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Get More Customers by Sending the Right Message

Aug 15, 2008
I had a meeting at one of the newer hotel restaurants in my area. It's a nice 4 star hotel - very well designed and decorated. If I were traveling I wouldn't hesitate to stay there.

Approaching the hotel, it's easy to see they spent a lot of money. And it's an impressive place. As I entered the front door to the restaurant, I noticed a sign on the wall to the left of the door:

"Smoking is prohibited in the hotel or on the grounds."

I looked around for an ashtray near the entrance and I saw none. "Very good" I thought to myself. Too many businesses claim to prohibit smoking but then they offer an ashtray near the front door which invites people to stand there and smoke.

But then, I noticed something that knocked the wind out their image. On the curb, not 20 feet from the restaurant door was a guy sitting on the curb smoking. A closer look revealed he was not a hotel guest. In fact, he was the driver of the hotel's shuttle bus.

He was an employee of the hotel!

In situations like these I immediately put myself in the shoes of the owner or general manager of the place. I think to myself about how much money they spent trying to create a clean, welcoming and aesthetically pleasing business. From the decor, to the employees to the policies, clearly they want to create a certain image for their business and a certain experience for their customers.

A strong, comprehensive non-smoking policy is an important part of creating the image and the customer experience they want to create.

Then one unthinking employee trashes the whole image and experience by sitting on the curb smoking his heater.

Of course, the hotel is still a nice place. And the restaurant still serves good food. And maybe this was the only time this ever happened.

But I doubt it.

When I see this I ask myself, "in what other ways is this business falling down on the job?" How else are they not maintaining the apparent standard they set with the impressive decor and design (and prices!)?

We choose one company over another because we trust them. We trust they can help us get what we want from the transaction or relationship. We trust they can deliver what they promise, even if the promise is implicit.

But contradictions like this can reduce the trust we have with a business.

When we see a disparity, like the employee smoking in front of the "no smoking" sign, it's easy (and reasonable) for us to wonder how serious this company is in meeting their obligations to us. Or are they more interested in putting on a good show?

In Texas they call that "all hat and no cattle".

I call it bad business.

Is your business backing up the promises you make to your customers? Are you making sure you can deliver the goods? Are you paying attention to all the details that make up your customer's experience?

If you are then pat yourself on the back. You're in a small minority.

If not, then make plans to do this better. Take time to see your business like your customers do. And do it often! This will help you understand the real message your business is sending. And it will help you better serve the needs of your customers, making them happier to continue doing business with you.
About the Author
Kevin Stirtz is the Amazing Service Guy. He is a customer service speaker and trainer who helps companies increase revenue and profits by delivering Amazing Service. Kevin has spoken to thousands of people across the USA and in Europe about how to improve customer service. Get a free copy of Kevin's Amazing Service Toolkit at: http://amazingserviceguy.com
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