Tuesday, February 28, 2012

'The Thank You Economy' ...

At some point last year, my very smart friend Mike told me that I should read Gary Vaynerchuk's Crush It!, so I did.

I liked it. A lot. I liked Gary's enthusiasm – nay, passion – and conversational-bordering-on-insistent tone. I liked that he is the one who introduced me to MOO. I love MOO. So will you. You should click this link and bookmark it so you can MOO, too.

So, no one had to tell me to read his next book, The Thank You Economy.

Now, Gary is a business owner, among other things. And I am not. A business owner, that is. Not yet. Someday, maybe. A "someday" that seems to be getting closer by the minute. But business or no, I was moved to read his second book because I liked the first and wanted to continue the conversation, so to speak. And also, because I'm a user of social media. Not as much as some, but much more so than others. In any event, I knew that reading it would be worth my time.

And it was. And I recommend it for anyone in business, both for those who are using social media and for those who shun it. Everyone can benefit from this book. The man knows whereof he speaks.

And I recently had an experience that drove home exactly what he conveys about the importance of caring for customers.

In advance of traveling to Detroit for Jeff's funeral, I did a bit of research online to get a sense of where to stay. Every time I'd been in that part of the world in the past, I'd stayed at Jeff and Sherry's, but this time called for a hotel. My past hotel experiences came into play and I decided that given the sadness that surrounded this trip, a little extra comfort was in order. I'd appreciated Westin's Heavenly Bed on business trips, so for this stay, Westin won again.

I went to Westin's web site to check the rate and then called the hotel directly to book, employing what little travel knowledge I possessed to ask if the hotel offered a bereavement rate. Money is not a plentiful commodity in my life right now. The hotel transferred me to reservations, which I presumed was for the entire chain or all of Starwood, but at least I was speaking to a person, not booking online.

She asked if I was attending a funeral. Yes, I told her, while wondering what other kind of reasons for bereavement there might be. She searched for a moment and then informed me that while the hotel did indeed offer a bereavement rate, it wasn't available for the night I needed. That night, specifically. I was about an hour away from getting in the car.

I didn't put up a fuss. I was too weary. But I did mention, since the call was likely being recorded, that it seemed a bit silly to offer a bereavement rate that didn't apply to every day of the year. It's not like one can plan when they might need it.

She was kind about it, as good customer-service reps are trained to be, and told me she'd find me the best possible rate, which turned out to be exactly what I would have paid if I would have just booked online.

I gave her my credit-card information and she enrolled me in Starwood's affinity program (I didn't bother to decline), I wrote down my confirmation number, and we hung up.

I knew I'd be writing a letter to Starwood later, when I returned. But in the meantime, just to vent, I tweeted this:

And then I proceeded to pack.

In the meantime, someone at Starwood saw my tweet, followed me, and replied, expressing their condolences and asking me to follow back so we could exchange private messages. They asked for my confirmation number, which I supplied, and within an hour, I'd received two messages (it's hard to write much in 140 characters) letting me know that they'd spoken to the manager on duty and that my rate had been adjusted for the evening (it turned out to be $80 less than what I'd booked). I replied to thank them for their attention and condolences, finished packing, and drove to Detroit. Somewhere in that process, I tweeted, publicly, my thanks to Starwood for their prompt attention and resolution. Credit where credit is due.

The stay was pleasant enough, given the circumstances and given that I have insanely high standards for hotel rooms and service, but that $80 gesture bought a lot of goodwill with me and I'll be more inclined to stay at Starwood properties in the future for that reason alone.

In his book, Gary writes a lot about those who are slow to adopt social media or who don't see the value in it because it might not reflect in the short term on their bottom lines.

But my Westin experience illustrates his point: Yes, I paid $80 less for one night in one hotel, but over the course of my lifetime (however long that may be), I'll think of their brands ahead of many others, and they'll earn much more back in the months and years to come.

Also, and more importantly, I was touched enough by the nearly immediate response to my problem that I'm now writing about it and sharing my good impressions of Westin/Starwood with anyone who might be searching online for just such a story.

How much is that worth to a brand? A hell of a lot more than 80 bucks.

So, businessfolk, read Gary's book. Social media users, read Gary's book. It's a great read, a quick read, a fun read.

And consider booking into a Starwood property on your next trip. They're good people.


Anonymous Mikeachim said...

I can't comment on the book because, I'm shamed to say, I haven't got round to reading it. But you know how much I loved Crush It (for its energy, even though I now disagree with some of it - eg. it's smart to go that extra mile, but I don't think it's smart to think you can do your best work on 4 hours sleep a night for the next year while you get established. At least that's not worked out for me, anyway).

That's a fine example of the power of Twitter. Yes, it's amazing. It's powerful. It's instant. And it's *public*. For companies wanting to score a public PR victory for free, it's in their best interests to offer up good customer service (which they should be doing anyway, of course, but this waves a carrot at them as well)...

5:34 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Yes, indeed, you need sleep. Glad your life is leveling off for you.

And thank you for reminding me that I forgot something in the post! I made it a point to thank Starwood for resolving the issue so promptly. That went out in my live Twitter feed. Credit where it's due.

5:41 PM  

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