We've had many a conversation with clients regarding the critical nature of online reputation management. This often difficult area of managing and measuring the customer experience has some new light shed on it, thanks to the good people at WebsiteBuilder.org.
They recently published a great infographic that effectively summarizes the enormity and effect of online reviews - not only for the hospitality industry, but others as well.
Our co-founder Will Tarrant has spoken to numerous groups and organizations about the impact of Millenials on the travel and hospitality industry. This brings our attention to one area of the infographic: 68% of Millenials trust online reviews, as opposed to 34% that trust TV advertising.
A few other highlights:
Lots more interesting data to check out below.
Evidently, there's a day for onion rings. After all, they are the perfect complement to a hamburger, a sandwich, or even a thrown on top of a salad. The exact history of these fried gems is unknown, but their deliciousness is unarguable. Whatever your preference, we've rounded up our five favorites in our home towns of Dallas and Hong Kong.
There's craft beer absolutely everywhere. It's made its way onto menus not only at cafes, bars, and pubs - but increasingly we're starting to see it pop up on beverage lists at signature and gourmet dining restaurants as well. So, what's going on? Are we in the middle of a craft beer revolution?
Well first of all, no, this isn't a revolution? Back in the late 1800s, there were more breweries in the United States than there are today. By our calculation there's about 2,500 to 2,800 breweries operating today in comparison to more than 4,000 in the 1870s. So instead of the revolution so many people want to label the craft beer movement with, a more appropriate label might be: Craft Beer: The Comeback Kid.
So, what gives? Why the resurgence with craft beer? Well, there's three main reasons:
The cost of starting up a brewing operation today is significantly less expensive today than it was 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Not only are things made more efficiently, but we're living in the midst of the so-called sharing economy and craft beer brewing is an extension of that in some ways. Today, it's common for craft brewers to share equipment, ideas, and experience amongst each other that hasn't always been possible.
Another contributing factor is the deregulation of home brewing. In the late 1970s the government made it legal for people to brew beer at home and it educated a lot of people that the stuff you could buy in 24 packs at the grocery store might not be the pinnacle of beer. The plethora of craft, small batch, and limited run beers that we have access to today are an extension of that.
And finally, this comeback is largely attributable to entrepreneurial brewers working around regulations such as the three-tier system and other distribution policies and laws. These things stand in the way of getting beer into the hands of beer drinkers. It's still far easier to give your beer away for free than sell it.
And that's why craft beer is such a big thing right now. But, we still have a long way to go. If you think the options are abundant and varied now, just think what have been and could be again.
Does this election season have you thinking, “I need a vacation”? Though you may not realize it, you’re actually doing your country a great service if you take one. When you pack your bags and travel, you’re helping to grow local economies, create American jobs and improve your own work performance, relationships and personal well-being.
That’s why policies that protect and promote travel—from improvements to our roads and airports, to safely keeping America’s doors open to international visitors—are necessary for the health of our country. Right now, we’re working to highlight how important the travel industry is for the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and making sure that our elected officials, both on the campaign trail and off, know it.
First, let’s start with travel’s huge role in our national economy post-recession. The U.S. travel industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has recovered far faster than other economic sectors since 2008. Today, travel is a $2.1 trillion industry that supports one out of nine U.S. jobs. That benefit didn’t just stay in top tourism hubs like New York, Orlando and Las Vegas; it ripples throughout communities nationwide. In Dallas alone, for example, more than 44 million people visit each year and spend in excess of $7.4 billion. Travel and tourism in Dallas accounts for nearly 90,000 jobs.
Travel also brings remarkable benefits to our personal lives. Multiple research studies have confirmed the positive health effects from vacations and time off, from reducing risk of heart disease to decreased depression. According to a Project: Time Off survey, most kids (61%) look forward to family vacations as a time to bond with their parents—and kids who travel are more likely to graduate from college, and earn an average of $5,000 more annually as adults. And at work, most bosses (80%) agree that employees taking vacation is good for their team.
Given these extraordinary returns, and in light of National Travel and Tourism Week (May 1-7, 2016), it’s important that elected leaders seek avenues to support and expand travel to and within the U.S., and right here in Dallas/Fort Worth and Plano.
Modernizing our travel infrastructure, particularly our airports, is one critical step. Not a single U.S. airport is ranked in the top 25 in the world. This is partly due to the financing structure that funds improvement projects at major airports, which has not been altered since 2000. If that were corrected, airports could modernize our World War II-era air traffic control system, make much-needed safety updates and add gate space—which would spur competition among airlines by allowing more carrier options, improving prices and service for customers.
