Great Customer Experiences

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By Kristen Hayer

What makes a great customer experience?

I travel for work. A lot. I’ve been on the road about 75% of the time since October. I stay in hotels all over the country, and I’ve had mostly good travel experiences and some great ones as well. However, on a recent trip I had a terrible hotel stay. It got me thinking: What are the differences between an amazing customer experience and a bad one? What should we as customer success professionals be striving for, and what do we need to be careful to avoid? Based on two of my recent hotel stays, here’s my take:

Personal & Personalized
I recently spent 4 nights in well-rated, small chain hotel. Let’s call it The Bad Place. I was expecting good service, but instead was greeted by an unenthusiastic staff member who directed me to my room with a vague gesture down the hall. I arrived late in the evening so I chalked the interaction up to that. However, I was there for the better part of a week and nobody remembered me, even though I ate at the hotel restaurant nightly. No one greeted the guests as they came and went from the hotel, and the entire experience was cold and impersonal. It was clear that we were all just numbers.

In contrast, I had a fantastic experience at Distrikt Hotel in NYC. Distrikt is a boutique hotel in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, close to several of our clients and the theater district. It was my second stay at the hotel. Both the front desk staff and the restaurant manager remembered me from my prior stay and greeted me as a returning guest. I found a personalized welcome note in my room. By the end of the week the restaurant manager knew my favorite wine and to point me to healthier options on the menu. By simply checking to see that I was a repeat guest and being observant during my stay, they created a warm, personal experience.

My stay at The Bad Place was anything but effortless. The room was not stocked with toiletries or cleaned. I had to call twice during my stay to get basic housekeeping services (I’m not high maintenance, I just expect dirty towels to be replaced!). In addition, there was no advice on where to park or how to get easily from my car to my room. I didn’t realize until the last day of my visit that I could have been parking around the back of the building and eliminating the long, rainy walk from my car. It felt like work to come back to a hotel that should have felt restful after a long day.

On the other hand, my stay at Distrikt was seamless. They offered online check-in the day of my stay, so that when I arrived I could just grab my keys and head to my room. The front desk staff offered maps of the city, and advice on transportation options. The room was stocked with bottled water, enough towels and toiletries for several people, guidebooks for NYC, simple wireless instructions, and directions on how to order food from Seamless delivered to the hotel. I never made a call to the front desk, because all of my needs had been anticipated.

Exceeds Expectations
It goes without saying that my experience at The Bad Place didn’t exceed my expectations. They didn’t even meet them. At a minimum, hotels should be clean and their staff should be friendly.

Distrikt Hotel did three things that took my experience from great to exceptional. First, I brought my daughter with me for the weekend so we could see a show and spend some time together. The hotel recommended a fantastic restaurant nearby that gave us a great dinner and got us out in time to get to the theater. During the week, I ordered food from Seamless in an attempt to work some healthy food into my week. Instead of calling to let me know my food had arrived at the front desk, which was what I was expecting, one of the hotel staff delivered it to my room. Finally, on my last night I was getting some work done in the restaurant, and the manager swung by my table with a Distrikt hat for my daughter. They remembered her from earlier in the week and thought she’d enjoy a souvenir of her NYC trip.

Basics do matter. At a minimum, you need a good product that meets the customer’s expectations and delivers value. However, if you want to create an exceptional experience it’s the little things that really count: extra effort, thoughtful gifts, and warm greetings. Consider ways that you can take your customer experience from good to great by incorporating personalization, making it effortless, and exceeding expectations.

The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online training and workshops on core CS topics like Customer Goals and Outcomes and Kicking off the RelationshipFor more information on these and our other classes and workshops, please visit

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Kristen Hayer - Kristen believes that customer success is the key to driving revenue, client retention and exceptional customer experiences. Her areas of expertise include developing success goals and metrics, designing the optimal customer journey, selecting technology, training teams, and building playbooks. Prior to founding The Success League, Kristen built and led several award-winning customer success teams. Over the past 20 years she has been a success, sales, and marketing executive, primarily working with growth-stage tech companies. Kristen has her BA from Seattle Pacific University and her MBA from the University of Washington.