“Lessons in Customer Service from The Jefferson Hotel”

What’s better than great service? Wait, a great product WITH great service? Nothing? Ok... Food, Kids, Puppies, “30 Rock”, and Sex but that’s IT! Rarely, and I mean rarely is a company able to combine the two with any consistency. Great Products? The iPhone is an example of a truly great product. Have you ever tried to get it serviced when something goes wrong? It’s not the most pleasant process. Do I go to AT&T? The Apple Store? Both? I invariably go to both and it’s painful. Two business categories generally deliver very good service, though sometimes with an inconsistent product: Hotels and Restaurants. Your product experience can vary wildly from night to night based on what room you get, the chef, your dinner choice and what staff is on duty. The service, however, at most restaurants and hotels is usually very good with sufficient attentiveness, responsiveness, and a sincere (or at least well faked) friendliness. Why? PLENTY OF COMPETITION! Competition breeds great service! There are a TON of choices out there in the Restaurant and Hotel Space! The opposite of NO COMPETITON and GREAT Service: The DMV. Yikes. The formula is simple: As the competition in a space goes down (Cell Phones, Municipalities, etc.), the service goes down at a much faster pace until it hits “DMV Level”!

During my time on this planet, I’ve stayed at hundreds of hotels and eaten at even more restaurants, yet only ONE stands out as having the VERY best service: The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. It maintains a “Five Diamond” rating from various services and is regularly lauded for its excellence. “The Jefferson” has earned EVERY one of those awards and tributes. In the past three years, I’ve piled up over 100 Room Nights there and NEVER had an unpleasant experience. Sure, little things have gone wrong but this is when the hotel is at its finest: FIXING THEIR MISTAKES. Mistakes, in many cases, are opportunities to shine at CUSTOMER SERVICE. The Jefferson delivers every time. I actually feel BETTER after they fix whatever little thing went wrong. The Jefferson realizes that every single Customer Interface is extremely important. Every SINGLE one. From the time that I pull my car up and am greeted by the Valet on a first name basis with a “Welcome to the Jefferson” to the final check out, I feel special, important, “at home”, and emotionally attached. Isn’t that the way EVERY business should make you feel? Isn’t that all Customer Service IS at its most basic? Humans make their purchases based on emotion and then justify them with logic. The Jefferson understands this better than any company that I have observed. If you can stay there, it’s worth it. If you can’t, take these Lessons in Customer Service from the wonderful “Jefferson Hotel” and utilize them in business.

  1. Make sure that EVERY Customer Interaction is PERFECT. Test each link in the chain. Mystery Shop.
  2. Remember NAMES! Keep them in a database and use them. People LOVE to hear their names and really love it when they are memorable.
  3. Retain your Good People! They have a terrific staff and VERY little turnover which only adds to the “comfort” and emotion associated with “buying” them.
  4. Fix Mistakes the RIGHT WAY! Fast and Sufficiently! Say “I’m sorry that..”, then fix it, then ask if you fixed it. Do it fast! Time is your enemy.
  5. Prioritize Customer Service! Your business has customers and they need service. If you don’t, your competition will. Don’t talk about it, DO IT!
  6. Eliminate those who don’t buy in. What is the price of ONLY one lost customer to your business?
  7. Make Customer Service Fun! Staying at The Jefferson Hotel is ALWAYS fun! They have it seasonally decorated and are frequently hosting events. It’s buzzing with Celebrity Sightings, etc. Celebrate your holidays, birthdays, successes, whatever with your customers... just have FUN!
  8. Reward Your Customers. People love to be thanked and given stuff! Thank your customers and REWARD them! I am frequently upgraded to huge suites at The Jefferson for my frequent patronage. It sure feels good.
  9. Create “Fans” of your business. Become SO good at Customer Service that people like me are writing stuff like this about YOU!
  10. Remind Your Customers that they love you. Stay in touch. Sounds simple. Are you REALLY consistently doing it? Do it. People forget about you when there are many choices. I get reminded twice monthly by The Jefferson.

Until next time.

William Prettyman