away. My reservation the subsequent night was still active and I’d have to return (I was only staying for two nights total). Before I could launch into my re-enactment of the Seinfeld episode “You can take the reservation. You just can’t keep the reservation,” they gave me a $20 bill for the cab-ride there and back and I was on my way.
Fast-forward to the following day which included a speedy check-in to a Hyatt luxury king mini-suite. Mid-day I was served four pieces of fruit with a letter that kindly apologized, stating that the rare occurrence of over-booking is something that Hyatt does not take lightly. They went on to say how delighted they would be if I would stay with them again and give them the opportunity to earn my trust again. Despite the inconvenience, the situation was well handled. Mistakes do happen. However, it is admirable brands who value their clients that will do whatever is necessary to minimize damage, protect their brand and not lose even one customer.
Case Study 2: Dunkin Donuts
When I returned from Atlanta, I was volunteered by the family to make a breakfast run to the nearest Dunkin Donuts on Immokkolee Road. I like to use the drive-through as it’s convenient especially when I take my antique muscle car as I did this time, avoiding crowded parking hassles. After ordering through the tiny speaker I reached the transactional window. The DD employee handed me a dishoveled, over-filled tray with an iced-latte spilling onto its surroundings. A Big & Toasty barely balanced on the tray’s edge. And, a Munchkin box was half fastened at the bottom (the Munchkins themselves, cute as they are, seemed like they were all trying to escape). I asked the server to please remove some latte from the cup and clean up the tray before I placed it in my car. Upon doing so, the sandwich fell onto the ground outside in between my car and the window. When the server returned I asked if he would be getting me another sandwich. He asked me to take the one that had fallen (on the ground. outside. because it was in a bag.) and asked if I could hurry it up—as I was now holding up the drive-through line. I proceeded to express how displeased I was with the poor service in a warm exchange over the $12.24 transaction. So not to delay their business any longer, I opened my car door, picked up my sandwich and went about my way, never (yes, never) to return to ‘that’ Dunkin Donuts location again. They lost me and simply didn’t care. Heck, I don’t think they wanted me or valued me as a customer to begin with.
Case Study 3: My Own Personal Imperfect
This same week I made a business blunder of my own. Due to rushing a project at deadline, my oversight resulted in an incorrect product image appearing in an article with a client’s story. I immediately contacted the client and offered my apologies, committed to “getting it right the next time” and offered various ‘make-goods’ to right the situation. I referred to the Hyatt letter, taking some of their words directly, in an attempt to lesson the swelling of the impact. I thought about my experience with Dunkin Donuts and how they did not take their mistake seriously. I contemplated the seriousness of the situation and the value of keeping a customer. Based on the long relationship between my client and me, the damage in this situation was quickly dealt with and we were seemlingly back to doing business as usual. Nonetheless, making mistakes is something I do not do often and, like Hyatt, do not take lightly. I will do everything I can to make sure this does not happen again.
Mistakes do happen. It’s part of business. I suppose one can say, without mistakes it means you’re simply not trying. However, when a mistake happens it’s how a brand deals with them that can determine the ongoing success or failure of that business. And, if that business is a service business, the stakes are that much higher as the customer can either do without the service altogether in most cases or simply go to another provider to satisfy their needs.
Taking into account the Customer P & L, or treating your customers as part of their own, separate Profit and Loss statement, it’s easy to understand and realize, among other things:
- The costs and effort it takes to acquire a new customer,
- The lifetime value a customer represents over time not only in revenues but also referrals, and
- That value (revenues, referrals, costs to acquire, etc.) lost when a customer leaves the Customer P & L.
Mistakes can threaten your Customer P & L if not dealt with properly. So how does a business best safeguard against mistakes and imperfect and protect their Customer P & L? Here are a few suggestions. Although they may seem simple, it may be in your best interest to revisit them and reinforce among your employees.
- Be Prepared. Mistakes in business will happen. How you deal with them with ninja-like instincts make a huge difference.
- Admit Your Mistakes. Don’t be too proud to admit the fact that you, your business and/or your employees are not perfect, all of the time.
- Be Humble and Apologetic. Let customers know their business is important to you. You do not take making mistakes lightly. And, you are sorry for not satisfying their needs and/or meeting their expectations due to a mistake.
- Make It Right As Best as You Can. Give customers something as a courtesy to make up for the mistake. Go the extra mile or do what they say it will take to make right as best as possible.
- Make Dealing with Imperfect a Part of Corporate Culture. Be sure each employee understands the standard of service that’s expected, what to do in case of a mistake or an upset employee and what is available to help make it right at that moment. Had Dunkin Donuts’ executives known how poorly I was treated in my situation, it’s likely some things (or people) would change.
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and teaches Marketing at New York University where he has for over five years. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasismartmarketingllccom (abiasismartmarketingllccom) , visit www.smartmarketingllc.com or call 239.963.9396.