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Chris LoCurto

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November 1, 2011

Wrong Answer From A Hotel Clerk

November 1, 2011 | By | 27 Comments">27 Comments

I want to do a survey. Of those of you who travel, when you stay at a hotel in a strange city, what is the number one question you ask the hotel desk clerk?

You don’t even have to answer, because I know what it is. Because you ask it in every new city you travel to. The question? “Where’s a good place to eat?” That’s it! By far, it is the most asked question.

So if you are a hotel desk clerk, what should your answer never be? “Hmmmmm… That’s a great question. I don’t really know what’s around here.” Seriously? What, were you beamed in from another state to start your first shift two minutes before I asked that question?

This is a frustrating moment not because you don’t have an answer, although that’s pretty bad. It’s frustrating because I’m the 11 millionth person to ask that question. And hotels are in the service industry. You should answer this question before I ever ask it—as soon as you hand me my room key.  “Mr. LoCurto, would you like a list of the local restaurants? I can also offer you my personal opinion as to which is the best in each category. I see that you are staying a couple of nights and wondered if you need something to do. May I also tell you where the best movie theater/park/hip-hop club/Chuck E. Cheese is?” (Okay, maybe just stick to the movie theater.)

As a leader and entrepreneur, this is the kind of response that makes me think, “What the heck does my team do that is just like this?” In what areas does my team not super serve my customer? Heck, what is my teams’ number one question, and can everyone on the team answer it—not just with an answer, but with the best answer?

As a leader, you’re probably not the person on the front lines. Therefore, you have to get information from those folks who might not provide your customers the same level of service you would. And if you’re not big on customer service yourself, please find someone who is!

If you want to take your company’s customer service up a notch , do these three simple things:

  • Survey your team members. Start by asking your team to list the five most common questions they’re asked. How do they answer those questions? Then ask what are the unanswered questions? Get your team involved in finding out what’s wrong with the customer experience.
  • Survey your customers. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers how they’re being treated What do they love about your service? And what absolutely drives them crazy?
  • Be your customer. I believe every leader/owner/salesperson/customer service rep should personally go through every aspect of their company’s customer service process. That’s the only way to get a true feel for the client experience.

If you will always focus on doing a better job of taking care of your customer, you can spend less time worrying about how to get them back!

Question: How would you keep you team from responding like this?

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  • http://twitter.com/jlagrone86 Jim LaGrone (@jlagrone86)

    As a consumer, my pet peeve is buying a product that doesn’t seem to be used by the product designer/creator. A product will reach excellence much faster if the company producing it also uses it, and as they use it, develop actual FAQs for their website. How many times do we find a short list of “questions” posed as FAQs that are answered (or should be) in the user manual only to find actual questions of users in THAT companies Support Forum. If the question is asked frequently in the forum, please, put it in the FAQ.

    • http://clocurto.wordpress.com Chris LoCurto

      Great points Jim!!

  • http://twitter.com/mahez007 Uma Maheswaran S (@mahez007)

    In this era of cut throat competition, our frontline employees’ response will play a great role in growth and sustaining of our business. There is no doubt that our customer service plays a crucial part in making our products and services to be the customer’s first choice. It all involves some proactive thinking from our end to pull the customers. It is important to ensure that every employee of the organization is aware of the importance of the customer service in their day to day work. It is good to provide services to customers on value-for money basis. The organizational culture must encourage the employees to be proud of organization’s main strength and serve its customers with a human touch.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Great stuff!!!

  • Anonymous

    I work for my local county government. It is so frustrating listening to how the administrative assistants treat people. They’re rude, condescending, and many times, just not helpful. As much as i would love to try to change the climate around here I can’t! I’m not in a managerial position and the people they hire and just hired to fill a spot. And it takes nearly an act of Congress to get anyone fired around here. Any ideas?

    • Chris Johnston

      Anon: May I make a suggestion. Sometimes simply being positive, creative and joyful to work around is the key to being a catalyst to change.

      Sometimes we try to take all the things we read and learn and sort of try to force feed it, pontificate on it or we give up as being helpless to do anything about it.(Honestly, I sometimes get burned out on what I call the posi-talk that I read and need to step back and re-calibrate. So think about how people who really aren’t in tune or open to this feel if it’s being thrust on them).

      I’ll give you a good example. I was riding up the elevator just the other day. with one of my associates. Another person from another area was with us. The other person asked me how I was doing. I simply replied “great”. The other person then turned to my associate and said, “See. That’s what I like about him. He’s always so positive. And when I have a down day I always seem to bump into him and his positive outlook always makes me feel better.”

      You probably won’t change a whole culture. But you can influence it. Maybe just count it as doing your share. Sometimes that influence will be incremental. Sometimes it will seem like it isn’t making a difference. But believe me, that one example shows that a little thing done over time can make a difference. Even if it only helps or changes one person. That’s a beginning.

