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How to Piss-Off Your Customers without Really Trying

By: Guest | November 8, 2010 | 
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Guest post by Carol Roth, author of the Unsolicited Business Advice blog and The Entrepreneur Equation.

After a recent stay in Vegas (for business, of course…), on the night before check out, I received a letter on my nightstand. I walked over to the full-sized, high-quality parchment and read the first few words:

“Dear Valued Guest”

There isn’t much that could make me feel less valued than the phrase Dear Valued Guest.

The letter went on to thank me for my business and offer a special rate if I wanted to extend my stay, but I couldn’t get past how ridiculous this note was.

Just because you say something, it doesn’t make it true or believable.

If I were a valued guest, the hotel would have taken the extra time to address me by name. Perhaps they would have noted something about my stay – that I had twice dined at a particular restaurant or that I hadn’t visited the spa as I usually do – and tied their offer to my particular actions. But no, they just sent a generic letter and tried to pass it off as something special. This actually had the opposite effect the note was ostensibly trying to achieve.

Businesses have to realize customers aren’t stupid. With all of the choices we have available, we are paying more attention to the details, to service levels, and to companies that walk the talk – as well as those that do not. Just because you say you are the best, that you care about service, or that I am a valued guest does not make it true. You need to show me.

It’s difficult enough to get a customer’s attention these days, but when you have a customer already patronizing your business, it is totally a boneheaded move to drop the ball. Fancy parchment paper isn’t a substitute for real customer engagement – for showing a customer that she is valued instead of just saying it.

With all of the talk about fancy new strategies and tactics for marketing and customer relationships, too many businesses are forgetting that little personal details show that you are willing to go the extra mile. That is what makes someone feel like a special customer, a VIP, or a “Valued Guest.”

Actions speak louder than words in the eyes of a customer.

Carol Roth helps businesses grow and make more money. An investment banker, business strategist, and deal maker, her Unsolicited Business Advice blog was recently named as one of the top 10 small business blogs online. The Entrepreneur Equation, Carol’s book on evaluating the realities, risks, and rewards of business ownership, is due out March.

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62 Comments on "How to Piss-Off Your Customers without Really Trying"

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TMNinja
TMNinja
5 years 7 months ago

Carol,

If you were referring to BlogWorld and a certain host hotel… I got same letter!
And I remember thinking the same thing!

However, taking it to a further level… this type of impersonal service actually makes bad service even worse.

I had a bad experience with room service while staying in said hotel… and you can imagine that getting this type of letter only magnified my displeasure with them. 🙁

TMNinja
TMNinja
5 years 7 months ago

Carol,

If you were referring to BlogWorld and a certain host hotel… I got same letter!
And I remember thinking the same thing!

However, taking it to a further level… this type of impersonal service actually makes bad service even worse.

I had a bad experience with room service while staying in said hotel… and you can imagine that getting this type of letter only magnified my displeasure with them. 🙁

DannyBrown
5 years 7 months ago
My wife and I often eat at the local Swiss Chalet. I’m not a fan, but she likes it, so… Anyhoo, a few months back we’d been to Best Buy to get a Sony VAIO for my wife, and we stopped at the Chalet for dinner. We spoke with our waitress, and she was chatting about her VAIO and how it was such a great laptop. Two months later, we went back for dinner. The waitress immediately asked us how the VAIO was (and even remembered the colour), then asked me if I was having the same starter and drink… Read more »
DannyBrown
5 years 7 months ago
My wife and I often eat at the local Swiss Chalet. I’m not a fan, but she likes it, so… Anyhoo, a few months back we’d been to Best Buy to get a Sony VAIO for my wife, and we stopped at the Chalet for dinner. We spoke with our waitress, and she was chatting about her VAIO and how it was such a great laptop. Two months later, we went back for dinner. The waitress immediately asked us how the VAIO was (and even remembered the colour), then asked me if I was having the same starter and drink… Read more »
LouBortone
LouBortone
5 years 7 months ago

Ugh! Those “valued guest” letters are almost as bad as the “on-hold” messages that say “Your call is important to us.” If it was that important, you wouldn’t keep me on hold for 10 minutes and force me to listen to more commercials for your company!

LouBortone
LouBortone
5 years 7 months ago

Ugh! Those “valued guest” letters are almost as bad as the “on-hold” messages that say “Your call is important to us.” If it was that important, you wouldn’t keep me on hold for 10 minutes and force me to listen to more commercials for your company!

emachine
emachine
5 years 7 months ago

Hi Carol Roth

This is a great letter written by you that should be seen and read by all establishments dealing with people. It feels that we are all being taken for granted anymore like take it or leave it. Maybe I am wrong about this but I surely enjoyed your letter. I hope that this will be read by a lot of other people also.

