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As the gloom of an autumn day sets in and the rain beats down tearing leaves from the trees and creating muddy splatters against the cars as they pass we thought it was time to turn our thoughts to sunnier climes and take a look at the holiday trade.
Our comments are partly prompted by a recent trip to make the most of the last few lingering days of summer and partly by the recent Thomas Cook rebrand, but in truth they could be universally applied to any business in any sphere. We have chosen holidays simply because in that field, perhaps more than any other, creating the customer experience is crucial to survival.
In announcing their rebrand the CEO of Thomas Cook, Harriet Green, said “this isn’t just a rollout of a new logo, it’s about a promise. What we’re announcing today is a renewed promise to our customers, our people and suppliers. A promise that we’re putting them at the heart of our transformation it’s the essence of who we are,” adding “it will clarify our customer promise– a complete range of inspirational experiences for our customers.”
With those words the Group are setting the customer experience bar fairly high, and in truth at a level which some leisure providers may not be able to reach. But here we come back to a concept which we have written about before, the idea that not everyone has to provide a top level service; what is important is that the service provided is as described. In other words say what you mean and mean what you say.
In holiday terms a one room farm B&B won’t be able to offer the same level of facilities as a 5* holiday complex. But as long as each is honest and truthful about the level of facilities, amenities and service which is on offer then the customer can have an outstanding holiday experience. The key is for the venue to understand what is important to the customer and to offer a level of outstanding service to the best of their abilities. The farm B&B may offer a rope swing over a stream and the chance to dip for tadpoles, the 5* facility may offer snorkelling in crystal clear waters with exotic brightly coloured fish. As long as the offering has been drawn up with the customer in mind and the description is accurate that is all that matters.
Our recent trip highlighted this when we specifically contacted the hotel in advance to check on facilities for children. Promised a child-friendly atmosphere with a full kids club and trained helpers we booked. Our “child friendly” holiday turned out to be anything but. The reality was that the club was specifically geared to those on package holidays from a few countries. Staff were curt and unhelpful, play facilities were in direct sunlight all day and there was a lack of child seats in dining areas.
Irrespective of the number of stars, this was one venue which definitely didn’t understand customer needs or offer a proposition which it could match up to. The venue might argue that it had outsourced the service but outsourcing does not absolve businesses of the need to ensure that customer care is paramount.
It doesn’t really matter if an organisation offers holidays, financial services or anything else. What matters is being truthful, having a clear proposition and stepping up to meet it. A shared room in a hostel or a luxury suite, a bargain burger or a Michelin star meal; if crafted with the customer in mind and offered with honesty then both can satisfy and both can win plaudits for creating an exceptional customer experience.