  • http://ginasmom.wordpress.com ginasmom

    Fire them if they don’t have useful info to offer to the customers….:).

    Okay kidding, at least not right away!, but i would keep this at the back of my mind, as i train them on what we’d call the basics. I would stress over and over again the idea of them putting themselves in our customers shoes and giving them answers they would expect to recieve if roles were reversed. I would clearly explain and document this requirements and give lots of assistance, and grace, but would also explain that failure to meet this basic standards cannot be entertained for long. Off course having the right people in this positions would help a lot. Does this sound too harsh?

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Not at all. We do always have to start with us. What are we doing that’s not setting our team up for success. Like you said, you need to go through all the steps necessary for them to have the right answers. You can’t assume that they already do. Great comment!

  • http://gravatar.com/lgthaxton Louise Thaxton

    Earlier this yeasr, I wrote a six month series for one of our industry publications entitled “The Dentist Diaries” – chronicling my “journey through pain for better customer service”! The series began when I realized that the incredibly terrible customer service I was receiving at my dentist office mirrored some of the practices we could be guilty of in the mortgage industry! I did end up changing dentists – but I got 6 months of articles from it!

    http://www.originationnews.com/on_features/the-dentist-diaries-1024038-1.html

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      That’s awesome!! I love “journey through pain for better customer service”

  • http://medicalaccountsolutions.wordpress.com medicalaccountsolutions

    I want my employees to put themselves in the other persons shoes. Be what they would want that person to be to them. Do you want lame answers? No, nobody does so think through your answer(s).Do you want to have stuck your neck out to ask a question that you feel may be dumb but you know that they know the answer? No, nobody wants to feel like an idiot for not knowing and so make sure your response/attitude doesn’t makes you feel like one! Do you want to be told, oh sweetie, its over there somewhere on isle 9??? No, you are in a hurry and want to be directed to the right spot and shown the right product at the first! I want you to know your product. Know your answers. Know the questions. Know how to respond. The more educated you are the more educated the customer is. It works! Am I perfect??? No, it takes time to educate. It takes thinking outside the box. It takes running through “what if scenarios”. But you invest the time, you will reap the results. When you don’t, you have a new practice situation to work on.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      A…..MEN!!!!

  • tedapittenger

    We once hired an outside agency to analyse our customer service (kind of like a Mystery Shopper). As a result, we were able to comb over the taped conversations and make corrections as needed. We now have a list of FAQs to use in training situations.

    But really, my number one question that I ask the hotel desk clerk is: “How do I get connected to the WiFi, so I can look up Chris LoCurto’s Blog?”

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      HAAAAA!!! As it should be!!! :-)

  • http://ericspeir.com/ Eric Speir

    I’ve learned to be the customer pretty well. I often try to put myself in the shoes of the people that I am serving. It often gives me a perspective that I have not thought about. I also try to ask this question to people who are new to the organization. When they are still fresh and have an outside perspective it always offers a fresh pair of eyes.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Great idea! We can get so stuck in a rut with the day-to-day.

  • http://twitter.com/tbric Tom Brichacek (@tbric)

    I had just the opposite experience recently. Asked for a good place to eat, they responded with “What type of food?” Then had a great recommendation. And immediately followed up with directions.

    I have a checklist when training new team members that has this type of information on it. We go over it, then they have it with them at their workstation. It has saved me time in the long run answering questions that are asked repeatedly.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      That’s the way to do it!

  • Anonymous

    “Hip-hop club”, did you go clubbing Chris :)?

    That person had to have been new, to the whole industry. Cool post!

  • http://garymast.wordpress.com Gary Mast

    GOOD STUFF!!

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Thanks Gary

  • Chris

    But to answer your question, I’d have a list of FAQ’s in a note book readily available for my team members to use should they not be first hand versed in those types of matters. And then periodically train to make sure they know where the info is and they have the latest info that is not outdated.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Excellent!

  • Chris

    Being able to answer those types of questions would fall right into my strong suit. I’m generally the first person peers and associates come to when they have that type of question either for themselves or if they have guests coming into town. Can’t explain why. I’ve always just had a curiosity and desire to learn about the things around me. One fellow I worked with said my last name should have been McNally because I know how to get from point A to point B and I know what to do in most areas.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Hahaha….that’s awesome!

  • http://joelfortner.wordpress.com Joel Fortner

    How would I keep from responding like this? Hmmmmm… That’s a great question. I don’t really know.

    Sorry I couldn’t resist.

    In addition to what you’ve outlined, the basics like this should be documented and used for service training. Don’t rely on your memory to train new team members.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Great point! The second one that is. :-)