Welcome to our ongoing series of real life case studies of customer service and customer experience. In this episode, one of Customer Thermometer’s co-founders describes his experience of a recent vacation and how the Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda in Mexico got it 99% right and 1% wrong.
As a quick overview, this resort was a model of customer experience and service. Staff were incredibly well selected and well trained. If you’re read the E-Myth and understand the concept of the Franchise Prototype – this was poetry in motion.
Here’s his take on what they’re getting both right and wrong. What could you apply to your business from these observations?
1) Attention to detail
This is clear to see throughout the resort. Head chefs are outside the kitchens – checking on the quality of food, front of house. They genuinely cared how it was being perceived by customers.
In the Sunrise pool bar, it was noticeable to see the manageress lifting the lids on the food leaving the kitchens and checking food against their orders before they left the pass. At no point was our order incorrect in any way. Pretty good after 11 nights…
How is your quality control? Who has responsibility for it?
2) Greeting you by name
EVERY SINGLE TIME we entered a restaurant (a la carte or buffet) we were shown to our seats by the front of house manager and then told who our waiter was going to be for the evening by name. Each waiter then greeted us in a standard way – announcing their name and that they were looking forward to serving us for that meal.
It was not contrived, seemed very much from the heart – but set the standard for the meal to follow and immediately engages the waiter with the diner. Such a simple, yet genius concept.
Is there consistency and personalisation in your business?
3) Do what you say you’re going to do
After 12 hours of some of the heaviest rain the region had seen in a while, we woke up to find an inch of water over our hotel room. Fortunately all valuables were above ground. We called reception – they told us to go to breakfast and give them a couple of hours and all would be fine.
Frankly, we were sceptical, the swimming pool outside our room had flooded – staff homes in the local town had been flooded too.
We shouldn’t have been sceptical. 2 hours later, we returned to our room and you would never know there had been a problem.
This was consistent throughout our stay. When we needed something – extra towels, a restaurant reservation – just one call had to be made – and you just knew it would be done. Immediately too.
Trust is a great thing.
How are you earning trust with your customers? Are you truly doing what you say you will? Every time?
4) Go the extra mile
Nothing was too much trouble for the Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda. There were many times where staff (and this always comes down to individuals) went the extra mile.
My son was after an ice cream for lunch. It turned out they only had cups and he’d hoped for a cornet. A cup would have been fine…
Next thing we knew, our waiter had spent 5 minutes walking back to the main restaurant, had grabbed a cornet and came running back through the heat to make my son’s day. He really didn’t have to do that – but had been brilliantly trained. Nothing was too much trouble.
It was also his birthday while we were away – they’d asked us on arrival whether we were celebrating anything special. On 4th November, he was greeted with chocolate cake and a Happy Birthday from waiters at breakfast and for dinner. ‘Fake’ tequila shots were delivered at lunchtime and when we returned to our room that evening, the bath had been filled with bubbles and balloons for him…
How could you go the extra mile, next time a customer asks you something?
5) Be aware of when you’re intruding
With all this attention and service I’ve described above, it’s so easy to be intrusive. Somehow through training or intuition or both, staff always knew when to approach – when to talk about an activity, when to persuade us to do something fun or when to ask whether we needed (another) drink.
Whatever your role in a business – have social graces – do your understand your customer’s mood and propensity for buying?
7) Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral
We became close to many of the staff who had made our holiday. We made a point of saying goodbye and thank you to many of them as we left. So many of them gave us a Trip Advisor card with their name on it – and asked whether we minded mentioning them, if we wrote a review.
At checkout, I was asked whether I’d do the same. The resort is 18 months old. How has their reputation spread so quickly? Social proof on TripAdvisor has literally launched their business to the next phase in a matter of months.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral. There’s a brilliant book on doing just that, here.
8) Be proactive
People love having the pain taken away – customers of businesses – no matter what the segment, love to be told what to do and enjoy being guided through a set of choices, especially when those choices or the situation is foreign (and I don’t just mean literally) to them.
Bar staff at the (all-inclusive) resort would serve you a cocktail and before you knew it, before the glass was completely finished, another one would appear – with a short story behind it – typically in a similar style to the one you’d just ordered – they just thought you might like to try it.
Be proactive with your customers – offer them something they might like to try.
9) Into the funnel
In the middle of our vacation, I received an email from the parent company, Melia offering me details of their next holiday.
I didn’t explicitly opt in to this email list as far as I could remember – however as an incredibly satisfied customer, it’s hard for me not to be engaged by an email talking about future things I’m currently enjoying – so what better time for them to email me?
What ways do you engage a brand new customer?
10) Under-promise and over-deliver
There were many examples of this – room service was perhaps the best one. We ordered room service for our children three times. In all cases, there was a little something extra and in all cases their meals arrived much faster than they told us on the phone.
When does this ever happen when you order a take away to your home?
So many companies get this the wrong way round. What could you change tomorrow?
11) Don’t pretend
As you can probably see, we absolutely loved our time at the Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda. It was the best family holiday we’ve ever had and I was gutted to leave. There was one experience, however which I also learnt from – and I think they got wrong.
When we arrived, we were introduced to our personal concierge for the week – she would show us round the resort, book restaurants and offer us tours – all very helpful and she was a very sweet lady. We arranged to meet her the afternoon after we arrived.
During that meeting, she then explained much about the resort but then spent the majority of our meeting persuading us to come to a meeting the next morning – she went out of her way to do this – and I quickly realised we were at the top of a marketing funnel for their ‘time share’ equivalent. A concept clearly popular with US customers, but not so much with us British types.
I was a little annoyed – however despite it being incredibly mysterious (no pricing / details would be provided in advance) I did go along obediently the next morning at 10 – an hour and a half out of my holiday which I didn’t take lightly.
When I arrived, it turned out they expected all 4 of us to come… They expected my children to sit through a 90 minute sales pitch! No chance. I politely declined, which wasn’t taken well.
Our concierge didn’t like this either and the sales tactics kicked in again – until I had to get quite animated. It then turned out our ‘personal concierge’ wasn’t actually affiliated with the hotel – just to the Melia group and her job was indeed to sell the time share concept. I have nothing against this woman – she was very sweet, doing her job and very much following the process HQ had laid out.
This left a really bad taste. She barely talked to us again the rest of the stay, apart from waking us up via the phone one morning at 8.30 to tell us she was ‘here’.
Never pretend yourself or your business as something you’re not – especially in a sales situation. Trust has to be earnt. We booked our tours elsewhere as a result.
How could this resort benefit from Customer Thermometer?
The Melia marketing system is slick. To be emailed forthcoming offers whilst still on vacation means they have a good process in place.
A suggestion from the team here – why not use that process to add a one click survey as the first email you receive as a new Melia email subscriber? Bearing in mind I hadn’t (knowingly) opted in to receive email communications I’d be much more receptive if when being emailed for the very first time, I’d been asked my opinion.
Holiday resorts who would argue customers don’t look at their email on holiday, I’d argue against wholeheartedly. There’s no better time to email someone – whilst they are laying on the sun lounger.
Ask a customer how they’re feeling about their current experience. Those who hadn’t had the confidence to complain then have a voice. Those who click green could be asked how things could be improved. Gold stars could then be used to incentivise and reward the team.
Would you like to contribute?
If you’ve a customer service or customer experience story you’d like to tell – we’d love to hear from you. We’re offering free Customer Thermometer credits to all those stories we publish.