Laura Petrolino

Three Ways to Improve Customer Experience Today

By: Laura Petrolino | September 21, 2015 | 
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Three Ways to Improve Customer Experience TodayBy Laura Petrolino

What is it about a hotel pool that makes it so exciting?

A bit of chlorine and dug out cement logically shouldn’t improve customer experience..yet oddly it does.

I remember being ridiculously pumped as a kid about staying at a hotel and playing in the pool.

And guess what?

That still happens!

I bring a swimsuit on every trip—even if I know good and well I’ll have no time to play in the pool—simply because the hope I will is exciting enough to not chance missing out on a few spare minutes where I can take a dip.

When I find out I’m staying at a hotel that doesn’t have a pool, I automatically feel bummed and ripped off.

EVEN IF I KNOW I WOULD’T HAVE TIME TO PLAY IN THE POOL IN THE FIRST PLACE.

This really makes no sense. I mean, I’ve lived in apartment complexes with pools (pools I swam in every night). Pools much better than many a hotel pool—and I never got that same little thrill.

Customer Experience is Created through Stories

Scenarios like this are often the case when it comes to what might make or break a customer experience. An organization will improve customer experience when it creates opportunities for customers to tell stories related to who they are or what they do.

A pool is part of a hotel’s story. For me, it probably goes back to great memories of playing in hotel pools. Who knows? But it’s a story I connect to, one that’s relevant to me.

While for me, this story might be a pool (although there are other things at hotels that get me excited as well—jumping on beds, lots of pillows, awesome hotel lotion and shampoo, room service—one might say I’m easily excited, that’s another story), for someone else it’s a restaurant, or a mint on their pillow, maybe even a complimentary robe.

The point is we all have stories that resonate, as an organization you improve customer experience when you help connect your business to those stories.

There are many ways you can do this, but today I’m going to focus on three:

Improve Customer Experience through Storytelling

Every organization has stories which people can connect to and will improve customer experience—both employee and customer stories.

So how do you figure out what stories to tell? Where do you find these stories?

In Spin Sucks (the book) and the accompanying workbook (which you can download HERE), Gini Dietrich takes you through important steps to find and tell your own organizational stories.

There are also great examples all around to take cues from, for example:

  • Look at non-profits. They tend to excel at storytelling, and for profit businesses can learn a lot through the ways they use stories to connect with their donors, influencers, and community at large.
  • What Hampton Inn and Suites has done with their Hamptonality Moments video series.
  • Think outside the customer testimonial box, and get creative with how you engage happy (or even not so happy) customers to share their stories.

Improve Customer Experience through Human Connection

Now, there are other ways to tell stories—such as through the action of your team.

Customer service that goes above and beyond helps improve customer experience in real time and it’s so easy to do (but so often neglected).

Back to my hotel example: This past weekend we stayed at a Residence Inn in Yonkers, New York,

While it was a nice hotel (and had a pool, as well as one of my favorite hotel toiletry sets), there was nothing particularly special about it—except for the front desk clerk when we checked in.

He was friendly, helpful, and just had a vibrant personality, which was easy to connect to. His personality alone was the extra touch which made this hotel special, memorable, and one I’ll not hesitate to come back to and go out of my way to recommend.

Customer service is not just something you do—it’s something you are.

He could have helped us in exactly the same way—provided directions, restaurant recommendations—and it wouldn’t have been notable. It was the human connection he brought to the service that make it matter.

Think about how you can create something special when it comes to the customer service you provide. This must be through a shared vision and set of values, not through mandated tactics.

Improve Customer Experience through Follow-up

Sometimes the best opportunities to improve customer experience are in the follow-up. I’ve worked with many organizations that impressed me the most after the sale or service.

Too often organizations consider the “transaction complete” once the sale has been made. The organizations the define themselves from good to great, are those who see the customer relationship as lasting much longer.

They value the follow-up and relationship after the sale to be just as—if not more—important.

Blow your customers away and improve customer experience through unique and engaged follow-up and you will turn average customers into long-term ambassadors (this also is helpful in “second chance customer service.

How have you used these three tools to improve customer experience?

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks.

  • There’s nothing like a fully engaged employee who makes you think, “gosh this person LOVES their job” to keep the story going in a positive way!

  • danielschiller

    ” I’ve worked with many organizations that impressed me the most after the sale or service.”
    That’s really when there’s an opportunity to add value. On a professional level, I have worked withproviders who excel in this area, and some others who honestly couldn’t tell you how to use their service. I think most of us would pay more for the former. How can leading organizations enable employees to anticipate customer needs before it becomes a need?