Strengthening the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), as well, would both boost our economy and improve security for all travelers in the U.S. The program allows pre-screened and pre-approved travelers from 38 of America’s closest and most trusted allied countries to enter the U.S. without a visitor visa. The VWP not only strengthens diplomatic relations and security standards, but VWP traveler spending also generates $190 billion in U.S. economic output each year. This valuable program has faced ill-informed attacks from candidates and elected leaders in both parties, and while legislation was passed late last year to tighten its security protocols further, we must remain ready to defend it from policies that may undermine the program’s true purpose.
We are also in position to boost travel’s effect on our lives and the DFW-area economy, by encouraging the American workforce to use their earned time off. The U.S. is well on its way to becoming a “no vacation nation,” with a 20-percent decline in vacation days used since the year 2000. Many workers cite a lack of encouragement from employers and a work culture emphasizing productivity above balance. This lifestyle has consequences for our health, our relationships and our families.
Plus, if workers took just one more day off each year, it would generate an extra $73 billion annually for the economy.
Travel makes a difference in our communities and lives every day. As we celebrate the impact of travel this week, let your lawmakers know that they should promote strong travel policies that improve our business, economic and personal well-being.
Planning a trip sometime soon? You probably think that if you are, you’re doing it just to show yourself—maybe your immediate family—a good time. But when you pack your bags and travel, you’re providing extraordinary benefit for the economy, job creation, your own health and that of your loved ones—and even your performance in the workplace.
Don’t worry: a huge body of research backs you up on this. So if you think you’re just ditching the office for a week, give yourself a pat on the back instead.
The U.S. travel industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has recovered far faster than other economic sectors from jobs lost to the recession. Travel supports one out of nine jobs and generated $2.1 trillion in economic output in 2014. Lest you think most of that benefit went to places like New York, Orlando and Las Vegas, right here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex we saw more than 44 million visitors last year. Our area is now home to more than 75,000 hotel rooms and our two airports provide more than 2,000 flights daily. The Metroplex is the number one visitor and leisure destination in Texas.
In an era when bad news about the U.S. trade imbalance is the norm, not everyone realizes that travel is among the top-performing American exports. It counts as an export because when international travelers visit the U.S., they are spending foreign currency on U.S. goods and services. Travel now accounts for fully 10 percent of U.S. exports, in fact—the country’s secondlargest industry export. And the best part? Travel jobs cannot be outsourced—all the jobs supported by inbound international travel are right here in the United States.
But the good news about travel is not all in economic facts and figures. Travel also holds remarkable positives for our personal lives.
Couples that travel together are more likely to make it past the five-year mark and less likely to divorce, according to a survey from the U.S. Travel Association and Edge Research. More than 90 percent of kids see family vacations as a chance for “quality time” with their parents. What’s more, kids who travel are more likely to earn a college degree, and have on average a $5,000 higher median income as adults. People who travel are also less stressed and happier at work. Eight in 10 senior citizens say travel makes them feel energized.
Given the extraordinary effect of travel, and in light of National Travel and Tourism Week, (May 2-10, 2015), we should seek more avenues to support and expand the industry.
Modernizing our travel infrastructure is one critical step. Not a single U.S. airport is ranked in the top 25 in the world. Even though Americans are traveling in impressive numbers, trips they decided not to take because of hassles in the air travel system cost the economy more than $35 billion in 2013. The user fee structure that funds capital projects at major airports has not been indexed for inflation since 2000; if that were corrected, airports could modernize our World War II-era air traffic control system and expand terminal space—which would improve prices and service for customers because new carriers could enter markets and compete with the Big Three airlines.
We should also encourage the American workforce to use their time off. In 2013, Americans left 429 million days unused (the least amount of vacation in nearly 40 years) and forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits. If workers took just one more day off each year, travel would generate an extra $73 billion annually for the economy. Heck, at Service Metrics Group, we've quite literally pushed people out the door who we feel might need a little time to themselves.
Travel is making a difference on our communities and lives every day. Take time to celebrate travel next week and see how you can help make this industry even stronger for America’s businesses, workforce and general state of mind.
I don’t often use the company’s visibility to voice my position on issues – particularly those that are the cause of any kind of somewhat-public controversy, but the ride-sharing/transportation-for-hire-via-mobile-app issue is one that I think I’ll tackle publicly.
