Outstanding Customer Experience Starts Before the Customer Arrives

Posted on August 28, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Ok, this may be a bit off the topic of instantly responsive organizations, but it was such an impactful experience that I want to share it here.

Next week I head out to San Francisco, affectionately called “the City” by many, for the Office 2.0 conference. The conference hotel is the St. Regis, a pricy hotel just south of Market. Nearby are several other hotels, including the Westin.  Since I’m paying for this out of my own pocket, I wasn’t sure if the extra money for the luxury hotel was worth it.  Certainly the rooms look nicer at the St. Regis, and there is some value to staying at the conference hotel.  But the Westin looks nice too, and even the Westin has those great “heavenly beds.”  And the Westin is just a short walk away.

To hedge my bets, weeks ago I made 2 reservations–one at each of these hotels– so I could get the conference rate at the St. Regis.  My plan was to think about it and cancel one, probably the St. Regis, since it is about $50/day more expensive than the Westin. My deadline is this upcoming weekend; after that there are penalties for canceling either reservation.

I was leaning towards staying at the Westin until two days ago.  What happened on Tuesday?  I got an email from the “Guest Historian” at the St. Regis.  Here is the text of the email:


We are delighted to welcome you to The St. Regis San Francisco on September 2, 2008.

We believe the arrival experience begins even before your welcome at the St. Regis address. As we begin preparations for a memorable stay at our hotel, we would like to ask you to share your travel information with us. Please share your arrival time with us as well as the names of any companions who are traveling with you.

We would also like to know if you are celebrating any special occasions while you are staying with us. This will enable us to present you with the bespoke service that The St. Regis San Francisco has to offer. Please let me know if I may assist you with confirming an appointment at our luxurious Remède Spa, dining reservations in Vitrine Restaurant for breakfast or lunch, or in ame, our award winning restaurant, serving dinner nightly.  

If there is anything else I may do to further assist you, please feel free to contact me directly.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
Justin Gehl

Justin Gehl | Guest Historian | The St. Regis San Francisco 
125 Third Street, San Francisco, California  94103 | Tel: 415.284.4115 | Fax: 415.284.4020 | stregis.com/sanfrancisco

Mobil Five-Star Award 2008 

Many people would just delete or ignore this, but not me.  Just to test it out, I sent Mr. Gehl an email with my arrival time and asked if I could get into my room earlier than the standard 3pm check in.  He wrote me back that he would make a note of my request and they would do so if at all possible.  Apparently, while this email may be an example of ‘mass customization,’ there is real intent behind it and Mr. Gehl is standing by to help out with any requests I may have.

Mr. Gehl and the St. Regis didn’t go to far out of there way here, and I understand that my request was simple.  But I was so impressed with this email, and the quick follow up I received, that I cancelled my Westin reservation and plan to stay at the St. Regis.  The service level indicated by this email, and the quick response I got back, impressed me.  I may not even take advantage of Mr. Gehl’s offer to help me with other services, after all I’m a frequent traveler and my needs are usually pretty basic when I’m on the road.  

But the St. Regis made me feel that they actually value my business before I even give them my business.  At this point, my reservation is only my intent to do business with them, and in my mind, it was not a very strong intent.  However, by reaching out to me before our business transaction, and following up so quickly, the St. Regis significantly differentiated their service from the other hotels I considered.  

I look forward to staying there, and all of the sudden, the price differential is worth it.


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