Customer Experience

The Ritz, a Giraffe, and a Great Experience

A few weeks ago I was preparing for a breakout session at the NIADA convention in Las Vegas.  The topic outlined retail dealership sales fundamentals.  While preparing, I sifted through online stories detailing excellent customer service.  I ran across an article written by Chris Hurn in The Huffington Post.  Chris told a story of his family’s experiences when they encountered both excellent and average customer service.  I was so intrigued I looked Chris up and scheduled a call with him.  This is the unforgettable story about a giraffe and going the extra mile.

Chris was in California on a business trip.  His wife and two children stayed at a Ritz Carlton in Florida while he was away for a few days.  Their son had a security blanket named Joshie which consisted of a giraffe head attached to a small blanket.  After their stay at the Ritz, the family all met back at home where they quickly discovered Joshie must of have been left behind at the Ritz.  Their son had a difficult time going to sleep that evening so Chris told a little white lie that Joshie was not lost, but decided to stay at the Ritz on an extended vacation.  After a lot of crying, his son finally went to sleep and Chris called the Ritz.  He asked about Joshie and they said they would look around.  Sure enough, a few hours later they called Chris back with great news and relayed that Joshie had been found.  Chris offered to pay for the Ritz to ship the blanket to them, but the Ritz refused the offer and volunteered to ship and return the prized stuffed animal.  Before getting off the phone, Chris told the loss and prevention rep that he had told his son a bit of a fib and said Joshie was on an extended vacation.  He asked him if he would mind taking a photo of Joshie in a layout chair out by the pool to show his son the great time Joshie had.

A few days later, a box arrived at the family home.  Inside was not only the safe return of Joshie, but also a box full of Ritz Carlton merchandise.  After taking all of the items out of the box, a binder lay at the bottom.  Chris pulled out the binder and opened it to find photo after photo of Joshie.  Joshie was laying by the pool, playing golf, getting a massage and much more.  Needless to say, Chris and his wife were blown away by the extra effort the Ritz team exerted to give them and their son a happy ending.

As I sat outside the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas getting ready to go in to the next session of the NIADA convention, Chris told me the story was not over.  I asked him to go on.  He said a few years later, the family returned to the Ritz Carlton.  Their daughter struck up a casual conversation with a worker at the spa, she mentioned her brother had once left his security-blanket giraffe in that very hotel several years ago and the story behind his return.   The worker at the spa was in disbelief and said she knew exactly who they were and that all the hotel workers knew of Joshie and spoke about him on a regular basis.  Chris’s daughter then told the spa worker the happy ending took a nose dive when her little brother left Joshie the next time at a different hotel and he has never been heard from since.

Then Chris told me, a few hours later, there was a knock on the hotel door.  Upon opening the door, a Ritz Carlton representative was standing there with two bags to present the family.  Inside the first bag was a stuffed giraffe named Jessie.  A note was attached that read, “We have recently heard that Joshie is vacationing around the world and this is his cousin Jessie.  Joshie told Jessie that if he wanted a great place to live with lots of hugs, he should come live with you.”  The Ritz couldn’t leave out the daughter this time and provided many fun extras to both of the children in the two bags.  Chris and his wife were once again amazed at the effort the staff put in to ensure his family had a memorable experience at their hotel.

With the sun beating down on me at the Mirage hotel, I stood captivated by this story while speaking with Chris.  I couldn’t help but ask him one question before we got off the phone.  “Chris, I am sure you have bought a lot of cars over the years, what is your impression of the sales process in general?”  Chris took a moment of pause and then replied, “Honestly, I hate it.  I feel like the salesmen is only interested in selling me a car and doesn’t care about what I want or need.”

I thanked Chris for taking the time to share his story with me and hung up the phone.  The rest of the afternoon I couldn’t help but ponder what it takes for us to evolve a distasteful experience in the eyes of the general public to a more fun and positive experience.  We know most buyers dread the old sales methods.  We have the research that paints a very clear picture of what steps are not only obstacles but actually annoying.  With online selling and increased technology entering the car dealer industry, it is past time to ensure every dealer is taking a hard look at their processes.  Are your steps to a sale in place because “that is the way it has always been?” Do we all need to take a lesson from the Ritz?  I would love to hear and share your stories about how you are moving the sales process to a “Wow” customer experience.  You can write me at justin@niada.com.

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Categories: Customer Experience