Admittedly, a lot of the companies that have cultivated a cult customer service following (like Zappos and Trader Joe's) have done so as a result of go-big-or-go-home moments, like sending a customer a pizza when the resolution call has gone long or delivering groceries to an elderly customer in a snowstorm. We love these stories as much as anyone, but when it comes to B2B tech companies, the criteria are different. It requires the ideal combo of product, responsiveness, and company culture. Here are a few ways to tell if a tech company truly cares about its service and the success of its customers based on examples from B2B tech companies that are doing it right:
Take Slack, for instance. Slack initially rolled out its technology to only 10 companies, received feedback, determined what worked and what didn't, then opened it up to a few more companies, received feedback, and so forth. The point is that it took the process slowly, instead of going for a land grab when the product wasn't ready, and it took the feedback seriously so that it could create a superior service. The ability to listen and respond (and to not get greedy when you know you've got a good concept) demonstrates elevated care for the client.
Hotel tech providers should obsess about usability and offer the same sort of responsiveness to feedback as Slack. Does the provider do user testing? Are new releases well thought through? Does it listen to your feedback and try to understand where improvements can be made? This is the product side of customer service.
I had a recent customer service issue that highlights why we need to look beyond org charts when developing a customer-driven culture. I called a major retailer about an ordering mishap. The company transferred me to three different people in three different departments to deal with what ended up being a fairly simple issue. It took thirty minutes, and I had to explain what had happened three different times. The company took care of me financially, but the gift card it gave me didn't feel as valuable as my time.
When companies create department silos based on rigid organizational charts, it either requires or implicitly encourages employees to push issues to other teams. Your hotel tech provider should be customer-centric, meaning that it will do its best to ensure that all customer-facing employees can either handle most issues or are trained on how to best find solutions without creating more work for you; that it has the customer at mind throughout its entire organization - every interaction, every line of code, every feature release, every document, every phone call.
BufferApp, the social media management company, comes up on a lot of lists of companies that go the extra mile in customer care. One of its core philosophies is transparency. Transparency is more than just being honest; it's an approach to all aspects of a business. Transparency in technology companies means customers are empowered to better run their businesses with smarter features, better connections, incredible documentation, and consultative, helpful conversations. It also means that the company will go the extra mile to ensure tech integrations are seamless. And, if any issues arise that they are communicated honestly and openly.
Sometimes when we get really focused on products and metrics and processes, we let them become more important than relationships. But a long-lasting partnership that will generate real results starts with rich working relationships—those are the ones that are most productive. Take Drift, for instance. Drift CEO David Cancel discovered at one of his previous companies that if the customer spoke directly with engineers (rather than going through support and account management) problems would get solved almost immediately and customers were beyond happy. So he took the approach to Drift, where he says, "each one of our product teams has to have contact and work with some set of customers each week" (HotJar). Drift also emphasizes the need to drop the idea of B2B communication and rather talk to people like they are, well, human. The most loveable tech companies go the extra mile in terms of getting to know and understand their clients, being authentic in their communication style, and prioritizing responsiveness. Think of the last time you received communication from your hotel tech providers. Was it friendly or robotic? Interactions with your tech vendors should make you smile (or even laugh!).
What comes to mind when you think of exceptional customer care? Ritz Carlton, perhaps, where employees have more than average discretion in resolving guest issues. Or Rackspace, which offers "fanatical support," according to Forbes. Or USAA, which makes its members transactions as simple as possible. Or Nordstrom, known not only for accepting returns after a ridiculously long time, but also for implementing technology that creates a seamless customer experience across in-store and digital channels. Killer customer service isn't impossible to find; it simply requires a company that has made a core commitment to providing it across all aspects of the company.
When it comes to hotel technology, however, hotels aren't receiving these levels of service from most of their tech providers. Drawing on the study The Future of Hotel Management Systems, Phocuswire notes that "insufficient support from vendors tops the list of concerns expressed by hoteliers" about their main management technologies. But some hotel tech companies do show up with a real customer commitment. Hotels just have to know what to look for.
To read more about apaleo's approach to customer service and other customer service philosophies to look out for, check out our customer manifesto.
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Margaret Ady is a co-founder of apaleo, responsible for the company’s brand positioning, marketing, and strategic growth. Prior to apaleo, she led marketing for Berlin-based SnapShot, and prior to that, for TrustYou. In 2016, she was awarded HSMAI Europe’s Top 20 Extraordinary Minds in Sales, Marketing and Technology. Before joining the hospitality technology scene, Margaret held key leadership roles at The Walt Disney Company and The Oprah Winfrey Network. Margaret has also provided research, branding and marketing consulting services to many companies, including 20th Television (Fox), Nielsen and Red Bull. Margaret graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in Economics and Psychology and a focus in business. During her studies, she was awarded the USC Annenberg Communications Critical Pathway Grant for her research in new technology and its impact on healthcare decision- making.