  • nileshmalsana

    SpinSucks thanks for sharing Spin Sucks, have a great Monday 🙂 (insight by http://commun.it)

  • SpinSucks

    nileshmalsana A great Monday to you too!

  • danielschiller If they really understand who their buyers are, this should be easy. There also can’t be silos, so feedback is going somewhere (sales team, customer service, etc.) that needs to be translated across the organization, at every level and ever customer touch point.

  • biggreenpen Right? Makes such a difference!

  • jeremykvc

    This is my jam and the niche I’m looking to play in as a
    freelancer, thank you for posting.
    My day gig is working as a content strategist at Disney but
    not so long ago I was a salaried leader in the park and managed in a couple of
    different operations. Since I love storytelling so much, (and we incorporate it
    daily to exceed Guest expectations through excellence in service,) I’m developing
    a PR/Strategy consulting entrepreneurship to eventually do the type of work I’m
    truly passionate about.
    If I could add one thing to this discussion it’s this: To
    get their teams to have empathy and care about their Guests in a truly
    meaningful way it’s very important for Leaders in this industry to learn how to
    tell stories to their teams that illustrate the importance of the work they
    perform.
    I’ve inspired teams to be genuinely enthusiastic about their
    role, by telling stories about real people that come through our doors. Stories
    about people we should be celebrating because it’s their first time here. I’ve
    told stories about people we should be honoring because it’s their last time
    here.
    Providing massive perspective about the people we serve that
    adheres to the organization’s vision, is what makes a sustainable difference.
    That’s stewardship.
    Why is this industry so important? Because it’s how people
    choose to escape, recharge, and to live fully.
    I know this is true because of the following story I’ve told
    to my teams, after which they’ve always treated everyone they came into contact,
    with deep reverence for spending their precious time with us…
    I was standing in Tomorrowland going over some logistical
    items with my Leader and an Imagineer. This was actually the first day I was a
    salaried Leader so I was feeling very important and pleased with myself. We
    were talking very high level things in a very important manner when I felt a
    tug on the back of my shirt. I turned around to discover a little 5 year old
    boy with a little knit cap on and he was beckoning me to bend down to speak
    with him. Wait – didn’t he know I was doing important things?
    I knelt down and he said he wanted to pin trade with me (I
    was wearing a pin lanyard loaded with super cool pins) so of course he wanted
    to trade. I gave him one of mine and he gave me one of his.  It was a little Finding Nemo pin, the one
    where Nemo has a little hurt fin. I thanked him for trading with me, patted him
    on the shoulder and turned back around to continue our very important logistical
    discussion. We were deep in it when I felt the familiar tug at my shirt again
    so I turned around.
    The little 5 year old with the knit cap was motioning me
    with one finger to bend down so he could speak to me. When I bent down he
    leaned in and whispered “do you know why I pin traded with you?”
     I said “no”
    He said “so you’ll remember me.”
    Well this was a pretty remarkable thing for a 5 year old to
    say and it knocked the wind out of me. I looked across the way and noticed his
    whole family lined up watching us. I took his hand and walked over to speak
    with them.
    It turns out that the young 5 year old boy had terminal
    cancer, and he was on a mission.
    For his last day ever in Disneyland, he was making his way
    through the park and trading little Finding Nemo pins with any Cast Member he
    could, saying “this is so you’ll remember me.” Suddenly our high level
    discussion was of no importance at all. This amazing young man was leaving a legacy,
    and I will never forget it.
    When serving, you never know who’s in front of you. Lead and
    communicate with empathy, and you will always be aligned with the needs of those
    you serve, who are looking to you for the stewardship of their experiences.

  • jeremykvc OH MY GOODNESS what a story.

  • LauraPetrolino danielschiller Creating an organizational culture focused on caring for your customers is the first step. But the message has to come from the above, from the leadership and it has to be implemented at every level. Otherwise, sales won’t know what post-sales department does and vice versa.

  • jeremykvc  This is quite s story. WOW!
    I’ll stay with ” Lead and communicate with empathy, and you will always be aligned with the needs of those you serve, who are looking to you for the stewardship of their experiences.” Thank you Jeremy for sharing your experience with us.

  • jeremykvc

    biggreenpen jeremykvc Thank you for reading, its pretty much my filter for engaging people.

  • jeremykvc

    Corina Manea jeremykvc I’m honored, thank you so much.

  • lkpetrolino

    kathikruse thanks Kathi!

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