Retail Fails but Travel Wins: 3 Stories about Customer Experience

  • October 6, 2013
  • Fran Stephenson
  • 4 min read

Are your customers having good, bad or GREAT experiences? I recently had 3 different service experiences in each of these categories which really surprised me, and not always in a good way.  Let’s start with the bad surprise.

Retail Fail

When trying to make a purchase at a large department store, I found that the employee in that section was too busy chatting with another employee to notice that I circled her department 5 times.  I was ready to purchase; she was not ready to help me. I left without spending any money there and posted about it on my Facebook page.  (see picture below).  The irony of this bad service story is that I have been a customer at this store for more than 10 years.  Now I doubt I will go back.  It’s not the only department store in my city.  I have choices.


Good Restaurant Service

Last week, I traveled with my husband to Dallas for a business meeting.  We were staying at the Marriott in Irving, near the DFW airport.  I had breakfast alone in the restaurant and was immediately treated well by my waiter, David.  He asked if I was visiting Dallas, what brought me here, what my plans were for the day.  I asked for shopping recommendations and he gave me three suggestions. Then, he went and got a map from the front desk and marked the suggestions on it for me. I sent the Marriott Corporate Offices an e-mail about David.

Great Hotel Fix

IMG_1382Two weeks ago, I attended a conference and in the frantic preparation to get ready to leave town, I threw all my clean, but wrinkled clothes into my bag and decided I would press them all when I got there.  After I checked into the Omni Bayfront in Corpus Christi, I got out the iron and ironing board to get the pressing out of the way.  The sole plate on the iron was burned and I did not want to use it on my white suit jacket.  I wish I could remember the name of the young man on the desk who took my call. He assured me that he would find a replacement. Then called 10 minutes later to say they were still looking. (I told him I was not in THAT much of a hurry, just needed to press the clothes sometime that day).  When he called again, he couldn’t believe that there were no spare irons.  What he said next made the experience GREAT.  “I’m sending up someone from Housekeeping — just give her your clothes and we will iron them for you and return them to your room later this evening.”  And he did, as you can see from the picture of my beautifully ironed jacket with the offending iron.

What’s the difference between these experiences?

The first difference is awareness.  The department store employee did NOT have it and the hotel and restaurant employees DID.

The second difference is industry approach.  I do not want to denigrate the retail industry, but I have had more bad experiences in retail settings than travel settings.  I can make my entire retail transaction without ever interacting with someone and often do that — by purchasing things online. In travel, you can make all the plans online, but eventually, you are going somewhere and you will interact with people at hotels, attractions and restaurants.  Maybe travel people try harder to make a good impression because industry success depends on it.

The third difference is expectation. Today’s consumer expects good service and more than ever, smart businesses are noticing that investing in their customer’s happiness pays big dividends.  But are businesses sharing that expectation with front line service staff like the employee in the department store, the restaurant waiter or the ticket taker?

Businesses who invest in their front line staff are winning. That’s the simple difference between bad experiences and great ones.

What are your customer experiences in retail and travel?