Monthly Archives: April 2012

Technology – A Hoteliers Best Friend Or Worst Enemy?

I read an interesting post today from Michelle Schumate who is a Regional Director of Operations with The Hamister Group.

Michelle and Hamister’s idea about “Treating Guests As Friends In The Extended Stay Industry” helps to remind all of us who are involved in the hospitality industry that hotel guests deserve attention that goes well beyond check in, a clean and comfortable room, and a receipt upon check out.

So the question becomes is technology beginning to create barriers that are isolating hoteliers from their guests?

The Booking Barrier – Hotel brands are making every attempt to drive bookings direct through their hotel’s website booking engine and they work diligently to divert that booking from being processed through their 800 number.  I’m OK with that because it helps to reduce the hotel’s distribution cost but can you recall the last time you spoke to a reservation agent?

The Check In Barrier – It was nearly 15 years ago that Mike Kasavana developed “hotel self-check in” at a time when it was said that “no one goes to a place, especially a hotel, without a face-to-face person”.  Hotel brands are stepping up their deployment of self-service kiosks in their lobbies that help expedite check in thus eliminating some front desk personnel that would have traditionally handled your transaction.

The Room Key Barrier – When I fly I use a paperless boarding pass.  It won’t be too long until a kiosk will send my room key to my Android.  Unless you’ve been out of the country for the past five years this automation is in full swing.

The Concierge Barrier – In the good old days when you needed directions or a restaurant recommendation you headed straight for the Concierge desk.  Hotels of the future, according to IHG’s CIO, Tom Conophy, will have “electronic concierges which will comprehend guest’s individual preferences”.  It may not be too far into the future until you can skip the cab ride and get “beamed up” to a restaurant of your choice.

The Personalization Barrier – Amadeus and Fast Future suggest that “hotels must embrace extreme personalization and become ‘living innovation laboratories’ to survive the turbulent decade ahead”. I’m all about technology but isn’t intelligent furniture, adaptive room environments, and individually tailored nutrition and ‘thought control’ of guest facing systems better suited for space travel?

The Business Center Barrier – Any hotel with a business center has a computer or two where you can Google to your hearts content but how do you know if the restaurant review that you read on Yelp mirrors what the Concierge might recommend?  My bad.  There is no Concierge.

So where does this leave us?  According to Schumate “It should be our goal to remind our guests that they are more important than industry guidelines. We must also continually reinforce our service to them during each and every encounter thereafter. By removing the barriers that hotels have placed on themselves, we will return to the basics of being in the hospitality industry”.

I don’t live under a rock and certainly appreciate all that technology has done for every industry but we are talking about the HOSPITALITY industry right?

Your thoughts?

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Filed under Mobile Marketing, Tech Trends

LensCrafters – What They Don’t See Is A Clear Prescription For A Revised Customer Service Policy

LensCrafters Update

Today is June 12, seven weeks since this story was posted.

I received an email from LensCrafter’s Senior Director, Service Quality this morning with an apology.

While I was washing my car a few weeks ago, I decided to stash my glasses inside my pants pocket because they were constantly getting wet from the water that was splashing off the car.

If you wear glasses and wash your car you know what a pain in the you know what this can be. One can elect to spend as much time drying his glasses as he does washing his car or take the preferred route and ditch the glasses until the task is completed.

At about the time when I was aggressively attacking a hard-to-reach area of the roof that stubbornly avoided my best intentions, I heard a “crunch” that came from the area that is the right-hand pocket of my pants. I can only assume that I was so focused on the task at hand that I had forgotten where I tucked my glasses only to discover that I must have broken them while trying to reach the aforementioned area.

I attempted to make them work on a temporary basis with a strip or two of strategically placed Gorilla tape until I could get in to see the optometrist to update my prescription and find new glasses.

My insurance plan had changed since the last time I purchased glasses so I had to find out which retailer accepted it and decided on LensCrafters because they had a couple of styles that I liked and my wife was happy with a recent purchase that she made at their store.

Monday, April 2 – Eye exam completed and next stop LensCrafters.

