How my travel to Aberdeen taught me 7 Customer Experience lessons
I still can’t believe it 😮. Our 1-hour flight from Birmingham to Aberdeen had been delayed for more than 2 hours!
As I prayerfully checked the digital board for updates, I hoped the flight won’t be cancelled. We were already approaching 10pm and I wondered if it was a wasted effort coming to the Airport in the first place. Nevertheless, we were looking forward to the long weekend away which turned out to be a very enjoyable experience.
If you’ve been reading my travel series recently you will notice I’ve focused on customer experience lessons during my various travels. So let me share some customer experience strategies and tips I picked up during my travel to Scotland recently.
1. Proactive Communication
I got a text message shortly before leaving for the airport (departure begins). It was from the airline — they were informing us that our flight will be delayed. They were not sure when it will eventually depart, but they had proactively informed us. Personally, I think the whole flight journey starts from you leaving your house (or hotel). Because they had informed us of the delays, we were more gracious to the airline and appreciated the notice. It helped us plan better, prepared our mind and naturally helped us to be more patient.
Lesson 1 — Keep your customers informed. Don’t wait for them to find problems, challenges or important information that affects their experience with your brand. Customers are more patient, and more forgiving when things go wrong, if you keep them informed.
I received an email the day of our flight from the Hampton by Hilton Aberdeen hotel. I obviously gave it no attention in the midst of getting all packed and ready to go. But when I opened the email at the airport, what caught my attention was the ‘online check-in’ option. I tapped the link and it led me through the download of the hotel app. Interesting!
Through the app, I was able to check-in. We immediately received a digital key which helped us unlock every door (hotel lobby, elevators and our room). Basically, those minutes we would have spent at the reception for physical check-in, get a physical key, authorise your card etc, were saved. I checked-in easily, quickly and at my own convenience.
Lesson 2 — Convenience is often underestimated. Every customer likes it quick and simple, and a lot of customers are even willing to pay more for convenience. Faster delivery, more delivery options, online options, customer support options, self-service options etc, go a very long way in delighting customers.
3. Perks & Favours
Getting to the hotel past midnight left us with only one option — SLEEP! But a late-night drink was not so much a bad idea. I walked from our room to the reception to ask what I could order. Knowing we just arrived and needed a drink, the lady at the reception offered us free hot-chocolates. I really appreciated it and said thank you. The next morning, I remembered and thanked the lady for a second time.
Lesson 3 — There are so many opportunities to delight a customer with unexpected/surprise acts of kindness. Don’t try to force out every penny out of your customer without balancing your services with perks (where possible). Give the customer a reason to be thankful so they know you care. It’s how you grow a community of loyal customers.
4. Service Availability & Timings
A few months ago, we noticed our customers (users of the FREE Business Solution My Centre Office www.mycentreoffice.com ) were mostly side-hustle owners who used the solution more in the afternoons/evenings. We responded by resourcing more user support during these peak hours.
When we asked the hotel receptionist for breakfast timings, she told us the breakfast lounge was open between 4am and 9am. I was shocked! Why so early? Then I remembered it’s a hotel close to the airport and they definitely want guests with early flights to have some breakfast before boarding departing (no matter how early)! I find this type of service very thoughtful and precise!
Lesson 4 — Make your services available to customers when they need it. Services outside the customer’s need window are classified as ‘unavailable’ and ‘unreliable’ You can win the customers’ hearts by being there when they need it. So this may be the time to revisit and audit your service channels and availability. How available is it?
Taxis taxis taxis, our only option for getting around as tourists in Aberdeen. Shockingly, there are no Uber taxis in Aberdeen, so I asked the receptionist for a taxi number. She smiled and pointed to a tablet right there at the counter.
There was a taxi app on the screen from a partnering taxi company, located at the hotel reception, for guests to easily book a taxi (and get one in a few minutes, without trying to ring up taxis especially if they are first-time visiting tourists). This is such a brilliant business opportunity that can work for many businesses — offering complimentary services to customers, while providing additional revenue opportunities (for both businesses). This is what cross-selling is about.
