By far one of the most popular speakers at the 2016 International LCT Show, May Ann Sena-Edelen's energetic presentation captured everyone's attention from the start.
How was the service you received?” This is a question you should be asking everyone who rides in your vehicles. While it can yield wonderful and scary responses, it is vital to the continued success of your business.
“If we don’t ask, how are we going to know? How are we going to fix it?” said 2016 International LCT Show speaker Mary Ann Sena-Edelen.
With 22 years of experience in 10 different positions within the hospitality industry, Sena-Edelen, vice president of diversity and inclusion for MGM Resorts, knows a thing or two about keeping customers happy. After taking a selfie with the eagerly awaiting audience, she delivered important truths in a humorous and relatable way.
What Not To Do
Sena-Edelen started off by reading a letter an angry customer had sent to a transportation company about their recent limousine experience. The woman who wrote this letter, Patricia Jones (name changed to protect identity), arrived at baggage claim to a sea of “men in black” holding signs with various names on them. She walked up to one of the chauffeurs whose sign read “Pat Cones.”
“Are you here for me?” she asked. “I don’t think so,” he replied. Resigned to the fact her chauffeur had yet to arrive, Patricia grabbed her own luggage. After 20 minutes, she approached the man again.
“You’re Pat?” he asked. “I’m Patricia,” she replied. “Well, I guess you’re it. I thought you were a man!” Naturally, this is a horrific response to the situation. Sena-Edelen paused and looked at the audience. “Are you scared to death this might be your guy?”
Craig the chauffer and Patricia had made it all the way to the limo before he said another word to her. As she began to reach for the door, he snapped, “I’ll get that.” When she had finally settled into her seat, she politely asked if she could take one of the water bottles sitting in the cup holders. “Sure, that’s what they are there for,” said Mr. Smart Aleck.
Talk about a disaster. This chauffeur should have at least known the passenger’s gender, and didn’t even bother to ask why she was in Las Vegas or if she was celebrating a special occasion. A slap on the wrist would not be enough of a punishment considering this one experience could cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers.
Sena-Edelen reads a scathing customer review of an unnamed limousine service.
Social Media Meltdown
“Everyone’s a critic” takes on even more meaning in today’s world of social media. You should automatically assume every person who gets into one of your vehicles will be ready to Snapchat, tweet, Instagram, Yelp, or Facebook every moment of their trip with your chauffer. “If it’s an awesome experience, they will tell their friends. If it’s horrible, they will tell every single person they can get their hands on,” Sena-Edelen said.
This is why you need to be the embodiment of exemplary customer service. This should be old news to someone who has experience working in the ground transportation industry. The real question is, does every member of your staff understand how important it is to promote world class service?
Sena-Edelen gave a perfect example: As she was walking through the halls of the convention center, she made sure she paid attention to who smiled and made eye contact with her. About half of the attendees did. “If we are not the examples of what it means to deliver guest service, how can we expect that from our staff?”
The main thing to remember is your customers are paying for the experience they want. There is a difference between what they are willing to pay for, and the experience they receive. The plain and simple truth is it’s just a ride. Customers have many different options at their fingertips: a chauffeured vehicle, a rental car, a taxi, or even (gasp!) a transportation network company (TNC). You have to stop and think: Why do customers pay for my service? The answer: Because that is the experience they want and expect.
“If I’m hiring a limo, I expect a driver. I expect someone who is kind and courteous, who wants me to be there and is waiting for me. I expect someone who has all the time in the world to wait for me and makes me feel special and important, otherwise I would have just taken a cab!” Sena-Edelen explained.
One example she provided to prove her point was birthday cakes. In the 1960s and 70s, mothers often made their children homemade cakes from scratch. Beginning in the 80s, they would instead run to the store and buy cake mix to save themselves some extra work. By the 90s, it became increasingly difficult to find time to bake a cake. Instead, they would buy cakes from the bakery at the local grocery store. When the new Millennium hit, cupcake parties became the new trend and moms started renting out places for $200 to $300 just so they wouldn’t have to clean up the mess afterwards. And don’t even get Sena-Edelen started on Chuck E. Cheese’s. “Is it even about the cake anymore? NO! It’s about the experience!”
On a Scale of 1-10…
If you aren’t surveying your customers after their trips, you better start now. MGM Resorts use a program called the Guest Experience Monitor (GEM) to track their guests’ observations and concerns.
“The minute someone checks out, we send them an email survey and ask them questions like, ‘How was your stay?’ ‘Rate our service from one to 10,’ and also include free form places to leave comments,” Sena-Edelen said.
In addition, the company requests guests post about their experiences on Yelp. Yes, this can be nerve wracking. But as Sena-Edelen said, “If we don’t ask them, how can we deliver better service? If we don’t, we’ll never know.” Word of mouth is arguably the most effective advertisement your company can receive, and best of all, it’s free.
How do you retain customers, and get them to come back if you’ve messed up? The answer is simple: Ask them what they want and give it to them. It’s essential everyone you hire understands they’re in the service experience business. You must recognize your chauffeurs when they do an outstanding job, remind them there’s always room for improvement, coach them if they need a behavioral change, and hold them accountable when they do something wrong. Remind them that it’s more than their tip — it’s the reputation of your business.