The LensCrafters salesperson was courteous and knowledgeable and walked me through the selection process until I found frames that suited my taste and then we moved on to a fitting and wrapped up the transaction shortly thereafter.

During the purchase process the salesperson asked me, in addition to the verification of my insurance information, to provide and/or verify my home address, home telephone number, cellular number, and email address. This information was added to my profile and then stored in what I assumed to be their CRM tool.

This is where the deal goes south and the point of my post and that is LensCrafter’s disconnect between the customer and their inability to deliver the type of customer service that I expect and deserve.

No matter what anyone says about their product or service it is a given that somewhere along the line there is always a chance that something can go wrong and the difference between stellar customer service and lip service is how one handles customer service issues when they arise.

In the case of LensCrafters they advertise the following FAQ on their website that flies in the face of what this customer’s experience has been to-date…”Maybe you wonder what sets LensCrafters apart from the rest. It’s pretty simple, really – our unwavering, never-ending commitment to quality glasses and your satisfaction. Every one of our stores nationwide is ready to cater to your eyewear needs, whether it’s new frames or just a simple adjustment. Simply put, we love your eyes. And we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you love everything about your LensCrafters experience from start to finish.”  Read on and let me know if you agree with me.

Let’s refer back to the conclusion of my purchase for a moment. Although LensCrafters suggests on their website that they can provide their customers with “a pair of quality eyeglasses in about an hour” my salesperson suggested that due to my prescription and the lenses that I selected, my glasses would take about seven days until my glasses would be ready.  In addition they would call me on the cell number that I provided to notify me that my glasses were ready for pick up.

Today is April 23, 21 days since my purchase, not one single phone call from my salesperson or another store representative other than those that I initiated, and no glasses as of this post.

So allow me to share the customer relation steps that I feel should have taken place the minute my credit card was swiped.

  1. Time to connect – Although my transaction had been completed from a payment standpoint the customer connection should now be in full swing.  If you have a CRM tool and you collect a customer’s email address, as LensCrafters does, then put it to good use and send your new customer a thank you note via email and then expand that connection with other information and offers in the future.
  2. Product tracking – If you are selling a product that will be delivered to your store or place of business then give your salespeople the ability to track the status of a delivery.  In this day and age, “I’m sorry”, along with no additional explanation is simply an unacceptable excuse for not having a customer service policy in place that allows one to effectively deal with issues of this nature.
  3. Red flag – At this point we are now 10 days into the transaction and no glasses.  Now there’s a problem and you must shift from order taker to solution maker and do two things.  1 – Call your manufacturer and shake their tree and then follow up with your customer and provide a detailed explanation along with a plan-of-action before he has a chance to call you to find out why you dropped the ball.
  4. Manufacturer disconnect – Now I’m beginning to wonder if LensCrafters even has a CRM tool because if they did there would be steps and processes in place in order to avoid what now appears to be a complete meltdown.  Since no one at the store level can provide a definitive explanation as to where my glasses are and what their best estimation is as to when they will be delivered, this issue has now moved beyond unacceptable.  If your product comes from a manufacturer or a third-party it would be prudent for you to get some sort of answer from the manufacturer and then be able to share it, good, bad, or ugly with your customer.
  5. Get out of your own way – The date is April 19 and LensCrafters is now 17 days behind schedule. This is your last ditch effort to move this issue from the outhouse to the penthouse.  If you have an online tool it should have diverted this issue from the store level to someone who has the ability to make this right.  “I’m sorry but your order along with other customer orders somehow got lost” is not the excuse your customer is looking for right now.  As long as this stays in the hands of a salesperson at the store level you are setting the stage that will surely deliver this customer’s next transaction to your competitor.
  6. Make it right –  When you reach the point where you are 21 days behind scheduled delivery, as we are today, you need to have a plan in place to make things right between your company and your soon-to-be ex-customer. In the case of LensCrafters, I think a full refund is in order and should be issued on the day that my new glasses rest on my nose.

