You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Know


A few weeks ago, I was traveling for business and stayed at one of my favorite hotels. They provided the excellent service I’ve come to expect–staff was friendly and helpful, my room was clean, and my towels were soft. Unfortunately, I would give the hotel a low rating on this visit because one important amenity was not provided. I had a critical report to finish and continuously lost the internet connection. The front desk was unable to solve the problem. I was very frustrated and didn’t get the report done. As a business traveler, an internet connection is as much of a basic need as hot water.

I received a survey from the hotel by the time I was on my flight home. The survey was long and cumbersome, and asked about the things the hotel thought were important and the internet connection was not on the survey. The one thing that was important to me as a business traveler.

Research has found that 80% of businesses believe they are providing “superior” customer experience but only 8% of their customers agree. This gap reflects that surveys may be leading businesses to mistakenly believe that they are doing a satisfactory job. A shift to capturing real-time customer-centric feedback would reveal valuable information that would enable them to truly understand and improve the customer experience.

Business-focused surveys ask questions that are often irrelevant to their customers. Feeling the pressure to meet goals, some businesses even specifically ask customers to give them all 10’s on their survey! By measuring service based only on a survey score, this practice may lead to inflated ratings and an inaccurate reflection of the customer experience.

Customer experience is improved by meeting expectations along the entire customer journey. Different customers may take different journeys. A leisure traveler will have different expectations than a business traveler staying at the same hotel.  Every touchpoint adds up to the overall experience. To truly improve the customer experience, businesses need to first gather good data to understand their customers’ experience and expectations. That feedback should come directly from customers and touchpoint employees, who have excellent insight into what is important to customers.

If businesses don’t learn what’s important to their customers, they are likely to lose them without really knowing why.

Originally published in Carmel Business Leader in July 2016.

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