I travel frequently and because I do, I find myself evaluating the places that I stay. I am very aware of everything from the parking lot to the front door to the elevators and everything in my room. There are times that I am too tired to even care. A client recently said, “Why should I stay in something below the level of my own home”? If that was the case, I think many of us would never leave our home! Your business may not be a hotel, but no matter what type of business it is, your customer is evaluating it and they are telling others what they found.

I was recently planning a trip to visit my family. During that week I thought it might be fun to spend one night in the lodge that my husband and I spent our honeymoon in. I was going to make it a surprise. It was a good thing I did my homework first or the surprise might not have been so nice.

My “homework” started out by Goggling the name and location of the lodge. There was a link called “trip advisor” that I clicked on. I found 2 reviews of the location that helped me make up my mind to find a different place to stay. The two reviews started out; “This place sounded too good to be true” and “We were SO disappointed in our Lodge stay.”

I am opened minded and kept thinking about how romantic I could make this stay and that maybe these people didn’t like “rustic”! Here are some of their comments:

• Tubs were so filthy we showered with sandals on.
• Service was very poor.
• The staff was unaccommodating.
• We were misinformed over the phone about our vacation package
• The girl behind the counter looked tired and put out.
• There was a bees nest in the corner of our balcony
• You could barely see the bottom of the indoor pool.
• The food was overpriced.
• We have no need or desire to return.
• After reading that list, you would probably agree with me that I was not making a reservation at this lodge. You may have made the following assumptions as I did:
• Up-keep and maintenance were not a priority.
• Training of all employees was lacking.
• Not enough focus on quality control.

Customer feedback is priceless. It is hard to take sometimes but the information is the key to improving. If the management of that lodge was smart, they would read those reviews, and all of the others they could find and develop a plan on how to address each of those issues immediately. The internet is a powerful tool to bring people to you or help drive them away. This company can’t afford more people like me to read these comments and avoid staying there and worse yet, tell others.

Business owners in any industry can improve their customer feedback by focusing on the following three areas.

Cleanliness and Maintenance: Customers will make the assumption that the entire company is out of date and dirty if the entrance and parking area reflect that image. Once the customer walks through your doors they are making a report card. Savvy customers notice everything within the surroundings and grade you as to your attention to detail as well as your ability to stay current. You are current if you have addressed color and furnishings, lighting, sound, inventory and up to date technology. Your customer mentally decides that you care enough about your customer to constantly be improving in all of the “touch points” that affect them. They will more readily dismiss the sign that says, “Excuse our mess as we are remodeling to meet your expectations”, than the obvious “signs” that say, “We don’t have the time, energy or money to change what you see.

Employee Training: In my mind, there was no excuse for the front desk to be “un-informed” when it came to a vacation package. That is their job. It was in-excusable to be unaccommodating. Lack of appropriate training and management continually monitoring the performance of their employees is what had an impact on this review.

It is important to evaluate employee training programs to make sure they are current and that they reflect the brand of the company. Providing the employees with on-going training sessions arms them with the correct information as well as the appropriate way to communicate it to the customer.

Value and Experience: These two reviews screamed “buyers’ remorse”. Their comments “I’d give this a terrible rating. It was a waste of time and money “, and “We were sorry to have to be disappointed” says that in their minds, they did not get what they paid for. The value that was promised through their marketing efforts did not match what they received.

I would advise any company to take a long, hard look at your advertising and marketing materials and see if matches what the customer receives.

The beautiful, slick brochures may get them interested, but if it doesn’t “deliver” when they come to buy, their disappointment will send them to your competition. Experience is the name of the game. Customers want a clean and updated place to do business, with friendly people who know what they are doing and they would like to establish value for the price they are paying.

The old saying, “little things mean a lot” is so true. Customers appreciate your willingness to go the extra mile to make their experience of doing business with you one they will “value” and that they will tell others about.

Your goal is to help them be your cheerleaders and to write the reviews that say, “The best place I every stayed, I can’t wait to tell all my friends.”

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