Service Encounters Of The First Kind

Some years ago my wife and I stayed in a beautiful family room hotel in Albany.

We brought our two boys with us; Jack was around six and Fred was four. We got to the hotel late in the evening, at nine o’clock.

We were cold, we were tired, and we were hungry. The boys were agitated so much so that one was rolling on the floor and the other one was crying.

My wife and I stood there despondently in the foyer thinking how are we going to get Fred and Jack into the hotel restaurant.

So with that, the hotel receptionist made her way over to us, and I thought she’s going to tell us to keep it down.

However, no, she said: “Mr and Mrs Smith, maybe I’d be able to help.”

She knew whom we were, having just arrived and seen we needed help. She said: “Maybe I could help. Perhaps the boys would like some breakfast cereal and toast and yogurt.”

She warmly looked at two boys, and she said: ”Now lads, why don’t you go up to your room, put your pyjamas on I’ll bring the food up to your room.?  It is room 50, right?”

I was flabbergasted, absolutely floored by this example of a small business providing precisely the right product, just at the right time, to precisely the right customer.

As a customer, your data is being collected and analysed by virtually every business that you deal with. They do this so that they can offer you a better service.

They can reward you for your loyalty so that they can perhaps even predict when you might move to a competitor.

Your bank knows what you earn, and they know what day of the week you get paid.

By looking at your credit card they can tell where you’ve been on holidays for the last five years.

The supermarket can sense how you’re feeling because they’ve seen you buying panadol, nappies and Redbull.

Despite big business having all of this data, they’re unable to provide that incredible customer experience that we see in small businesses all of the time.

They’re trying to replicate precisely the type of experience that I got in a small hotel.

The customer data you collect is like your motor vehicle unless it is driven to a destination on purpose, it is useless. Customer Data is a tool – it’s a means to an end it’s not an end in itself.

Data on its own has little to no value. I could give you some data “12”, “3” and “40”. OK, are you ready to make some critical decisions in your business? Of course not, because I only gave you data (content). What I didn’t give you was the metadata (context) relating to the data. If I provided you metadata that stated that these data values are annual net sales revenues, in millions of dollars for your region over the last three years, now you can make decisions and utilise this data. Simply put, information is the merger of data (content) and metadata (context).

It is essential to understand that most businesses never plan their information systems; instead, it “just grew” over time. The business grew as we built “stovepipe” solutions all over the business, nobody (of authority) ever stopped and said, “Wait a minute – we need to optimize and tune this environment so that we can reuse that which we’ve already done or we need a simplified solution that integrates all our systems.”

As a result, our business environments have grown like weeds that go untreated in a garden. After some time the flowers (business systems) can’t grow or survive anymore, and the weeds (redundancy and needless interdependencies) are ruling the garden.

Having the information about your customers enable you to look at them and see a family group of four people, know their ages, that they are customers of this hotel, know what time it is in the evening, know what rooms are staying in, know what children like to eat.

Being proactive in anticipating the customers is the key to happy, satisfied customers.

Many big businesses have replaced customer service for automation. They’ve removed that moment when they can actually talk to a customer.

It is as simple as using a person’s name. In days gone by, many old ladies would call the local radio station and have a request for themselves because they loved hearing their name on the air. We love hearing our own names and the next time a big business writes and says “Dear Valued Customer” I’m ditching them.

Fortix is about more than automating repetitive tasks. Let us show you how to make the most of the data you already have to anticipate your customers’ needs and build lasting relationships.


Hotel Story adapted from Barry James, Data Scientist, Irish Water

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