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Sunday, March 3, 2019

Provide Ritz-Carlton Service to Your Customers - It is Mostly Free

I had such a great experience this weekend I had to, as always, relate it back to customer value chain fulfillment.  We decided to spend the weekend at a beautiful resort owned by the Ritz-Carlton company and it was fabulous.  So, how does this relate to order fulfillment - the business all logisticians are truly engaged in?  It is called service.

Many of you may be saying "well of course it was a great time because it cost a lot and you were in a beautiful setting".  True and I will certainly say I am not naive of the fact the Ritz gets paid for all it does.  However, I do have to wonder which came first?  Are people willing to pay higher prices because the service is so incredibly better than the competitors or do they charge more because it costs more?  My hypothesis is it is the former rather than the latter.  Lesson 1:  People are willing to pay more if your service is significantly better than the competition.  Not just a little bit better and not just sometimes but consistently and significantly better than the competition. 

Now, the good news is most of what differentiated the company from the competition was free or very low cost!  I never walked by an associate at any level of the organization without them smiling and greeting me.  If they had a work cart in the aisle they immediately moved it so I did not have to muscle around things.  The place was spotless - every employee was part of the cleaning staff because everyone picked up even the slightest thing which may not belong where it was.  The bottled water was free!  Small bottles of water free!  It likely cost them almost nothing to provide that but rather than leave a bad taste in your mouth about the overall experience by ripping you off on $5 for water they just gave it to you!

My wife needed contact lens solution and the front desk offered to drive her to CVS to get it.  They did not say "I can call you a cab".  They just offered to fix that little problem for us.  Lesson 2: Don't make your customers feel they had a bad experience over some very small petty thing.  Just fix the problem and move on.

I could go on and on about the Ritz-Carlton and its great customer service but I think you get the idea.  So, here are a few lessons for supply chain / 3PL companies:

  • Most actions which drive very high customer experience ratings are not very costly.  They are the basics.  Make your customer feel human again!
  • Train everyone to be a customer experience evangelist.  The driver, the customer service agent, the building and grounds people.. everyone.  One thing you will find is not only will your customers be wildly excited and promote your company but it will also have the positive effect of making your workplace a desired location for recruits.  Want to recruit top talent and retain them?  Treat them as customers and not machines. 
  • Fix the little stuff and move on. How many times do you find your company arguing with a customer over some petty thing (Think free bottled water).  At a company I worked we provided surveys on the delivery experience and I reviewed those surveys.  One customer had rated us all 10's (great) and put in the comment field "please bring donuts next time".  I went ahead and had the driver deliver donuts on the next delivery.  Nike had the right approach - Just Do It.
  • Finally, when you do make a mistake, own up to it with your associates and your customers.  No one is perfect and no one expects you to be perfect.  They expect you to own up to it and solve it.  
Well, another great weekend in the books and wow did I learn and in a lot of cases re-learn a lot.  Your customer experience will definitely differentiate you and now, in the Nike fashion go JUST DO IT!.

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