If you see a pattern of customer complaints, don’t just think about fixing the problem. Use the issue to improve service and, possibly, sales. Here’s how one company did it.
What made the biggest difference between just fixing a recurring problem and turning the solution into a profit-maker was taking the time to learn what customers really wanted.
The story surprisingly starts and ends in the laundry room of Dorchester Collection’s luxury hotels. The company’s dirty laundry turned into a customer experience success story.
Ana Brant, director of global guest experience and innovation for Dorchester Collection, shared the story with Harvard Business Review.
Here’s what happened, plus tips on how you can make customer feedback work better for your company:
1. Heard the problem
The number of complaints from customers about the laundry service at several high-end hotels spiked and got the leadership’s attention. The mistakes came with costs: Hotels had to replace expensive items and try to make amends with loyal customers.
Leaders recognized the problem — and a need to do more than fix it. They wanted to make the laundry system work better for customers.
For you: When you uncover recurring issues, fix them. Then look for an opportunity to make the process, situation or product even better.
2. Figured out what customers wanted
The laundry issues were handled on a one-on-one basis. So leaders were left to focus more on how they could eliminate future problems and make the laundry service an asset, not a liability.
Their focus was to figure out what customers wanted out of the laundry service, which Dorchester hadn’t thought much about previously. They pulled data to see what kinds of things were laundered to get an idea of customers’ clothing behaviors. They talked to staff involved in the laundry service — from the bell staff and housekeeping who might collect it, to the staff members who clean and return it.
They found customers were often fond of high-end labels and liked to be seen carrying or wearing them. Guests brought more than they needed and shopped for even more. About 80% used the laundry service.
For you: Consider this every time you resolve recurring problems, “How can we now turn this into an asset, not another liability?”
3. Put a name on it
Leaders recognized that fashion and clothing were a big part of customers’ experience at their properties. Yet, the connection between fashion and their service was something that the company hadn’t ever considered or put an emphasis on.
More interviews revealed that most employees saw the laundry service as an insignificant part of the customers’ stay. They even thought jobs in that area were less-than-desirable careers.
Bottom line: Customers cared more about the laundry service than Dorchester leadership and employees did. They weren’t on the same expectation page as customers, and the disconnect led to errors and dissatisfied customers.
For you: When you uncover the issue and it’s solution, also look for the expectation gap — what customers expected and what you delivered.
4. Changed resource allocation
For Dorchester, the first long-term solution and experience-improving move was to increase resources toward the laundry service. They hired an expert craftperson in laundry services to run the operation. Then they built a marketing and social media campaign around the service. That boosted the status of the service and the morale of its employees.
They also trained all employees on fabrics, labels and designers so they knew what they were dealing with when they handled laundry. The training included field trips to stores where customers shopped.
For you: Involve everyone. Even if you can’t increase your budget to upgrade a feature, you can educate employees on the issue and features so they can use the increased knowledge to improve the customer experience.
5. Add the personal touch
Once the Dorchester improved the laundry service, employees used it as an avenue to increase the personal touch. They included notes with returned garments on how they cared for them and how much they appreciated the guests’ loyalty.
This cost nothing more, but boosted satisfaction immediately.
For you: Whatever improvements you add, look for ways to personalize them. Small notes almost always add enough to make a difference.
6. Looked for more
Dorchester quickly saw laundry complaints drop and compliments rise. So they looked for other similar and often overlooked areas to improve the experience incrementally. For instance, instead of just picking up guests at the airport, they started cleaning luggage after they picked them up and before they delivered the bags to their rooms.
For you: Don’t stop at one change. Look for similar, perhaps overlooked, opportunities to turn up the experience just a bit.