Thank You
John Antaya
jantaya29@gmail.com

emachine
emachine
5 years 7 months ago

Hi Carol Roth

This is a great letter written by you that should be seen and read by all establishments dealing with people. It feels that we are all being taken for granted anymore like take it or leave it. Maybe I am wrong about this but I surely enjoyed your letter. I hope that this will be read by a lot of other people also.

Thank You
John Antaya
jantaya29@gmail.com

AnnManion
5 years 7 months ago
I agree Joan! I was speaking with a hotel e-commerce marketing manager recently about how our industry (in too many instances like the one you describe) has lost its personal connection to the hotel guest. She then went on to tell me that social media was in fact helping her property to connect in real time to individual guest needs and bring back the “personal touch”. So, lets hope we move more in that direction, and see less of the generic parchment paper salutations. CBS Sunday morning ran a piece on 11/7 about customer service titled “Your Call is NOT… Read more »
AnnManion
5 years 7 months ago
I agree Joan! I was speaking with a hotel e-commerce marketing manager recently about how our industry (in too many instances like the one you describe) has lost its personal connection to the hotel guest. She then went on to tell me that social media was in fact helping her property to connect in real time to individual guest needs and bring back the “personal touch”. So, lets hope we move more in that direction, and see less of the generic parchment paper salutations. CBS Sunday morning ran a piece on 11/7 about customer service titled “Your Call is NOT… Read more »
Sushi
5 years 7 months ago

@LouBortone I’m with you on this! Just tell me everyone’s busy and get on with it.

Sushi
5 years 7 months ago

@LouBortone I’m with you on this! Just tell me everyone’s busy and get on with it.

caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago

@TMNinja Yes, that’s the hotel. I don’t even want to know your room service story…oy

caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago

@TMNinja Yes, that’s the hotel. I don’t even want to know your room service story…oy

caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago

@dannybrown Isn’t it amazing how something that doesn’t cost anything can have such a big impact?

caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago

@dannybrown Isn’t it amazing how something that doesn’t cost anything can have such a big impact?

caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago

@LouBortone Lou, I totally agree. Those kill me too! Especially the one that asked me to be a Facebook fan of my gynecologist…

caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago

@LouBortone Lou, I totally agree. Those kill me too! Especially the one that asked me to be a Facebook fan of my gynecologist…

caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago

@emachine Hi John
Agreed- it doesn’t take much effort to make your customers feel like kings/queens because so many businesses just don’t care…

caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago

@emachine Hi John
Agreed- it doesn’t take much effort to make your customers feel like kings/queens because so many businesses just don’t care…

JMattHicks
5 years 7 months ago

Very true. All too often people and companies alike think that they are smarter than everyone else, that their half-hearted attempts wrapped in a transparent layer of elegance or hospitality will be received and embraced endearingly by the crowd that’s “not in the know.”

We’re not idiots. We’re not stupid consumers. Even those like myself who went through the public system can see through many of their attempts. It was a generic offer that they hoped would be received warmly and personally. I don’t think it was.

JMattHicks
5 years 7 months ago

Very true. All too often people and companies alike think that they are smarter than everyone else, that their half-hearted attempts wrapped in a transparent layer of elegance or hospitality will be received and embraced endearingly by the crowd that’s “not in the know.”

We’re not idiots. We’re not stupid consumers. Even those like myself who went through the public system can see through many of their attempts. It was a generic offer that they hoped would be received warmly and personally. I don’t think it was.

MissMarcia
MissMarcia
5 years 7 months ago
Brilliant post, Carol! So many companies and their personnel say no when they could so easily say yes, talk instead of listen, and defend instead of rectify. I try to treat each and every one of my customers, or prospective customers (which is everyone I ever meet), as someone whose needs I am happy to be able to fill. It makes me nuts when I am the customer, and I still find I am the one trying to make the transaction work to everyone’s satisfaction, rather than the other way around. This hotel obviously thought going through the motions was… Read more »
MissMarcia
MissMarcia
5 years 7 months ago
Brilliant post, Carol! So many companies and their personnel say no when they could so easily say yes, talk instead of listen, and defend instead of rectify. I try to treat each and every one of my customers, or prospective customers (which is everyone I ever meet), as someone whose needs I am happy to be able to fill. It makes me nuts when I am the customer, and I still find I am the one trying to make the transaction work to everyone’s satisfaction, rather than the other way around. This hotel obviously thought going through the motions was… Read more »
DannyBrown
5 years 7 months ago

@caroljsroth Agreed. Better than any huge marketing budget that bypasses the little things. 🙂

DannyBrown
5 years 7 months ago

@caroljsroth Agreed. Better than any huge marketing budget that bypasses the little things. 🙂

Shonali
5 years 7 months ago

Along the lines of “valued guest,” one of the things that irritates me the most is when people, especially sales/customer service people, mispronounce my name. And I’m not even talking about my first name, since I get that that can be difficult. But how difficult is it to correctly pronounce – or spell – “Burke”?!

