I want to talk just a little about the few truly excellent American companies I carefully observe and respect and why they’re so successful.
First, let’s talk a little about the lack of excellence and one great place to find that is the hospitality industry.
The hotel and motel industry is, in my opinion, the most screwed up, poorly managed, insensitive, uncaring industry there is. I travel a lot and my company’s booked meeting rooms and convention space in hotels all across the country. Almost all of them rate between poor and awful and in terms of valuing the customer…most have no understanding of this idea whatsoever.
The exceptions are so notable that I can actually remember the details. Most of the hotel executives and employees dealing with meetings and conventions make the mistake of thinking business is based on the facilities, the brass railings, the marble in the bathrooms, the rates, the financial statements, they forget that their business is customers and customer service.
At the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee they give gold guitar shaped lapel pins to the guests who are running meetings. Every hotel employee is taught that a guest wearing one of these pins is a valued, important client with special needs under the pressure of running a meeting. The hotel employees are taught to respond quickly to these pin wearing VIP’s.
Why don’t all hotels copy this idea? It’s simple, they don’t really understand the business they’re in.
Now let’s talk briefly about a few truly excellent companies.
Number one is Federal Express. My company uses Federal Express almost daily to deliver time-sensitive materials, to pick up documents. Once we even had Federal pick up a check from Continental Airlines because Continental couldn’t move the check overnight but Federal would. In my experience Federal never misses. They really do deliver absolutely, positively overnight.
But even more importantly Federal places a priority on it’s relationships with its customers. Example, Federal sends new information, literature, and brochures to its customers frequently. Example, Federal’s employees, those who pick up and deliver and those in the offices, are simply great. They’re friendly, courteous, and helpful, they listen and don’t interrupt and they react calmly to even bizarre problems and questions and they sell Federal. The driver who regularly comes to our office often passes on some new piece of information about Federal’s statistics, new services or products or expansion. This kind of service does not happen by accident.
Company number two Omaha Steaks. What an incredible company this is. Omaha Steaks sells food by mail order including the best corn fed beef you’ll ever eat. Frankly their products are expensive but the product quality warrants the price. However, the steps beyond product quality are what make this company a superior performer. Here’s just one example of the obvious value and importance they place on the customer.
We call Omaha often during the year and send different assortments of their products to our valued clients as thank you gifts. Last year shortly before Christmas we received in the mail from Omaha a list of all the people we had sent gifts to during the year, what we had sent them, when we sent it and what we had spent. If we wanted to send the same gifts again to the same person it was as easy as checking off a box and returning the form.
This is a prime example of a brilliant marketing strategy that is also a true service to the customer and that’s a real key marketing idea. How can we market our products or services and at the same time provide a meaningful service to the customer?