Trust – more important than delight in building customer loyalty (Part 2)

I was speaking with the General Manager of a very successful Malaysian holiday resort. The resort’s occupancy rates are consistently high, amid heavy competition. And deservedly so. The customer experience delivered by this resort is world class. You are made to feel like a VIP from the time that you arrive, to the time that staff wave you off as you depart.

The General Manager told me that customer loyalty – high repeat visit rates – is the key to the resort’s success. One guest had recently returned from his home in Europe for the seventeenth time!

Our conversation turned to customer feedback at the end of guests’ stays.

The General Manager lamented that loyal, repeat guests would often rate their experience as having only “met expectations”. Conventional wisdom tells us that ratings of “met expectations” signal that customers are neutral to the experience and that they would not be high on the customer loyalty scale.  But these customers keep coming back to the resort.

Let’s make sense of this apparent contradiction.

I have stayed at the resort twice. On my first visit, I was awestruck by what seemed to be a near perfect customer experience. The physical product was world class. And every staff member made me feel like an individual, like a welcome guest. I left the resort, wanting to tell other people – and wanting to come back again, this time with my wife, Poh Lan.

And on my second visit, this time with Poh Lan, what do you think I wanted? Yes, that’s right – I wanted to have exactly the same experience. I wanted to return to the same beautiful surroundings and to be made to feel like a special guest, just like the first time. I wanted to come back because I trusted that the resort would deliver the same wonderful experience.

So, now picture me in my room on the morning of our departure. I am filling out the customer feedback form. The questions aim to gauge how well the resort has met or exceeded my expectations. And the aim is to get a perfect score on “exceeded expectations”.

As it was my second trip, I knew what to expect – and the resort delivered. So I picked up the pen and rated the resort as having “met my expectations”.

On shallow reading of the results, my ratings of “met expectations” it would seem to signal that the resort has barely managed to get a pass mark on my customer experience scorecard.

The reality is that it got a “high distinction” and I continue to be a raving fan.

And here is the key point. Customer trust is your most important asset to building customer loyalty. Customer trust is more critical to building customer loyalty than trying to work out how to keep raising the bar to keep exceeding customer expectations.

You build customer trust when you consistently deliver the same high quality experience that your customer values.

This assumes that your organisation already designed a customer experience that will keep your customers coming back.

Some of you will say, “Yes, George, but what if competitors are doing better to exceed customer expectations? Surely we have to keep raising the bar to keep our customers coming back. Stay tuned for my next blog post on these interesting questions!

In the meantime, I’m always interested in your views! Thank you Veronica Fernandez from TMI Spain for your interesting comment on my last blog post on this matter!

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