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Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, believes the lessons that he has learned in the luxury hotel business can be translated to other industries.
The most basic: Turn customers into guests.
At the core of all thriving businesses is a meaningful, long-lasting customer connection, Tisch believes.
“Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the art of welcome,” writes Tisch in Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough.
“It’s something all successful hoteliers must master … a skill that virtually every organizational leader must learn, since nowadays, we’re all in the business of attracting and keeping customers.”
Tisch pinpoints the major stresses facing many kinds of business that are making it harder to retain customers:
- Shrinking brand loyalty.
- Increased price sensitivity.
- Heightened competition.
- Increasing customer knowledge, skepticism, and power.
In the spirit of thinking we can all learn from each other, Tisch and co-writer Karl Weber present examples of a variety of consumer-driven businesses that seem to be getting it right.
The aim is to illustrate how a bank, for instance, might be able to learn good practices from a retailer.
“Don’t be afraid to learn from seemingly unrelated businesses,” Tisch writes.
These mini-profiles include Commerce Bank, based in Cherry Hill, N.J.; clothing retailer Urban Outfitters; Irvine, Calif.-based In-N-Out Burger; and Duke University Medical Center.
From each vignette, Tisch pulls a series of tips or lessons, called “Your Big Aha’s.”
Some of the tips are obvious, but worth noting. They include:
•Don’t be afraid to stand for something.
•When you find a formula that works, stick with it.
He counsels business leaders to “adopt the outsider’s view of their company.”
Visit your organization’s retail outlets, sales offices, or service departments in an unfamiliar town without identifying yourself.
Call the customer hotline with a complaint, concern or question.
Visit the website, and try ordering a product or asking a question.
Tisch salutes retailer Urban Outfitters for harnessing “the power of welcome to attract customers.”
The retailer, for example, doesn’t limit its offerings to clothes. The managers start with what interests their customers and assemble a collection of items that will appeal, such as furniture, jewelry, housewares and music.
To keep people interested, the look of a store is constantly tweaked with daily shipments of new merchandise and twice-monthly store redesigns.
Other organizations might want to consider fresh website content every week, a regularly updated newsletter or even a redesign of their logo.
And never forget that one size never fits all.
In the hotel business, “every housekeeper, bellman, engineer, and desk clerk knows that he or she is permitted — no, expected — to go outside the standard procedures when necessary to satisfy an unhappy guest … or provide that guest with a moment of unexpected satisfaction,” Tisch writes.
These customized services that go beyond expectations are what build customer loyalty.
In-N-Out Burger has a “secret menu” — an array of items, mostly invented and named by customers themselves and spread through word-of-mouth. It gives customers the sense of designing and ordering a specially prepared hamburger.
Dell lets Internet shoppers order computers containing only the features they want.
The lesson here: People love customized products that are “perfect for me.”
Then again, in the world of hospitality, you can’t go wrong with that chocolate on the pillow.
Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Reinventing the Customer Experience by Jonathan M. Tisch, with Karl Weber; John Wiley & Sons, 256 pages, $26.95.