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Guest

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.

29 comments
fuckmyozone
fuckmyozone

You people expect us to kiss your ass, well it isn't going to happen! If you call me I'm not going to say how sorry I am for the inconvenience.. you called to get your problem solved. Do you want me to fix it? Or sit there and kiss your ass til your done complaining? Sorry (no pun intended) you can't have both!

As for the letter, be thankful you got one, if it were my choice you wouldn't have received a letter at all you ungrateful fuck.

AnnManion
AnnManion

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
AnnManion

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 "

KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink

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.

LouBortone
LouBortone

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!

KatherineHeidtbrink
KatherineHeidtbrink

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

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?

Shonali
Shonali

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"?!

MissMarcia
MissMarcia

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 good enough.

AnnManion
AnnManion

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 that important to us". It is on the same theme as this blog. If anyone is interested, here is the link: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/07/sunday/main7031665.shtml

emachine
emachine

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

LouBortone
LouBortone

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!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

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 (by name!) as I did the last time.

I may not be a fan of the Swiss Chalet fare, but I sure as heck am a fan of their service. Like you say, it doesn't take much but can mean the world.

TMNinja
TMNinja

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. :(