Shonali
5 years 7 months ago

Along the lines of “valued guest,” one of the things that irritates me the most is when people, especially sales/customer service people, mispronounce my name. And I’m not even talking about my first name, since I get that that can be difficult. But how difficult is it to correctly pronounce – or spell – “Burke”?!

KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink
5 years 7 months ago

I’m sorry, but get over it. People are way too sensitive and have an unneccesary sense of self-importance. Should they have not written any letter at all–that is, would it make you feel less valued to see no effort or a half-attempt?

KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink
5 years 7 months ago

I’m sorry, but get over it. People are way too sensitive and have an unneccesary sense of self-importance. Should they have not written any letter at all–that is, would it make you feel less valued to see no effort or a half-attempt?

KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink
5 years 7 months ago

I’m sorry, but get over it. People are too sensitive and have an overwhelming sense of self-importance. Should they not have written the letter at all–that is, would you feel less valued to see no effort or a half-attempt? Personally, I don’t want the hotel refering how many times I ate somewhere or what I did; I’d feel that was an invasion of privacy. I don’t need a thank you for patronizing a business.

KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink
5 years 7 months ago

I’m sorry, but get over it. People are too sensitive and have an overwhelming sense of self-importance. Should they not have written the letter at all–that is, would you feel less valued to see no effort or a half-attempt? Personally, I don’t want the hotel refering how many times I ate somewhere or what I did; I’d feel that was an invasion of privacy. I don’t need a thank you for patronizing a business.

LouBortone
LouBortone
5 years 7 months ago

Hi Katherine – I get what you’re saying and I’m not sure it’s a matter of being too sensitive. For me, the point is, if you are going to go to the trouble of engaging your customers or guests, why not go the extra step of making it personal? I think a little extra effort goes a long way. Just my two cents!

LouBortone
LouBortone
5 years 7 months ago

Hi Katherine – I get what you’re saying and I’m not sure it’s a matter of being too sensitive. For me, the point is, if you are going to go to the trouble of engaging your customers or guests, why not go the extra step of making it personal? I think a little extra effort goes a long way. Just my two cents!

DannyBrown
5 years 7 months ago

@KatherineHeidtbrink So what you’re saying is you should be thankful for having a business to be a patron of? And that the business – any business – doesn’t need to make the effort to stand out?

There are a ton of hotels that make an effort, and their sales figures reflect it. It’s not about being “sensitive”, it’s about seeing which business really cares about customers and which ones just count the beans.

DannyBrown
5 years 7 months ago

@KatherineHeidtbrink So what you’re saying is you should be thankful for having a business to be a patron of? And that the business – any business – doesn’t need to make the effort to stand out?

There are a ton of hotels that make an effort, and their sales figures reflect it. It’s not about being “sensitive”, it’s about seeing which business really cares about customers and which ones just count the beans.

