Customer focus is something that almost every organization says it majors on. But do they?
Like many consultants, I travel all the time and stop in many different hotels. Because of the regularity of this lifestyle and poor customer service tends to stand out and become very noticeable. So not surprisingly, customer service for a hotel is a major component of their business model. Delighting their customers is critical to long-term business success. Satisfied customers, are happy customers. This tends to mean return bookings and customer loyalty to a greater degree. Generally, a loyal customer will remain your customer. That is until they see the opportunity for something that might be better to a greater degree. or is cheaper.
But I have to say, as a customer, sometimes this isn’t what I experience.
Sometimes problems with customer focus are obvious. Slow service, cold food. These are basic problems that should be sorted quickly. But for an organisation to truly be customer focused, it first needs to understand its customer needs and separate out what are basic customer needs from what delights the customer.
So, let’s look at a technique to do this. How could the hotels that I stop in raise the bar to make sure that I return.
Professor Noriaki Kano of Tokyo Rika University and his colleagues started to develop a theory in the 1980’s. Kano’s theory focused on three types of customer requirement.
Satisfying basic needs:
These are the expected levels of service (or feature). These needs are typically unspoken and if these needs are not fulfilled, the customer will be extremely dissatisfied. In the case of a hotel, cleanliness would be one of these. A clean bathroom, clean linens and a pleasant aroma in the air. When I call to book a room, I never ask for a clean room I expect one.
These are the standard levels of service that can either increase or decrease customer satisfaction by their degree (cost/price, ease of use, speed). Typically, these tend to be spoken. Again, using a hotel example, these could be asking for a quiet room away from the elevator, a room on the top floor, a room with a bath, not just a shower or making sure a full English breakfast is included.
These are the unexpected features or levels of service that impress customers and earn the company extra bonus points. Companies that work at this level on their customer focus are working towards becoming world class. Typically, and almost universally these are unspoken. In a hotel example, this would be a turndown service with a chocolate placed on the pillow or a wide selection of high-quality free beverages.
Understanding what delights a Customer requires that you first understand your customers’ needs and desires. This can be difficult as all too often even your customers don’t understand these well.
Businesses that have true customer focus have a deep appreciation for what their customers, and potential customers, desire. They create systems to deliver solutions that delight those customers and benefit greatly from that effort.
A good solution must be something that is free or at least something customers are willing to pay a little more for. You cannot erode margins simply to retain or win new customers. However, you should bear in mind that focusing on the process in question can often reduce costs as well as improving quality and service levels.
So, let’s look at an example from a Hotel I stayed some time ago.
One of my pet hates is how the mirrors in hotel bathrooms very rarely clear quickly. Often the extractor fan is not working properly, is blocked or simply not big enough for the job. I find myself squinting through the mist 5 mins after getting out of the shower wondering if the mirror will ever clear.
As a customer, this is a real annoyance. The majority of hotels have not understood the customer requirement fully when designing the bathroom. So, using the Kano model this is how I think the hotel industry should look at the problem.
My Performance requirement is to have a mirror that clears within 5 mins
In my case to achieve Customer delight is to have a heated mirror that never mists up.
My hotel from a few weeks ago had a heated mirror. They had not advertised it, nor did I notice until I got out of the shower. But when I noticed, I was impressed. A nice touch I thought. Made all the difference as I rushed to get ready for my days’ appointments.
That to me is what customer focus is about.