Cultivate a Culture-Driven Customer Experience By Laura Petrolino

Excellent customer experience is a challenging thing to create.


Because you never know what other experiences your customers are coming from, or what’s happening in their lives.

Do you know what preconceived notions they come to you with? What fears or frustrations?

What is happening in their lives that have nothing to do with you or what you’re selling or promoting, but will still affect their customer experience overall?

Customer Experience: A Parable

Have you ever had one of those weeks?

You know what I’m talking about. When you find every “best laid plan” you’ve devised was unfortunately built upon a land mine?

Yep, that week.

That pretty much sums up my last week. And let me tell you, it was an adventure full of ridiculousness and me looking around wondering if I’d end up on a reality TV show. (Ever seen “The Truman Show?” often—very often—I wonder if I’m actually Truman).

But as I said on Instagram, it just adds a few episodes to the comic TV series which will be produced about my life (yay…I’m going to be famous…don’t worry, I’ll remember you all in my award acceptance speech).

In situations like this, when everything seems to go sour, you appreciate even more the people and things that shower some sweetness onto your day. In other words, my customer experience with every organization I’ve dealt with has been in a state of “manic depression.”

I either want to kiss their feet and feed them wine and grapes, because they make things easier or simply show me some kindness. Or I want to get their name and URL blacklisted because I just need a little help and am only provided with a brick wall.

(Luckily in tough situations, more often than not you find the former to be true.)

An organization however, has no idea what I’ve been going through. They simply see a slightly haggard looking blonde. So, the customer experience protocol they’ve set up because more transparent, only because I’m more sensitive to it (or in need of it).

I have so many blog posts that will be written as a result of these two weeks, but today I want to focus on Hilton Homewood Suites in Scarborough Maine.

A Home for the Homeless

I walked into Hilton after a day of moving, which resulted in my being homeless.

Long story short, I had to be out of my old apartment, and I found out the evening before (by accident) of a major problem with my new apartment. This mean the movers who came that morning had to move all my stuff into a storage unit, vs. the new apartment it was supposed to go to, and I was without a place to live—with a cat and a dog.

Now remember, Hilton had no idea what I had just experienced. They just knew I was checking-in with two animals. So what I’m about to review wasn’t “special” customer experience, just what they offer everyone.

The following took place:

  • It was an unusually warm day here in Maine (read 80), so immediately from check-in they told me to grab a water bottle from the refrigerator.
  • They had some struggles with the computer system, so instead of making me wait while they actually checked me in, they gave me my keys, said they’d take care of it, and sent me on my way.
  • Shortly after getting to my room they sent up a “doggy care package,” with a toy, some treats, a water bottle, and a list of great dog parks in the area.
  • I had forgotten to put my “do not disturb” tag up and so I came back to the room one afternoon after being out dealing with moving logistics to find the housekeepers in my room (with my dog and cat). The wonderful woman, still intent on getting her job done, despite my animals roaming around, was on the bed cuddling with my dog, to make sure he was comfortable and happy. No doubt taking much longer than needed on the shift.
  • The manager helped me at check-out to make sure I got all paperwork needed so I could be refunded from my apartment complex for the stay. She gave me her card so anyone who needed to contact her could very easily. 

Now you might be saying to yourself, “is that it?” And in reality none of these things are huge—nor cost them a lot of money or time. But they were important details of how the ENTIRE staff treated customers that made a huge difference in my day.

They show the staff was trained to put the customer first. They make customer experience the goal. And this focus, permeates through everything the do.

That’s what customer experience is.

It’s not a quick fix, or a list of tactics. It’s an investment in training, culture, and people.

It doesn’t need to be elaborate, expensive, or tremendously resource consuming. It just needs to be people-focused and ingrained into the organization’s entire culture—from the very top, to the very bottom.

This Homewood Suites did an excellent job of just that and I’ll be ridiculously grateful forever. Simple kindness through customer experience that has made me a brand ambassador.

What other organizations have you experienced a culture-driven customer experience?

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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