We know that when it comes to improving customer experience, little things can count a great deal. But for senior executives bombarded by a flood of disparate data points, it’s easy to get distracted from focusing on action that can really move the needle.

Take this example of two hotel managers I worked with who took different approaches to tackling the problem of softening customer-satisfaction scores:

Keith and Thomas are both hotel General Managers in the same city.  They are both very passionate about their jobs, have strong teams in place and know what’s important.  Both hotels get pretty good results but as always, some opportunities exist.

During a regular company update which both Keith and Thomas attended, the CEO tells them that the company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) hasn’t been as high as it normally is and he challenges the managers to find ways to improve.  During the update, he specifically mentions an unusual drop in the company wide score of “warm greeting”.  He goes on to talk about strong revenue, impressive EBITDA and healthy company growth.  It’s a positive and upbeat message, but everyone knows the importance of keeping NPS strong.

Both Keith and Thomas decide that they are going to do their part to improve the company results.  Being experienced managers, they sign into the company’s guest experience solution to assist them in creating a plan.

Keith remembered the CEO’s message and went right to his “warm greeting” score.  It was still very good, but down a little bit.  He quickly checked and saw that his NPS was flat to last year.  He closed his web browser and reached for his pad of paper.  Time to start working on a plan.

Thomas also noticed his “warm greeting” score was a little down but he didn’t stop there.  He also found that his “overall service” and “accuracy of bill” were down as well and on the surveys where these were low, NPS was negatively impacted.  His team needed to focus on their service delivery with extra effort in these areas.  Thomas spent a few more minutes reviewing some specific surveys and printed a few examples for his morning team meeting.

Keith’s morning meeting went well.  They spent the morning practicing different greetings and putting real emotion in their voices.  Keith put in place a 10-foot rule.  Every employee is expected to smile and greet every guest that comes within 10 feet of them.

Keith believes in keeping score, so he put up a poster in the breakroom and told each employee that for every perfect 10 they got on a survey in “warm greeting” he’d give them a gold star.  The person with the most gold stars in the next month would get a complimentary pizza.

Finally, Keith decided that he’d spend more time in the lobby and customer areas and make sure that everyone was following the 10-foot rule.  He’d make sure that he found some positive examples to discuss at the next morning meeting.  His team went back to work, ready to focus on giving customers a great greeting.

Thomas’s also had his morning huddle.  He used the opportunity to review the overall scores for the hotel and shared a number of guest examples, both positive and negative.  He highlighted the importance of accurate billing and great customer service.  

He reminded everyone that the customer was the reason we were all here and they needed to pay very close attention to each customer interaction and provide the guest with the best service.  He reminded them to smile, provide a warm greeting, listen and follow up.  

Next, Thomas shared a report that showed the number of rate adjustments made over the last few weeks.  Everyone was surprised by the how many they had.  

He reminded everyone to put extra effort into quoting the rates and verify they were correct at check in.   Finally, he asked the team if they had any ideas to improve their scores.  Sally offered to check the rates on each registration with the ones on the guest list, to make sure that everything was entered correctly each night before the night audit was run.  Everyone loved that idea and agreed to do it as well.

Thomas headed out to the lobby to greet the breakfast crowd and ask some customers how they were enjoying their stay.  As he walked out of the office he saw Mrs. Smith a long term resident.  He smiled and said good morning, she started telling him about her day as they walked over to the coffee bar.  Thomas’ team went back to work, ready on focus on giving the customers a great experience.

Both Thomas and Keith did their research, came up with a plan and they both brought their teams together to focus on improving the guest experience.  Both managers moved the “warm greeting” scores but for Keith, that’s where the improvement stopped.

His employees heard the message loud and clear.  Work on greeting.  It’s important and the manager’s watching.  That’s exactly what they did and the score improved.  However, the improvement had very little impact on the NPS.

Thomas and his team showed strong improvements across the board.  Billing became more accurate, service improved and both the “warm greetings” score and the NPS moved in a positive direction.  

What can you do to help your team focus on what’s important, reduce the amount of wasted energy and improve performance.

  • Communicate carefully.  In this example, the CEO’s comments on the greeting score caused Keith to focus on an ancillary score and not the real loyalty driver.
  • Have meaningful goals that are understood and seldom change.  People like consistency.  Flavor of the month goals create confusion and a lack of trust from your team.  
  • Provide training and tools so the decision makers in your organization know what’s important and how to influence it.  The more managers you have like Thomas, the more successful your company will be.