Here are a couple of ideas that will help you to establish a solid foundation for your customer service policy;

  • Brainstorm with your employees, manufacturers, business partners, online advocates, and customers on a regular basis and come to some conclusion as to what constitutes good and bad customer service.  If you have an Online Reputation Management tool (ORM) then use it to find out what your customers are saying about you as well as what they are saying about your competitors.
  • Once you’ve defined what quality service means in your business and to your customers, make a commitment to it. This usually means writing and publishing a customer service policy. It also means sharing it with your employees. You want to empower you employees to be able to respond – they are on the front lines and as such should be capable first responders!  Share the details of your customer service policy at all customer touch points.  This includes in-store, online, and anywhere else your customers can access your company, product, and services. Use this to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
  • When you say you are going to deliver something then deliver it when promised.  If you can’t then don’t make that promise.
  • Provide a “100% Customer Satisfaction Guarantee”.  If your customers aren’t satisfied with what they purchased then provide them with a full refund.  In the case of LensCrafters provide dissatisfied customers fix the problem and the provide them with a 50% percent off coupon for them or their family or friends to use toward their next purchase.

So what’s your take on this matter and if you were LensCrafters, how would you have handled things differently?

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Filed under Sales Tips, Sales Training

Hoteliers & Restauranteurs Can Stay Ahead Of “The Social Media Curve”

It is often said that hoteliers and restauranteurs are “two years behind the curve” as it relates to social media but in today’s marketplace they can’t afford to overlook the importance of social media and the influence that it has on prospective customers.

So what goals should you develop as it relates to a social media strategy and which social media channels should you use?

First, you must keep in mind that social media is an engagement platform where you listen to your community first and then engage and interact as a member of the community and not a salesperson.

Second you must develop a plan based around community advocates of your hotel or restaurant that will result in your advocates delivering a message or call-to-action that can benefit and educate other members of the community.

Now take a look at your Twitter or Facebook page.  Be honest.  Does it reflect your hotel or restaurant or does it look more like something you threw together at the last minute?  Click on these links to see if it gives you a better idea about creating a social media site that reflects your unique voice and image.  Uno Chicago GrillRoger Smith Hotel, The Veggie Grill, and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.

Now let’s focus on content and that includes your message, video, and photos that you created and hopefully you invited your guests or customers to do the same.  Don’t overlook the importance and the level of trust that you create when you encourage your guests and customers to actively participate in your community.  In my opinion, InterContinental Hotels Group has created some of the best social media-suited videos that I call their “Chef Concierge” series.  Here is an example of the InterContinental New York Barclay.  Watch and listen closely.  They do a brilliant job of “soft selling” the hotel as the Chef Concierge reveals what one can expect to enjoy outside of the confines of the hotel.

Last but not least track, track, track your data and don’t ignore it.  Monitor your clicks and conversions that are associated with the campaigns that you should be creating.  If your campaign is a dud, don’t blame your community for not connecting with it.  Tweak it, change it, or scrap it then create another one that shows a verifiable ROI (Return on Interaction) and can serve as a template for future campaigns.

Have any questions or comments?  Send them to me at tom@igroupadvisors.com.  I’d love to hear about your thoughts and share some other ideas that may help you to become more successful with your social media campaigns.

Tom Costello is the founder and Principal at iGroupAdvisors.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by email.  His new book, “Prepare for Liftoff – How to Launch a Career in Sales” is now available.

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Filed under Hotel Marketing, TripAdvisor, Twitter

iGroupAdvisors Set To Launch

THE WOODLANDS, TX., April, 2012 – Groups International today announced that on May 1, 2012 Tom Costello will lead the soft launch of iGroupAdvisors, a business performance improvement company that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.

“I wanted to share my experience as a business owner, entrepreneur, and sales and marketing professional to help others to achieve their business, professional, and personal goals,” said Tom Costello, founder and Principal of iGroupAdvisors.  “I’ve walked in their shoes, understand the challenges that that they face in today’s competitive business environment, and I am committed to providing services and solutions that will help them to become more profitable and successful.”

