How do you get customers to rave about you, shop with you again and again, and build a long-term sustainable business? By offering an amazing customer experience. In this week’s episode I’m sharing the 3 things I learned about business from my recent vacation + share some additional tips, tricks, and resources so you can do this in YOUR business too.
Recently, I returned from a trip to a 5-star all-inclusive resort in Mexico. We went there four years ago on our honeymoon and we had such an amazing time we couldn’t wait to go back.
Both times, throughout the entire trip, we kept talking about how amazing the service was. It was an ongoing conversation with other resort guests too.
One of the most amazing things was meeting guests who had been there not just a 2 or 3 times, but 15-30 times. One woman we chatted with while walking to breakfast said she’d been there 8 times just in the last 12 months! Now that is true loyalty.
There are even a bunch of Facebook fan groups for the resort. Not created by the resort itself, just by genuine fans of the resort.
Of course, as I thought about it more and more, I knew there was a lesson in our experience and that I had to share it with you. It even reminded me of a book by Michael Gerber, the E Myth Revisited.
In that book he talks about a hotel he visited which served him his favorite brand of coffee and his local newspaper. He was so impressed with the service he sat down with the hotel manager to figure out how they knew those tiny details about him.
Ultimately, there are a few things that stood out to me as what really makes for a successful business and an exceptional customer experience. While all the examples are specific to hotel experiences, they apply to all types of business, including product-based ones.
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Happy employees equal happy customers
The first and arguably the most important. Throughout our entire week at this resort we encountered hundreds of employees, from the bellhops, the front desk staff, the servers and bartenders, the gardeners, the pool cleaners, housekeeping, the room service staff and even the people who stocked the mini-fridge. And the one thing I kept saying over and over was that everyone seemed so happy to work there.
I even mentioned it to other couples that we became friendly with at the resort and they all said YES… they do! Even if what you asked was a bit out of the ordinary or not exactly in their job description, they were always ready to take care of you.
So what makes for happy employees?
Well, as anyone who has ever worked for someone else knows, money matters. But it’s honestly not the only thing that matters.
Did I feel underpaid in my last position? Yes, I did. If they doubled my salary, would I have stayed? No, I wouldn’t have. Money isn’t the only thing that matters.
In my experience, one of the most important factors in having happy employees is that everyone has bought into the company mission. In this case, it was making sure the guests had such a great experience that they would come back again and again. And I will tell you, they were all on a mission to do that.
There’s another book called the Service Profit Chain that dives deeper into the idea of happy employees equaling happy customers. Essentially, the idea of the service profit chain is that profit depends on customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, employee loyalty, and employee productivity. When a business strengthens these supporting links, profits rise. And you already know it costs a lot less to keep an existing customer than it does to acquire a new one, right?
Some bullet points for this idea are that
- Customer loyalty stimulates growth and profit
- Customer loyalty arises from customer satisfaction
- Customer satisfaction comes from the value of the services they receive
- High-value services come from satisfied—and thus happy, productive, and loyal—employees.
- Employee satisfaction comes from company policies that empower employees to deliver quality services and products to their customers
This whole happy employees thing can totes be its own episode (and it probably will be, so stay tuned) but ultimately if you focus on the fact that employee satisfaction comes from company policies that empower employees to deliver quality services and products to their customers, you’ll be on the right track.
The importance of team building
I know I just said money isn’t the only factor, and it’s not. But the other day in the eCommerce Badassery Megamind we were talking about hiring the right team and one point we discussed is that it’s often better to invest into higher skilled employees.
While we often want to hire more green people so we can pay them less and mold them into our way of doing things, sometimes we lose productivity and a little bit of magic when we do this. In many cases, you’re going to be better served by hiring people that can come in and hit the ground running because they’re already good at the thing we’re hiring them for. While we think we know the best way to do something, someone who specializes in that position is likely going to do it better.
An organized business is a successful business
This was a big focus of the story Michael Gerber told in the E Myth Revisited. At first he wasn’t sure how they knew what his favourite brand of coffee was or his favourite newspaper to read until he remembered the night before when the server in the restaurant had asked him about his favorite coffee and the receptionist asked him about his preferred newspaper when he checked in.
He was so impressed with the experience at the hotel he went and spoke to the manager to learn more about how they pulled it off. What did he find? A VERY ORGANIZED hotel manager. They had some serious systems and processes in place. This included a database for all their customer information—like their favorite coffee and newspaper—along with a robust color coded employee operations manual with checklists for each position in the hotel.
