The Importance of Customer Experience Culture in Hotel & Travel Industry

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customer experience culture

As you probably know, I’m nuts about customer service and great customer experience. Every time I’m on my holidays, I collect every single #custserv experience and try to learn from it.

Same thing happened this year.

In this post, I’d like to show you two examples of a service I experienced during my holidays. I booked a really nice apartment whose owner was extremely rude, and a quite gross camp truck, whose owners delivered the best customer service ever!

Here’s what we can learn about customer experience culture from this story.

Great apartment and awful customer experience

customer experience culture

For the first part of our trip, I booked a huge apartment in a nice seaside town via Booking.com. The first bad experience happened just after I confirmed my reservation: I received information that:

  • I won’t be able to cancel this stay without paying the whole amount of money,
  • And that I’d have to pay extra $100 for use of water, electricity, parking, and cleaning.

Fantastic, I said to myself. How lucky I am there’s no additional charge for bedding, WIFI, and use of the furniture!

The day we started our holidays, was also the day when my friend’s car decided to break for the first time. It was Saturday, noon time, we were in the middle of the nowhere, and we still had to drive about four hours to reach our destination.

We were screwed.

Luckily, the gods of summer had mercy on us. We somehow managed to tow our car to the nearest mechanic (“it’s Saturday, I don’t work on Saturdays,” he said) and we managed to get to the nearest car rental location with all our bags. Oh, did I mention we were picking up my friend’s grandmother?

When we’ve finally rent a car and get rid of took upset grandma to her family, it was late afternoon. And that was the moment when I got a phone call from the owner of the booked apartment.

“Would you mind telling me when you’re going to arrive?” she asked aggressively, and I could hear she was furious.

“I’m so sorry!” I said. “We had all these problems, and I forgot to call you!”

Then, she burst with anger. Seriously. Till now, I’m 100% sure she read my “Guide to Really Bad Customer Service” but she didn’t notice it was a joke.

She gave me a passionate lecture about the basics of Savoir Vivre, about me being careless, and her waiting for a sign from us. Did I know she’s not living in that city and she still has to drive home? And do I understand that she’s not running a hotel? If I think I can arrive anytime I want, I’m wrong!

Now, imagine my mixed feelings.

Sure, I was ashamed that I didn’t call her (I seriously forgot about it). But on top of that, I was mad. Why didn’t she bother to call or text me earlier? Why she waited until it was late and then she decided to call me and vent on me?

When we arrived, her neighbor greeted us (our dear host left her a key and went home). I explained to her the situation and apologized (“Don’t worry about it, stuff happens,” she said. How nice, huh?). She showed us the apartment, gave us her phone number and wished us a nice stay.

The funny thing about this whole situation was that the owner of the apartment didn’t contact me before we left. She was apparently not interested in having her keys back and I must admit that I wasn’t keen to talk to her again.

I called her neighbor instead, left her the keys and left with relief. “Sunny Apartments” was a beautiful place to stay, but because of the experience with the owner, I didn’t like it there. At least the area was beautiful.

customer experience culture

Awful camp truck and great customer experience

When we left “Sunny Apartments,” I was sure nothing can surprise me now.

I was wrong.

Imagine five tall adults in a small carton box and you’ll have the idea. Was it small and messy and was the sand everywhere? It was. Was it fun? It sure was too.

But what also made this stay so great was the amazing contact we had with owners of the truck.

  • A couple of days before we even started to pack, I was called by the owner of a camp truck. He wanted to tell me that it turned out there’s no free parking lot available near our camp truck (there was one, but over 500 meters away) and that he’d understand if we’d like to cancel our reservation. I said I don’t want to cancel, so he gave me a $25 discount.
  • Three days before our arrival, the owner called me to discuss the details of our check-in. He said his relative would be waiting with keys and he said it would be OK to arrive a couple of hours earlier.
  • Two days before we left, I was called by the owner who asked if I enjoy the stay and if I’d like to stay longer. When I said I couldn’t, he asked when I’d like to leave the keys. We agreed on 11 a.m.
  • We concluded that if we want to pick up our car from the mechanic, we have to leave earlier. I called the owner who said that unfortunately, he wouldn’t be able to be there to take the keys. He said that in this case he’d like me to leave it under a certain stone and he’d pick it up once he’s there.

I have to be honest with you: again, I felt relief that we’re leaving. Beds were uncomfortable, and there was too little room for us. But when the next time I’m going to the seaside, I’m looking for… Well, maybe not for the camp truck, but for regular apartments this owner has.

customer experience culture

A great lesson about customer experience culture

In one of our latest posts, we were writing about the “mint-giving” study. The study tested and measured the correlation between “mint-giving,” waiter interactions with customers and its effectiveness in increasing tips. Leaving mints with the check increased tips by 3%. But leaving mints and coming back with another set of mints “in case they wanted more” increased tips by 23%.

This example shows what people love about the customer experience culture: the genuine interest in their well-being.

The apartment owner was focused on making money only:

  • She tried to tempt me with the low price, and extra charged me for electricity and water in the next step,
  • She was not interested in asking if everything is alright (I could have an accident, right?), she was hot under the collar because I didn’t call her,
  • She was not interested into how and when I would check-out.

The camp truck owner:

  • Gave me “a mint” (the $25 discount),
  • He made sure I was satisfied with my stay,
  • He called me before our check-in and before our check-out to make necessary arrangements,
  • When we decided to leave earlier, he trusted me enough to ask me to hide a key (do you know how good I felt with it?).

The awesome lesson from this whole story is that if you run a hostel or rent rooms, or if you’re a customer service rep, you need to show your customers that their happiness is important for you.

Don’t be afraid to call them and ask if they need anything or if they enjoy their stay. Don’t be afraid to be honest when you have problems. Show them your trust and go the extra mile for them.

An awesome thing about customer experience culture is that even if you don’t have a luxurious accommodation for rent, by showing hospitality and genuine interest in your customers’ needs, you can win their hearts and their loyalty in the future.

And what are your thoughts about it? Did you also had pleasant / unpleasant customer service experiences during your holidays?

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