Communication SkillsSelling Skills

The Single Easiest Way to Destroy Customer Loyalty

By February 18, 2008 No Comments

When we made our reservations at the Chateau d’Audrieu in Bayeux, France, we knew it would be a splurge. Trading US Dollars for Euros these days, isn’t pretty. But the website photos of the 15th century castle, with history dating back to William the Conquerer, looked too wonderful to pass up. We were visiting Normandy, the beaches where our soldiers fought so bravely, and the American Cemetery where 9, 387 World War II soldiers rest, and staying in an extraordinary chateau that had been conquered and redeemed, seemed perfect.

Their website made booking our room and a dinner reservation easy. I was pleased when 24 hours later we received a confirmation and notice that dinner served the night (9 Feb) we requested would be a special Valentine’s dinner and was that okay? Oui, of course.

The photos embedded in the reservation confirmation were picture perfect. A chateau. Tres bon!

And then we arrived. The grounds were lovely, the food and wine were amazing, our room was country French and quite delightful. But the chateau was under repair. Instead of driving up to a triumphant home of the rich and famous, we turned into a construction site.

And they knew about it all along. This note, written in French and English, waited for us in the room:

Dear guests,

We would like to apologize for those unpleasant scaffoldings when you arrived today.

We made all our best to make sure that those inconveniences will be just visual ones.

We are actually renovating and changing all the tiles from the main building. Those works need to be done and are supervised by the Historical Monuments federation…

The Management

So they knew! They knew, ever as much as they knew that the regular menu would not be offered the Saturday prior to Valentine’s Day, they knew that we – and their other guests – would be disappointed. They knew that as soon as we turned onto the tree lined road leading to the chateau, we’d see one-third of the chateau draped in scaffolding and construction netting.

Here it is. The single easiest way to lose business and customer loyalty is this: Negative word of mouth. Statistically, when we’re pleased we tell 4 people. When we’re displeased, we tell 14. Start counting.

Lessons reminded:

  • Manage expectations.
  • Underpromise and overdeliver. Always.
  • Be truthful. That old saying about its being easier to beg forgiveness is a lie.
  • Think long-term.
  • Recovering trust takes more time than most customers will give.

The really sad thing is that we had two wonderful nights at the Chateau. The staff could not have been nicer. The experience was great! And, we may have missed it all had they told us the truth about the construction. (Or, maybe we would have chosen to stay; it really wasn’t awful – if we had known what to expect.) So, oui, it’s possible that they may have lost our two nights of business. But they wouldn’t have you, and all of your friends, reading about our disappointment now, either.

C’est la vie? No! Promise the moon and even the stars won’t do. Promise the moon only when you can deliver. Managing expectations is so much easier than trying to recover from the nightmare that follows.
Have you been disappointed by what you’ve been promised and even though everything was good, it wasn’t as good as hyped? Tell us!

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