One of the most effective ways to cultivate customer loyalty is to listen to your customers. When done effectively, listening to your customers can radically transform your business.
This includes not only requesting formal feedback, but also establishing listening posts throughout your organization. Let’s look at how one of the world’s leading service providers does it.
The Ritz-Carlton chain of luxury hotels is known for providing general service excellence in not only hotel facilities, but also in personnel (“Lades and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen”). The staff at the Ritz-Carlton is trained to listen for guest preferences, including those that are not stated in the form of direct requests. A preference can be for something as incidental as a certain brand of sparkling water with a meal or steak cooked medium-rare.
Moreover, Ritz-Carlton has created a system of listening; it has established processes for capturing and disseminating guest preference data throughout the organization worldwide. This system enables staff members to quietly and confidently meet the particular needs of guests consistently with reasonable effort. For example, attendants at the front door collect names of arriving guests from baggage tags. The names are relayed immediately to the front desk for use by other hotel personnel.
Another key component of the listening system the Ritz-Carlton has created is ownership of guest complaints. The staff member who fields the complaint (called an “opportunity”) takes responsibility for resolving it. Once resolved, the incident is captured in the database so that other staff members are aware of it. In this way, other personnel in the hotel are alerted that a particular guest had an unfortunate incident, and that the guest might need special treatment or consideration.
By incorporating listening into its core strategy, the Ritz-Carlton has generated an extraordinary amount of word-of-mouth advertising that is arguably worth more than it replaces in traditional marketing spending.
Through active listening, you can understand in detail what your customers value, and how you can deliver it more effectively. Over time, your company can use this data establish best practices and policies that lead to a more rewarding experience for your loyal customers.
Remember that listening to your customers is a process, rather than an event. As people change, so do their preferences. If your loyal customers’ preferences change, be sure to change with them.
What practices does your firm engage in to tune in to your customers?