Tourism and Hospitality

Customer Services Across the Atlantic: What we can learn from each other

I spent some time traveling, working and speaking in the US recently.  This particular trip, I paid much attention to customer services and to see how different organizations do things.  Overall, I can conclude that there is much that we can learn from each other about customer services.  There are some things that the Europeans seem to be good at, and others that the Americans seem to be doing well.

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Learning from Customer Experience Awards Winners

Yesterday I was attending the UK Customer Expereince Awards.  While judging the awards I got to learn about a number of faciniting things that various companies were doing and thought I would share some of those with you.

One of the finalists for the Toursim category was Carnival UK.  The really interesteing thing this company is doing is looking after their customers in times of crisis.  So if a person falls really ill, or has a family member who passes away, etc. the company steps in and provids all the possible assistance.  This stuck me as a best practice which needs to be adopted in some form or the other by others.  Normally tour companies would just leave the customer and ask them to get assistance from their insurance companies, etc.  However Carnival has a dedicated team of specialists who provide assistance in times of crises for their customers.  As the old saying goes, a friend in need… Although the company has not followed up with a feedback form, due to the nature of the circumstances, they do receive many letters of thanks from customers.  I personally think this is a great practice in developing emotinal attachment.

Eurostar which was another finalist has done really well despite the techincal trouble they had last year.  They not only have recoginzed the need to be more customer focused, they are working towards changing the corporate culture and putting the customer first.

Butlins the winner in the category has developed some really great customer training initiatives.  The training they provide are not only very relevant but also seem to be interesting, and comperehensive.  Their training programs ensure that their employees are focused on the customer, and on solving problems queries so that they can enjoy a great holiday.

Overall there were five different categories.  A lot of interesting companies submitted their applications, and a number of great practices were brought forth.  Looking at the winners we can see there is much development within the Customer Experience domain, however there is still much work to be done.

I am in the process of developing a while paper with Prof. Morris Pentel.  More details will be posted once the paper is done.

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Customer satisfaction doesn’t cut it anymore

There is much talk about satisfying customers.  In fact nearly any marketing text you pick up, and the main definition of marketing is ‘satisfying’ customers.  Researchers, managers, experts in the past have said that satisfaction can lead to loyalty, profitability, customer retention, etc.  However, this is now changing.  I believe we need to do a major rethink on this topic.  Customers are no longer satisfied with being satisfied!!!

What is satisfaction?  Well satisfaction is essentially meeting the customers expectations.  If you promise to deliver a document by 1 pm, and you do it at 1pm, the customer will be satisfied.  If you’re late, then that results in the dissatisfaction.  However, if you are considerably early, then that results in a higher degree, which can also be called delight.

The problem with satisfaction is that competition has increased.  There are many companies out there offering similar products and services.  With the globalization of the economies, the number of new companies entering markets from countries like China or UAE are increasing.  Similarly western companies are expanding into these countries.  Hence, overall we have an increased level of competition.  Each company is trying to excel and beat competition.  Furthermore, the customers are much more aware of their surroundings today, than 10 years ago.  The internet, and more specifically Social Media, has really revolutionized the way how we communicate and how information flows.  Customers can find out about a sale, or promotion, or the latest features of a product even before any of these are launched.

Research now says that there is no guarantee that satisfied customers will become loyal (any level of loyalty).  So what does that mean for companies?  Companies now need to go beyond satisfying their customers if they want to get them to come back.  Hence strategic management needs to rethink their goals and objectives.  I think companies should now aim for delight, instead of satisfaction.  Companies that can make their corporate culture around this idea will be winners.  Delighted customers are ones that are most likely to not only come back to you, but also achieve higher levels of loyalty.  Moreover, these guys will be telling not tens, but hundreds or even thousands of their pals (through social media) about what a fantastic company you have.

In the short-term, it may mean an increase in costs.  However these are far out weighed by the benefits they bring in.  A number of companies that I’ve worked with that have adopted this philosophy have seen their revenues and profits increase over time.  Moreover, they have also seen their marketing budgets decrease, since word of mouth brings in more customers than any other form for them.  Interestingly this is true for both B2B as well as B2C companies.  Moreover, it works for all sizes of firms, from SMEs to Multinationals.

What do you think about this?  Do you see an problems or issues in implementing this strategy?  What other benefits could companies get by doing this?  I would love to hear your views.

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Can marketing and tourism help in building peace?

This blog will be slightly controversial to some people.  However, I think anything that can help in promoting peace is an idea worth considering.   Before I begin, I just want to reiterate that this blog has no political motive, instead the idea is to discuss how marketing may help in promoting peace in one of the worlds holiest and violent places.

Recently I came across an article in the Israeli press, which talked about how tourism to the country was not improving.  This led me to do a bit of investigating.  The article said that the number of tourists to Israel has stagnated around the 2 million mark for the past 10 years or so.  Most of these are made up of Jews, and Orthodox Christians.  Others simply stayed away because of the security situation.  This has led to a losses for the tourist industry.

While the article talked about an increase in tourism if peace returned, I don’t think they’ve looked at the complete picture.  The holy lands are of importance to 3 of the major religions in the world, Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  The Vatican city gets about 4 million visitors a year!  Similarly, the Hajj attracts about 4 million Muslim pilgrims a year.  Now, if we had peace in the region, the tourist or pilgrim count will not only increase, I think there is a possibility of it increasing significantly.

For instance, if tourist operators would offer a pilgrimage for the Hajj that included Jerusalem, then I’m sure a large percentage of people would want to go.  I think that the holy lands have the potential to reach 10 million tourists within 5 years or so, if we get real peace.  All these tourists would obviously bring in much needed financial benefits to all.  The poverty in the Palestinian areas would surely go down.  Remember, that is one of the things which hardliners use to their advantage when recruiting.  Similarly the economy of the whole region would benefit.  Although the holy lands have had a turbulent past, I think once again real peace can bring about a financial uplift, which would lead to a long lasting peace.

Blog now gets 2500 visitors

On another note, my blog has now received 2500 visitors in the first 2 months.  It appears to be a good figure, considering the target market (i.e. middle - senior managers).  Visitors have generated about 23,000 hits and come from nearly all corners of the globe.  On average, each visitor is coming 3 times to read the blog within a month.  Interestingly 73% are repeat visitors, whereas the remaining 27% have visited for the first time.  The top 5 countries in terms of visitors are 1. UK, 2. USA, 3. The Netherlands, 4. Canada, 5. EU.  Here is a full list of the countries, in case you’re interested.

European countries
Great Britain
Netherlands Antilles
New Zealand
Puerto Rico
Russian Federation
South Africa
South Korea
Sri Lanka
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United States

Floods in Pakistan

Finally, once again just wanted to remind everyone that the floods have not stopped.  Instead they are going down through the Indus river towards the southern province of Sindh.  Researchers now believe that a similar flood wiped out the highly advanced Indus Valley Civilization that existed here several thousand years ago!  I would personally like to thank all those who sent me messages, and those who have donated.

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