Ms. Nedry

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

Lip Service Versus Guest Service

By Roberta Nedry, President and Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc.

Consider the following episode which took place at a "full -service" spa. On the agenda: a manicure and a pedicure. When I called to schedule this pampering experience, I was told to plan for two and a half hours. Perfect. I had a three hour window and my toes already were wiggling with excitement. I asked the receptionist to confirm that treatments for me and a companion would begin exactly at noon and be completed by 2:30 pm as we had another engagement. She reassured me they would.

We arrived at noon, our feet already undressed. The receptionist noted our excitement, remembered our time window and let us know our therapists would be with us shortly (always be wary when anyone uses this nebulous phrase!). At 12:25, our therapists came out to greet us. My anxiety was slight at this point. I selfishly wanted all two and a half hours to pamper my feet and hands and knew we had just lost 25 minutes.

Nonetheless, we were led to a private room, seated in comfy armchairs, received herbal tea and water-but then had to wait some more. Our therapists still had to assemble lotions and potions to get the job done and at 12:45, the real treatments began. With increasing anxiety, we began to resent paying full price for the 45 minutes that did not involve our feet or hands.

Although flustered, our therapists reassured us we would be out by 2:30. At 2:55, with tissue still between our toes and polish still wet, we had to leave. Although everyone involved knew of our time restraints, our bill was not ready and had to be redone twice before we could finally leave.

The next day, the spa called us to tell us we owed an additional amount due to a billing error. Amazed, I returned the call and spoke to the spa manager. I relayed how upsetting our experience had been, how the time commitment had been broken during each step, how the service was not even close to satisfactory much less the expectations we were given and how surprising it was to learn that we had to pay even more because of a billing error.

Aghast with my comments, she told me that, in 20 years, no one had ever complained about service at this spa. Although that may be true (though I doubt it), I was not looking for a history lesson and certainly was not feeling any better about my first (and final) experience at this spa.

Once we got through all the excuses and defenses, she realized she had an unhappy customer and tried to make amends. She now had a huge opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. Her commitment to me was that she wanted us to come back and have a positive experience.

She promised that her assistant would call me the next morning to set everything straight. Several months later, I am still waiting for the call.

This entire experience can be summed up in two words-lip service. At each point of contact, promises were made and broken. Service was not delivered. It merely was implied to get us in or off the phone.

What message do most organizations communicate to their employees when management does not illustrate the exact service they want delivered? Why did the spa manager pass me on to her assistant instead of resolving my concerns and setting up a solution immediately? What model should employees follow--lip service or guest service?

Obviously, the employees in this spa follow their leader and leave the guest experience to the guest. If a business makes a commitment to guests and charges money, it has the responsibility to follow through. If it wants guests to return, that business must create a reason. Service expectations must be set up properly and realistically. In each step of this experience, each expectation was set up to fail. A solid foundation for delivering real service was not in place.

When dissatisfaction occurs, that business should address the concerns head-on and work with the guest for a mutually happy solution. This often creates even greater opportunities to secure a guest for life.

Being defensive or challenging a guest's reaction only makes matters worse. Each guest experience is personal and real for that individual guest. Guests want to be happy and they want their needs addressed. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement and apology will do. Making amends, where reasonable, is even better. Going above and beyond is superb.

These simple concepts apply to very link in the personnel chain, from top to bottom, back to front. A broken promise is twice as bad as the promise that never was made. Guests remember how they are treated, and they love to tell others. Repeat and referral business affect the bottom line and those who do not manage the guest experience guided by these facts probably will not be around for long.

As a guest, I have not returned to this spa and would never recommend it to others. In fact, I'd say my lips are sealed.

Roberta Nedry is President and Founder of Hospitality Excellence, Inc. and has spent over 32 years exploring, delivering and managing guest and customer experiences and service training. She helps organizations to reach levels of exceptional service and regularly consults with executives and managers on transforming customer experiences. Her Hospitality Excellence Team is internationally recognized for its expertise in creating customer experience strategies that zero in on and inspire the DNA of each client yielding enhanced internal employee experiences and external customer and brand value. Ms. Nedryís diverse background with both public and private companies allows clients to draw on her extensive career experience for business solutions. Ms. Nedry can be contacted at 877-436-3307 or roberta@hospitalityexcellence.com Extended Bio...

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