Shonali
5 years 7 months ago
@KatherineHeidtbrink Two things. First, this is not about being self-important; it’s about recognizing that good customer service is the smartest PR you can undertake. Not taking the time to address a visitor by name is not smart customer service. I don’t think the hotel needed to reference each and every thing a guest (in this case, Carol) did while staying there. They could, however, easily have personalized the name, even if it was a form letter. It’s not that tough to do. Second, it’s exactly this attention to detail that makes certain organizations in every niche stand out above the… Read more »
Shonali
5 years 7 months ago
@KatherineHeidtbrink Two things. First, this is not about being self-important; it’s about recognizing that good customer service is the smartest PR you can undertake. Not taking the time to address a visitor by name is not smart customer service. I don’t think the hotel needed to reference each and every thing a guest (in this case, Carol) did while staying there. They could, however, easily have personalized the name, even if it was a form letter. It’s not that tough to do. Second, it’s exactly this attention to detail that makes certain organizations in every niche stand out above the… Read more »
KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink
5 years 7 months ago
I understand what everyone is saying, except Danny Brown–I wasn’t saying I’m thankful for patronizing; I’m saying I don’t need a business to thank me. I just think this is a lot of fuss over a small thing. I agree that customer service is important, but, like I said, I would be a little creeped out if I found a letter in my room with my name on it. I guess I prefer to be an anonymous customer and don’t care if I’m just a number to most business, and I don’t get why other people want everything personalized.
KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink
5 years 7 months ago
I understand what everyone is saying, except Danny Brown–I wasn’t saying I’m thankful for patronizing; I’m saying I don’t need a business to thank me. I just think this is a lot of fuss over a small thing. I agree that customer service is important, but, like I said, I would be a little creeped out if I found a letter in my room with my name on it. I guess I prefer to be an anonymous customer and don’t care if I’m just a number to most business, and I don’t get why other people want everything personalized.
DannyBrown
5 years 7 months ago
@KatherineHeidtbrink Your quote was: ” I don’t need a thank you for patronizing a business.” I’d read that as a business wouldn’t be grateful for custom – more, they should just expect people to patron regardless of the experience and be done with it. When you get the bill at the end of your stay, does it have your name on it, or Dear Patron / Valued Customer? If you prefer to be Anonymous Customer, fair enough. I think you’ll find more people prefer to be Listened To Customer so businesses can really deliver the experience that builds their success… Read more »
DannyBrown
5 years 7 months ago
@KatherineHeidtbrink Your quote was: ” I don’t need a thank you for patronizing a business.” I’d read that as a business wouldn’t be grateful for custom – more, they should just expect people to patron regardless of the experience and be done with it. When you get the bill at the end of your stay, does it have your name on it, or Dear Patron / Valued Customer? If you prefer to be Anonymous Customer, fair enough. I think you’ll find more people prefer to be Listened To Customer so businesses can really deliver the experience that builds their success… Read more »
KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink
5 years 7 months ago

@DannyBrown I agree to an extent-I want my doctor and accountant to know my name, maybe even a local bar who makes my drink exactly the way I like it, but not necessarily some random hotel. I don’t think businesses have to get personal to deliver good customer service. I’m usually torn between finding very friendly employees endearing or annoying, but I appreciate the effort. But, yes, the bill should have my name on it. What kind of business do you run, out of curiosity?

KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink
5 years 7 months ago

@DannyBrown I agree to an extent-I want my doctor and accountant to know my name, maybe even a local bar who makes my drink exactly the way I like it, but not necessarily some random hotel. I don’t think businesses have to get personal to deliver good customer service. I’m usually torn between finding very friendly employees endearing or annoying, but I appreciate the effort. But, yes, the bill should have my name on it. What kind of business do you run, out of curiosity?

caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago
@KatherineHeidtbrink I don’t think this is a sense of self-importance issue. I think this is a difference between actions and words that gives me a really bad feeling for a brand, which could have engendered loyalty.They said I was valued, but did nothing to show that in a credible way. So yes, it would have been better for them to do nothing. Let’s face it, customers have more choices than we could ever want or need. If you want to engender loyalty, you want to make a customer feel special. This isn’t self-importance again, this is that I have a… Read more »
caroljsroth
caroljsroth
5 years 7 months ago
@KatherineHeidtbrink I don’t think this is a sense of self-importance issue. I think this is a difference between actions and words that gives me a really bad feeling for a brand, which could have engendered loyalty.They said I was valued, but did nothing to show that in a credible way. So yes, it would have been better for them to do nothing. Let’s face it, customers have more choices than we could ever want or need. If you want to engender loyalty, you want to make a customer feel special. This isn’t self-importance again, this is that I have a… Read more »
AnnManion
5 years 7 months ago

For me, there’s nothing sweeter than checking into a hotel and unexpectedly hearing a bellman or front desk associate discretely remark,

“Welcome Back Ms. Manion, we’re happy to see you again “

AnnManion
5 years 7 months ago

For me, there’s nothing sweeter than checking into a hotel and unexpectedly hearing a bellman or front desk associate discretely remark,

“Welcome Back Ms. Manion, we’re happy to see you again “

AnnManion
5 years 7 months ago

For me, there’s nothing sweeter than checking into a hotel and unexpectedly hearing a bellman or front desk associate discretely remark,

“Welcome Back Ms. Manion, we’re happy to see you again “

AnnManion
5 years 7 months ago

For me, there’s nothing sweeter than checking into a hotel and unexpectedly hearing a bellman or front desk associate discretely remark,

“Welcome Back Ms. Manion, we’re happy to see you again “

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