Since the introduction of services like Uber (and more recently Lyft) to the Dallas market, the public has more options than ever when it comes to getting from point A to point B. And options are a good thing. Right?
Without getting into personal views on the free market or government regulation, my main reason for voicing my support for these new services is simple: It’s better for the customer experience. And that’s what we’re all about around here.
For example, look at the new-driver training for these services. One provider emphasizes the importance of opening doors for passengers, using their name, and offering bottled water. Their competitor’s differentiating factor is a pink moustache affixed to each car’s grill, allowing passengers to charge their cell phones during the journey, and encouraging people to listen to and share music. These are thoughtful, purposeful, and well-executed examples of putting the customer experience at the forefront of your business model. Now, I’ve never been exposed to traditional taxi driver training, but the experience I get in a yellow cab doesn’t exactly scream customer service – and certainly hasn’t included any of that stuff. Are there exceptions? Of, course, but the truth of the matter is the Dallas taxi system is no beuno. Just ask the people that live here. And the state of your city’s taxi system may or may not be similar.
Want another example? Take a ride for yourself and you’ll see. Uber Black Car and SUV is your traditional black/town car type car service and your ticket to riding in style. If you’re looking for the lower-priced version of Uber, check our UberX, where a friendly face driving a personal (but always clean and usually very nice) vehicle will pick you up and get you where you need to go. These folks have gone through background checks, insurance checks, driving record checks, vehicle inspections, interviews, test rides, etc. to make sure they’re fit for the job. If you don’t need the caché of the Uber name, try their less-sophisticated cousin Lyft, where you’ll get picked up by a driver sporting a pink Carstache and greeted with a fist bump. Who knows, you might even get one of those creative drivers that have pink (one of the company’s signature colors) LED lighting lining the interior, disco music, and more. I’m not sure how it works in other cities, but Lyft’s coverage is limited to only one part of town in the Dallas city limits, whereas you’ll find Uber throughout the DFW Metroplex – so keep that in mind if you’re trying this out for the first time.
Whichever you choose, I think you’ll be impressed. And with both, at the end of each ride, you'll be asked to rate your driver on a scale of 1 to 5 stars based on your experience. This helps the companies incentivize drivers to be friendly, courteous, and professional. It also helps weed poor drivers out of the system. When is the last time your cab company asked you about your customer service experience?
So… back to the issue at hand: Dallas Yellow Cab Co. says these companies have unfairly circumvented city regulations as a means to operate. They might have a point. I don’t know the rules (and probably won’t look them up, either), but at the end of the day these ride-sharing companies are getting folks to where they need to be for about 25%-35% less (depending on who you ask), and more importantly – they’re doing it better.
So, with that said we stand with Uber and Lyft here in Dallas for no other reason than giving the public a great experience when getting them where they need to go. Happy Lyfting or Ubering. (I have to say Lyfting rolls off the tounge much better).
Make your voice heard at the public forum being held on Tuesday, January 21 at the Dallas City Council chambers (1500 Marilla Street), 5:00-7:00 PM CST.
While in the final throes of holiday shopping, I've have had the opportunity to shop at several different retailers. The experience at most is crowded throngs of people desperately trying to find the newest Xbox or the latest iPad, with nary a store employee in sight. It is enough to challenge even the most patient person.
However, there are shining examples of great customer service. Andy Nulman shared one about a bookstore called Chapters, where he was offered sweets while waiting in line. Barnes and Noble offered gift wrapping in-store by a wonderful Girl Scout troop who didn’t even flinch at the large number of books I had given them to wrap. But the best example I have seen so far was Costco.
Even this last week of the holiday shopping saw plenty of store employees available to answer questions. Within two minutes of walking in (playing Santa and looking for a gift for an eight year-old), I was approached by a friendly young lady who offered to point me in the right direction. She was knowledgeable and smiling – two traits not always found in holiday help! I then went to a different Costco yesterday and was offered assistance again by a store employee. This was not just while walking around aimlessly, looking lost, but proactively, as soon as entered the department.
Costco really seems to want to create a pleasant experience for their customers during this hectic time of year. Although I had been dreading it, I won’t hesitate to go back.
Tell me your best customer service stories from this shopping season, both at retail as well as in online shopping.