Lesson 5a — Understand your customer needs and explore complimentary services you can offer to your customers. The benefits include convenience for your customer and definitely revenue opportunities for the business(es). It’s a win-win for everyone.
Lesson 5b — Identify gaps/challenges and offer alternatives/solutions to customers. No Uber? Then partner with a taxi company to provide taxi services to your guests. Look around your business and your customers and continue being a solution provider. Over time, your customers will rely on you more and more.
6. Service Options
I was too tired on the second day after we arrived, and had an early night. But in the middle of my pseudo-sleep, I overheard my wife order snacks from room-service on the phone.
When I woke up on the next morning, I actually remembered an experience from the last hotel I stayed in. I walked to the restaurant and asked to order some meals. The gentleman at the restaurant gave me two options —  Wait and take your food to your room OR  Get it delivered to your room for a £6 service-charge! I almost opted for option 2 as I couldn’t be bothered to wait, but since the drink I ordered was already served, I enjoyed it at the bar and waited to collect our meals.
Lesson 6 — I could easily see how the hotel restaurant can make an additional £600 from service charges in a single day(i.e. £6 x 100 customers)! Making various options available to customers, they are able to boost their revenue (and offer better customer services in parallel). Every business should consider service options to cater for the various customer demographics they have. That way, your customers can choose the service that’s best for them at any particular time.
7. Optimised Customer Journey
Because Scotland and England are part of the United Kingdom, there are no passport checks for travellers, travelling between both countries. Anyone travelling from other regions will have to pass through passport-control. I like that the journey is optimised for every traveller segment. It would be a complete waste of time and resources for the immigration services and customers if travellers between Scotland and England queued through long passport control queues only to realise they didn’t really need to be checked at this level (understanding there may be some exceptional situations where it is deemed necessary).
In every business, you can’t just lump ALL your customers into one bucket. All customers are NOT the same.
Flashback experience — I got frustrated once by a bank many months ago, for making me go through unnecessary hurdles to enjoy a service. Considering I had banked with them for 20 years, the hurdles were too many, slow and unnecessary. I had to fill the same information on multiple forms, and half of the steps were probably more applicable to new customers. Why I was subjected through so much time-consuming inconvenience, I can’t really explain. The bank wasn’t differentiating between a new and an existing customer and I wasn’t pleased. Guess what I did eventually? I moved my funds to a new banking platform.
If you want to deliver excellently to your customers, your emails, processes, actions, steps and overall services etc, should be tailored for each customer segment (as a minimum). It’s like a train station. Each train represents a route, and only passengers for that route will board that specific train. Put everyone on the same train and try visiting every train stop, it becomes a journey too long and too inconvenient for ALL passengers. I find the train-station concept very descriptive for customer segmentation.
Lesson — Customer segmentation is the basis for anything customer experience, if you want to get it right. Profile your customers and lead them through your services based on their profile. One size never fits all customers. Define your customer segments and build excellence on your services.
Bonus — although very generic, below is a slide I used to educate a Coaching association, on the building blocks of a customer journey. After segmenting your customers, consider creating a customer journey map for each customer segment! It will help you understand ‘WHAT’ your customer needs at every stage of the journey, ‘WHEN’ they need it, and ‘HOW’ you can move them to a point of purchase retain them as loyal customers.
I wish I had time for a few more experiences to share, BUT I will save them for my next article! For me though, the biggest lesson about customer experience during this trip, is realising how far winning businesses go, to deliver exceptional services to their customers. It becomes a decider for customers to keep using your services or disengage completely.
The better the experience you deliver to your customers, the more they will want to use your services (again), the more they will spend their money on using your services (possibly spend much more), and the more likely they will promote your services to others (unsolicited marketing and referrals). I am definitely visiting the Hampton by Hilton hotel again, not just in Aberdeen, but any city I need a hotel stay.
But for your customers to feel this way, you’re going to need to build a service experience that delivers exceptional interactions and experiences to your customers.
The question is, how far will you go for your customers? Only you can truly answer!
As usual, if you found this useful, drop a comment so I know which bit stood out for you most. I am curious to know.
Customer Experience always wins!