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“Will You Be Coming Back to Our Island?”

sea plane awaiting departure

A tale of customer experience

I was recently in the Caribbean for a family member’s wedding, and we stayed at a resort that had an absolutely wonderful staff. The front desk personnel were cheerful and helpful, and got our trip off to a very positive start (“We have a wonderful welcome drink to offer you — lemonade mixed with ginger and rum. Would you like one or two?”) We had lunch and drinks by the ocean and the wait staff and bartenders were friendly and timely. Good food. The valet drove us to a wedding event himself to keep us from being late. And on and on and on. It was fantastic. Then, as we were loading the bags in the taxi for the ride back to the airport, the valet asked:

“Will you be coming back to our island?”

Simple question, right? Especially from this man we were fond of because, after all, he had been so helpful. I would have actually felt guilty to say no at that point. But when he asked the question, my business brain took over and a dozen things ran through my head. The taxi service on the island was a per-person charge, not a per-trip charge. Four of us round trip to a wedding dinner cost us $200 for a 6-mile ride, which made my head spin completely around. But the resort doesn’t set the taxi pricing, so that isn’t their fault. The convenience store outside the resort had hours of 9:00-7:00, but they were on “island time”- meaning that the hours posted are more guidelines than rules. We showed up at 9:00 for coffee and supplies and no one was there. We waited until 9:20 and nobody showed up, which was a very inconvenient way to start the day — but that wasn’t the resort’s fault either. There were multiple things about the trip that impacted our visitor experience in a negative way, but very little of it had anything to do with the resort.

So what’s the point? When a business thinks about customer experience, it’s important to think about things from a big-picture perspective. If you focus solely on issues you can completely control, then you may not get all the information you need. Our decision to return to the island would definitely be impacted by the peripheral stuff. What should the resort do to encourage more repeat business? Well, they could lobby their government to change the system for charging taxi fares… or they could offer their guests a coupon for an appetizer (or a ginger-rum-lemonade!) whenever they return from a long taxi ride. Some people wouldn’t take it — but they would remember it. And those that did take it would almost certainly spend more money onsite — win-win. They could potentially incorporate a convenience store into the resort property so they could manage the hours. And so on. But the one thing they can’t do is sit back and say, “We do our part — the rest isn’t our problem.”

So what did I say to the valet when he asked if we’d return? I said yes, of course. I didn’t want to be a jerk…

Ralph Smith


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