Mr. Costello’s business experience includes startups, strategic business planning, P&L management, branding, sales, marketing, social media, technology, channel distribution, and vendor relations.  His writings appear in a variety of global publications such as USA Today, Hotel Management Asia, and Franchise Times and is a regular contributor to HospitalityNET, Hotel Interactive, HotelMarketing.com, eHotelier.com, Tnooz, HSMAI Foundation eConnect, and published his first book “Prepare for Liftoff – How to Launch a Career in Sales”.

About iGroupAdvisors – As a division of Groups International, iGroupAdvisors will provide advisory services that focus on the areas of sales training, strategic planning, new business development, mentor & networking programs, third-party relations, social media, e-reputation management, and customer assurance programs.

For more information about iGroupAdvisors, please visit http://www.igroupadvisors.com or call +1.832.721.4288 for a complimentary assessment.

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Filed under hotel news, marketing, sales and marketing

Prospecting For New Clients Is Not “Dialing For Dollars”

Prospecting for new clients is a necessary function of the sales process so as a salesperson you’ll want to make some assessments and create a game plan to make sure that your call or contact will be a quality one and not “dialing for dollars”.

Before discussing sales prospecting it should be noted what a prospect is in terms of sales and selling.  A prospect is someone that could buy the products or services that a you are selling.

A qualified prospect is someone that you have spoken to in the past and has shown some level of interest in the products or services that you are selling.

A prospect could be qualified based on any number of factors such as demographics, geographical location, income level, education level, gender, and dozens of other factors and could be based on any one or any combination of these factors.

So sales prospecting is the targeting of “prospects” and the initial communications with them with the objective that these communications will eventually lead to a closed sale and a new client or customer.

According to Anthony Iannarino, President and Chief Sales Office at Solutions Staffing, “Great salespeople have the self-discipline to set aside the time, the attention, and the energy to prospect daily. They utilize all of the prospecting methods available, including telemarketing, cold calls, inbound marketing, email, letters, white papers, networking, referrals and more. They behave as if the health of their pipeline depends on their constant care and feeding of their pipeline, providing it with opportunities from a variety of sources.”

Few salespeople lack the ability to prospect, and almost anyone can learn to prospect effectively. Most of the failure when it comes to prospecting is not a lack of ability; it is almost always a lack of self-discipline.

Here are some thoughts and strategies that will help you to become more successful at prospecting.

First, you’ll need to make an assessment of your situation and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my territory or market segment?
  • Is my brand easily recognized by my prospect?
  • Who are my competitors and how are they selling against my brand/product/services?
  • What are my prospecting strengths/weaknesses?
  • How will I continually generate new leads?
  • How much time will I be able to devote to prospecting on a daily basis?
  • What are my sales goals? Are these numbers realistic and achievable?

So here are 11 Prospecting Strategies for you to incorporate into your daily “hunting” activities.

  1. Seek out a mentor who is successful and holds to the same high standards that you do. He/She can be in or outside of your office/company.
  2. There’s gold in your backyard. Start digging near your office first, if possible.
  3. Ask your existing customers for a testimonial or to refer you to other prospects.
  4. When networking, be a good listener. Ask open-ended questions and get a business card.
  5. Qualify your prospect ranging from a scale of one to 10, 10 being best, and don’t pursue those that fall below seven.
  6. Always be on the lookout for eights, nines, and 10’s.
  7. Create a script that gets you past the “gate keeper” and in touch with someone who writes the check.
  8. Resist selling on the first call. It’s an opportunity to get to know your prospect and to identify if your product or services meet his needs.
  9. If there is light at the end of your call do whatever it takes to arrange an appointment before you hang up.
  10. Don’t bad mouth your competition but be ready to share why your company/products/services are better than his.
  11. Never end your day with a prospect who says “No”.

Prospecting done right can have a huge affect on your sales goals and income.  Consistent and effective prospecting can make the difference between keeping your job or looking for another. If you’re serious about increasing your sales and income, make the effort to incorporate these strategies into your daily and weekly sales routine.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by email.  His new book, “Prepare for Liftoff – How to Launch a Career in Sales” is now available.


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Filed under prospecting, sales and marketing, Sales Tips