When service is your product, customer loyalty can be a direct function of your employees' satisfaction with their job. Every employee knows that feeling empowered to do the "right thing" is not always as easy as it sounds. Management teams often post policies to organize and coordinate the activities of front line service employees who operate in the field and interact directly with customers. Believing that one rotten barrel can destroy the whole bunch, executives will bias towards reducing the amount of decision-making a service representative has to do in order to ensure a consistent "experience" for all customers with their brand.
But what happens when employees understand that service IS the product because management gives them tools and decision rights to actually solve customer problems and, in fact, prevent them? Employees of two service brands, The Morgan Hotels Group and Virgin America, represent the new paradigm of customer experience owners, employees who feel more like "hosts" not "agents."
The Free Online Dictionary defines a host as "one who receives or entertains guests in a social or official capacity." In personal social activities, we have no problem seeing hosts as people who treat visitors graciously and are aware of their guests' needs, making sure that they are comfortable and feel welcomed, not just when it comes time to say "please come again."
Flight attendants on Virgin America are called "teammates" and flyers are "guests." That mental model informs each employee how to treat a visitor who enters via the jetway and spends time in their day traveling via the airline. For Morgan Hotels, guests who take the time to complete a marketing survey after the visit are rewarded by a personal note from a Customer Experience Manager who addresses the guest's specific feedback, if the guest opts to invite the hotel to contact them. That person is prepared to continue the dialogue with the guest to ensure the guest feels appreciated for providing the insight on their own time about their interactions and stay with the hotel.
Social graces seemed to have disappeared with the appearance of the socially acceptable practice of anonymously posting nasty comments about online content or marketing material. It's always been easy to criticize the host who doesn't get it right - who makes us feel unwanted and underappreciated. But those are also usually the people who don't treat us as if they are entertaining or engaging us either personally and professionally as a host.
How Virgin became the airline of choice for the nerd set, and the customer service challenges presented when everyone on board is connected