Anyone who has been interacting with a customer service rep or in-store clerk since Thanksgiving may be echoing this sentiment. Many shoppers dread this time of year. According to USA Today, more than half of shoppers say the experience is a bore or a chore. It is indeed a chore when retailers can’t put their best foot forward at a time of year that brings in a large percentage of their annual sales. What is the answer when a customer thinks, ”Is this always how it goes at (fill in the blank) store, or is this just because of the holidays?” They might even be tempted to ask that question out loud. I did, and the response was not good.
I was at an office supplies store last week during a weekday, which I thought would be an improvement over weekend crowds. ”They sure do get a lot of disgruntled customers,” I thought, so I smiled as I approached the cashier. As I handed him the slip for retrieval of the digital camera I was purchasing (hope my dad doesn't read this), he grunted and gave it to the “runner” who would go and get my purchase. So far, he hadn’t said a word to me. So I ask “the question”. His sullen response, “No, it’s always like this.” End of conversation. I felt like I was inconveniencing him, so I didn’t say anything else, took my purchase, and left. I don’t think I will be shopping there in the future.
The same experience is taking place all over malls, websites, and call centers. Temporary holiday help has been hired to ease customer wait times, but are they really ready to be part of your “face to the customer”? Every touch point is a critical part of the customer experience. Yes, easing customer wait times is very important, but so too is making sure the customer experience doesn’t come crashing down as a result of too much holiday spirit!
A sincere smile and a “thank you very much for choosing to shop with us today” works wonders! Even if we are the ones who have to do the smiling.
Smile more - every two thousand frowns creates one wrinkle. That's all.
Happy Friday, Service Metrics Group friends.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard those words come out of a client’s mouth. And when do we hear it the most? When someone gets a low-scoring quality inspection report, a less-than-favorable customer survey, or an online review that you hope other customers will miraculously fail to see.
“That’s not fair.”, “We were slammed.”, “That’s a really busy time of year.” “Why do they come when things are so crazy?”
The idea of not measuring your customer experience simply because things are busy is kind of a silly premise. One of the main objectives of establishing standards and training staff to meet them is so that an expectation of performance is established. We expect our staff to perform consistently and we have standards to communicate to them that certain behaviors, skills, policies, and procedures are a non-negotiable part of doing business. Simply put, when you choose not to measure your customer’s experience, simply because its “busy” you are, in essence, pre-emptively negotiating with your standards. The same standards you established in the first place to achieve consistency. Now whether or not you communicate these advantageous breaks to your staff is another question, but the principle remains the same.
To be fair, there are situations when conducting a quality inspection might be ill-timed. From a provider’s perspective, we never want to displace a paying customer in exchange for a non-revenue hotel room, dinner, or other product or service. Furthermore, our Analysts are trained to never intentionally cause undue stress to staff members. As an extreme example, if an Analyst walks into a restaurant and there’s a kitchen fire, they’ll likely comment on it in their report, and simply return later to complete the evaluation in a more normalized operating environment. Some more common examples would be approaching an employee that is handling a legitimate customer complaint or an employee who appears to be temporarily overwhelmed due to a short-term business demand (short staffed, customer health/safety issue, etc.). After all, that’s only fair. To that end, we don’t manufacture complaints or other issues to “test employees”, unless it is directly required as part of the evaluation. We will never compromise a legitimate customer’s experience to complete an evaluation. In some instances, although rare, we’ve even aborted entire evaluations simply because we didn't think the information would provide a clear picture of a typical customer experience.
Now that a disclaimer and some insight into our business practices are out of the way, the main point remains the same. It is just as important (if not more important in certain instances) to evaluate the experience you’re providing to your customers during busy times as it is when things are bit more subdued. Adjusting your operations to accommodate more people is not only smart, but absolutely necessary to meet the demands of a larger audience. There’s a lot to be gained from evaluating your staff’s performance during various business cycles. During your slower periods, learn how employees are engaging and spending time with customers when they have the luxury of doing so. A normal operating environment gives you the best idea of how your staff performs when things are going right, or when there’s plenty of time and resources to rectify things when they don’t. But evaluating your staff’s performance during your most demanding and lucrative periods gives you some incredibly valuable insight into not only how standards are upheld, but more importantly, how well your team thinks on their feet and makes decisions when things aren't so black and white. After all, a staff that knows how to think and make decisions is better for everyone.
How would you react if one of your employees said “I’m not going to smile and greet our customers today because it’s busy.”? Don’t say the same thing to them.