In fact, the Room Support Persons—as they’re called—have a checklist they need to sign off on for each room they clean. There is even a visual of the room itself, so they know exactly where they need to do what. If they sign off on it without actually doing the work it’s instant grounds for dismissal.
They also talked about how the lighting, the sauna, and the pool are timed electronically and synchronized with the seasons, so that they deliver a predictable result to the guests. They even have the outdoor lights increase in intensity as it gets darker.
We saw a lot of similar systems at the resort we were visiting, too. Housekeeping starts at 8am, along with the pool being cleaned and all the covers on the lounge chairs and pool area being cleaned up—all done by specific groups of people, by the way. Everything is in tip-top shape by the time poolside food and drink service starts at 10am.
When you first arrive at the resort you’re greeted by the bellhop who holds your bags while you check in and then takes you to your room once you have your keys. We received a call shortly after arriving at our room to confirm our ground transportation back to the airport and to schedule our required Covid-19 tests.
The agenda for the next day’s activities was available online the night before along with guest celebrations of those who returned, those celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and honeymoons.
So my question to you is, do you have solid systems and processes in your business? Do your employees know exactly what they’re responsible for and what is expected of them?
If not, now is the time to get that stuff in place—even if you only have a small team right now. It’s okay if those systems and areas of responsibility change as your business matures, but you can’t get away with having nothing.
How are you leading your team?
Going back to the E Myth by Michael Gerber real quick. The E Myth is short for the entrepreneurial myth, and the definition is:
- the myth that most people who start small businesses are entrepreneurs
- the fatal assumption that an individual who understands the technical work of a business can successfully run a business that does that technical work.
What he means by this is that many people who start businesses do so because they’re good at doing something specific. So for instance, graphic designers, accountants, makers, etc. Just because you’re good at doing that specific thing doesn’t mean you’re actually good at running a business. There is so much more that goes into it than just doing the work itself.
One of the biggest struggles I see is actually leading a team. He even talks about those people who start out doing everything themselves, then eventually grow a team but find it all very overwhelming and then go back to doing everything themselves.
Now I’m not necessarily an expert in this area, though I’ve been building and leading teams for the last 20 years. One of the biggest breakdowns here is a mismatch of expectations. The same goes for angry customers, by the way.
During that same MegaMind session I mentioned earlier, one of the group participants mentioned an exercise she did with her employees as recommended by a coach she worked with. Essentially, she had all her employees write out what they THOUGHT they were responsible for and accountable for. She said it was a really eye-opening experience and showed where the disconnects were between her expectations and theirs.
In all the companies I’ve worked with before I’ve never seen this done, but can definitely see how powerful it can be and I recommend you try this exercise in your own company, whether you feel like you have people issues or not.
The devil is in the details
Throughout our entire trip and while listening to the E Myth Revisited, I kept seeing all of these seemingly small details pop up. On their own they have a pretty small impact, but the way they compound together leaves quite the impression.
In the book, Michael talks about having his favorite brand of coffee and preferred newspaper delivered to him. For us it was the extra dessert left in our room during turndown service with sweet messages written in chocolate like “Happy Anniversary” or “have a good trip.” Or how EVERYONE who worked at the resort said hello when they passed you. Seriously, everyone—from the housekeeping staff and the servers to the gardening crew and everyone else in between.
When we told the person who stocked the mini-fridge we didn’t drink Coors Light, they never put it in there again and stocked us up on Dos Equis instead. The housekeeping staff made us swans and a wedding cake out of towels and sprinkled real rose petals on our bed. They even got us margaritas while we were checking in.
Each of these on their own is pretty cool, but the compound effect was amazing. It made us feel so special, like they really knew what we wanted and needed. They were curating an experience specifically for us and that was important.
How can you infuse this into your own business? What small things can you do to make every touchpoint a little bit more special?
Maybe that’s by using dynamic content in your emails based on the data you have about your customers. It could be writing handwritten notes for your VIPs, or even including gifts with purchase for no reason other than you appreciate your customers.
Ultimately, at the end of the day—like the E Myth says—being good at what you do, whether that’s designing cute tees, curating products, or even making something from scratch is that it is simply not enough to have a successful business unless you are actually running the business itself well or have the right people to run it for you.
How do you do that? By having happy employees, systems and processes to run your business like a well-oiled machine and by paying attention to all the tiny details.
Listen to the Episode
The eMyth Revisited Excerpt
The eMyth Revisited Book
The Service Profit Chain Excerpt
The Service Profit Chain Book