Are You Really Listening to Your Customers?

When you travel you get the best chance to observe good customer service firsthand. A hotel is your home away from home, and you have many places to choose from. It’s the customer service that makes the difference between a great experience or a lousy one. So, on my recent trip to NY I got to see some of both.

listen to your customers

listen to your customers

I got to the hotel quite late and was just ready to get to sleep. I quickly found out that the heat had two settings, boiling hot or freezing cold. There was a draft so bad it blew the curtains. And the heating system was so noisy I couldn’t even hear the TV. When I checked in, the only thing I asked for was a quiet room with temperature control. I didn’t care if it was the size of a closet with no frills.

An employee came up to see if he could fix the heat and said he would have to call the maintenance guy in the morning. Really? So, I would have to freeze all night? They offered me a free breakfast and a foot rub to make up for it. Okay, so they didn’t offer a foot rub, but a free breakfast wouldn’t save me from hyperthermia and lack of sleep. They finally moved me to a bigger room which was slightly better, but still very noisy. The whole time I was there I felt like I was talking to a brick wall. No warmth or friendliness. And they definitely weren’t listening. I couldn’t help thinking that the place could have been run better by robots. 

When I asked about getting food in the area, the concierge just kept telling me to go across the street to the run-down deli. That’s all he seemed to know. I don’t think he was really listening either, he just named the only place he could see from his window. A grumpy guy in the lobby parroted his advice. I found out later that he was the owner of the hotel. I went out on my own and found people in the street who were more knowledgable and friendly, and found a great little inexpensive cafe with awesome food and service.

I ended up staying in the city an extra night, but didn’t have a hotel room. Even with the bad experience I didn’t want to have to go out and search for another hotel in the snow. When I asked, they told me it was completely sold out and room prices would be triple. Whoa!

Thank goodness I was forced to look because I ended up finding a gem of a place. From the time I called them on the phone until I left I was treated like a VIP. When you walk in the door they greet you with a smile and always call you by your name when you walk into the lobby. I said upfront that I didn’t care how small the room was as long as it was quiet and temperature controlled. They listened. Yes, it was the size of a closet. With no-frills. But I didn’t care. The things I did care about were perfect. The front desk employees doubled as concierge and they went out of their way to make sure everyone had the best stay ever. They took extra time researching to find the most suitable restaurant for each individual customer, not a one size fits all approach. I will now be a loyal, repeat customer when in NYC. And I’ll send all my friends. Because they listened.

This made me think about my own business and wondering how I could make my customers happier by really listening to what they want. There’s no such thing as a one size fits all when it comes to customers. Someone else might have rather had a larger room and didn’t care about the temperature. Some people want to be close to the action, some want to get away from it.

Listening to your customers sometimes requires reading between the lines. It’s not always what they say, but what they don’t say. Learn to read their body language and vocal cues, and if they don’t tell you what they want…ask. Ask open-ended questions and get them talking. You may not always like what they say, but at least you will be able to give them great customer service if you really know what they want.

Do you really listen to your customers? And when you do, do you give them what they want, not what you think they want?






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