Last week I wrote about creating memories, not just experience when it comes to customer interaction or engagement.  While many companies in the service industry still focus on teaching their frontliners how to handle complaints and different customers (in our  vocabulary, we don't call them difficult),  quite a number also focused on routinizing certain processes by creating scripts, SOPs or even use the much dreaded word – “policy”.  All this in the spirit of solving problems and complaints -- allegedly to improve customer relations rather than reinforcing the customer experience in a way that creates positive memories and therefore,  a culture of sustainable service excellence.
 
Let’s look into everyone’s hotel experience, whether you're a checked-in room guest or a customer using one of the function rooms.  A customer, like me, who organizes many events in these hotels honestly doesn’t make a distinction about the luggage room facilities where hotel room clients often leave their luggage in case they arrive too early before their room is available or in case they need to check out early before their flight.  It simply did not occur to me that a customer who uses the banquet facilities can be so different from a hotel room guest when it came to leaving our “luggage” or seminar equipment where we thought it should be.  But one hotel did make this distinction when we were adviced we could not leave our things in the luggage room area – because we were not hotel room guests.  
 
This is a classic case of the left hand not knowing (or caring) what the right hand is doing, a case of turfs prevailing over common sense.  I surmised that the sales department is different from the events department and am pretty sure it was the internal quota and not customer needs,  that became their beacon in interpreting their brand of customer service.
 
Analyzing it even further,  I thought of what could have happened if I spoke with the finance officer of that hotel and explained why they shouldn’t treat banquet and events guests any differently from hotel room guests.   I could explain that if one hotel room cost say, $250 per night and that guests maybe spent four days for a total of $1,000 – how can I be a “second class” guest when we just spent over $3,000 for a two-day event?  Maybe they'll tell me that 1) it’s policy or 2) it’s not their department’s area of responsibility.  Well, those were exactly what the front desk person told us, and of course we stopped giving that hotel our business.
 
We will find that the root cause in this case is the structure of both their offering and operating models -  with structure here answering the question “how do we organize ourselves to deliver value to our customers?”  We will find that when a company’s structure reinforces rather than breaks down silos, we may want to look into both the people and the rewards which dictate actions and behavior.  If teamwork isn't rewarded, if the company culture focuses on punishment (or quota) rather than learning, if we simply hired the wrong people and failed to train them to do a good job – then no amount of saying sorry or giving free dessert will make up for the negative experience (critical in the hospitality industry) – a memory one would rather forget.
 
Now think of how we felt after “burning” over $3,000 for a 2-day program and were treated this way.  Imagine what memories we will remember despite the outstanding service of the banquet team during our event.  The most powerful memories are at the last sequence of interaction, something companies take for granted.  Service providers must always ask themselves: when does service start to get the business, and when does it end to retain the business.
 
An article in fastcodesign.comentitled “If You Want to Craft Your Customers' Memories, Start with the Checkout Process” noted :  “It seems that we tend to remember, and judge, an overall experience based on the intensity of our sensation at its end relative to its peak intensity. And we tend to ignore the duration of the experience. So, for instance, we’ll rate a mediocre vacation more highly overall if our final experience of it is overwhelmingly positive. And vice versa: We tend to discount a great holiday almost entirely if it is in some way tarnished toward its conclusion.”
 
So is your company delivering value to the very end to create those memories?
 
Chiqui Escareal-Go is the CEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc.  She will be conducting the 20thDelivering Outstanding Service program on July 21-22, 2016 in Makati.  For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.netor call (02) 584-5858 or (02) 412-0034.