“Good service is good business.”
Zappos is known as much for the company’s customer service as for its shoes. According to Forbes, a chalkboard at the company’s headquarters lists the customer inquiries for the day and the average time of response. As Micah Solomon notes, the volume of these customer inputs is heavily skewed toward telephone:
- 7,394 calls... answered in 25 seconds on average
- 1,656 chats… answered in 31 seconds each,
- 988 emails… answered on average in 4 hours and 15 minutes.
This tendency toward phone calls is intentional. As Zappos founder Tony Hsieh notes, the difference between Zappos and, for instance, Amazon is “in how we build a personal connection, primarily on the phone. We’re actually experimenting with ways to get more people to call because it’s such a valuable marketing and brand builder for us."
Not every company can whip up this level of brand devotion.
Generating strong, connected, lasting relationships is still smart business. The fragmented, complex hospitality technology landscape requires a lot of time, effort, and money to implement the many systems (e.g. CRS, PMS, CRM, etc.) that make your hotel run smoothly. Finding an end-to-end provider takes due diligence and often a leap of faith that when things go wrong (and they will), you have the most reliable, available, and qualified teams to take ownership of the problem and identify the right solution. All without resorting to an email-only communication that could take weeks to resolve, creating frustrating blind transfers between departments or failing to resolve the issue at all to your satisfaction.
The Hospitality industry deserves efficient customer service by qualified professionals.
This starts with call centers and expedient answering times. Think about it. You’re a busy hotelier with people to check in, beds to make, promotions to develop, and you’re having trouble closing out your room inventory before you end up in an overbooking scenario. You need help and fast. Can you afford to wait in the email queue, until your ticket is read, processed, assigned, and worked by a human? Who then turns around and sends you an email clarifying your issue?
When was the last time your call to a customer support center (can you name just one? Zappos being the exception of course!) answered in seconds, and by a human?
Hotel Technology Companies and the Loyalty Problem
Hotel technology companies can take a cue from the big brands with cult-like followings and, perhaps, even improve upon them by shifting the focus to the client offering real value through exceptional service. When reviewing RFPs, whether for a simple automated marketing program or an Enterprise CRS, hotels should look for a tech partner where the energy clearly flows from service provider to client. However, very few deliver in this way.
Tech companies are sometimes so focused on innovation to expand their footprint they fail to pay attention to the hoteliers already in their court. As the old verse goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold". Companies that demonstrate loyalty to their clients rather than hoping for or expecting it from them will provide a next-level experience. The first, most direct route is through what Pegasus calls Five-Star Service.
The Anatomy of Five-Star Service
For technology companies, the focus frequently ends up on building new functionalities. Hotels benefit from innovation and will, of course, want a company that stays ahead of the curve. But what’s just as important is finding a company with a customer service promise that keeps the hotel operations running smoothly, productively, and profitably.
When considering a solution take into account the following four ways that tech companies have consistently failed at customer service and give weight to those that are flipping the script in order to serve their hotel clients.
1). Outsourcing Customer Service
Outsourcing problem resolution to overseas call centers has become the standard in many cases, but outsourcing, even with training, doesn’t result in the kind of excellent customer service that creates brand stickiness. Company employees should staff a customer support center. And not just software experts but people who are also trained in how to offer a satisfying experience (e.g. how to navigate conflict or how to resolve a problem without handing it off). This attention to service raises the bar and gives hotels needed support, especially when considering high hotel employee turnover in our industry.
2). Not Answering the Phone 24/7/365
The number one reason customers have a preference for email (54%, according to Forrester) is not that they prefer this medium but because they want to connect to a person immediately. Most companies are ignoring this need. (HelpScout).
Many have forgotten the value of creating an instant one-to-one connection. Picking up (and quickly) when a hotel calls respects their time and honors the way they prefer to do business.
3). Slow Answering Times
The International Finance Corporation report “Measuring Call Center Performance” establishes a global metric of 28 seconds for answering speed. Pegasus, for instance, exceeds the industry standard of 80% of calls answered in under 20 seconds, with an overall average of 20 seconds for our Five-Star Support Services that is reachable 24/7/365. How would you rather spend your time? Focused on improving your profitability and service to your guests or waiting on hold, or worse wasting time on email iterations.
4). Multiple Handoffs
If a hotel starts with one customer support expert, it is ideal to carry out the call with the same person. Not only does information get lost during handoffs, but the whole process takes more time than it should and frequently creates repeated and unnecessary explanations which is infuriating for the hotelier.
Among the reasons tech companies have abandoned personalized customer service: it is 100x more expensive than self-service. In fact, having a live person answer the phone costs $12 vs. an email’s $2 (SuperOffice). Though it may not in the best financial interest of a provider to have people answer the phone, it is in the best interest of hoteliers that they serve. Examine your current technology partners, not just for how well their products work but also on support that will surely be needed along the way. Finding the right fit with a company that shows value and by extension loyalty from start to finish creates a long-term and profitable relationship.
A New Philosophy: It Is Not About Our Customers’ Loyalty To Us, But Our Loyalty To Them
Wouldn’t our lives be a lot simpler if all businesses shared in this mantra about the customer/vendor relationship? Well, at least for now we have Zappos in the retail world. And we have Pegasus in the global hospitality technology space.
It's Five-Star Support, at its finest.
We believe in humans, not support tickets. Pegasus is the only provider in the industry with a 24/7/365 support desk, which is answered in under 20 seconds by a subject matter expert. Get in touch with Pegasus to learn more.