Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough

Let me share one more of my favorite guest interviews from Season 1 before introducing our first guest for Season 2!

Living Loews! (Originally posted on March 21, 2007)

As part of CSI's executive interview series, Loews Hotels Chairman and CEO Jonathan Tisch was kind enough to answer some questions and offer his insights regarding great service as described in his new book Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough. Here's what he had to say:

CSI: Does the title of your book, Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough, refer to the importance of getting your core business right or to offering an even richer experience for your guests?

JT: The latter. I'm not saying that putting chocolates on the pillow of your guests is a bad idea, but it has become so expected that it no longer works to win the loyalty of today's savvy customers. All of us in every business have to think harder and be more creative about how we can make our customers feel like pampered guests who will want to come back for more.

CSI: Talk about the values your father instilled in you that drive your beliefs and practices about client/customer service?

JT: My father and uncle started what is now the Loews Corporation more than 60 years ago with just one hotel. I learned from him at an early age the art of hospitality, and how to treat people with warmth, openness, generosity, and respect. I noticed how much guests responded to attentive employees with an eye for customer service. And I also noticed how much good hotel
design can create a great customer experience. The Americana in Bal Harbour Florida, one of my family's first hotels, was designed by Morris Lapidus, who believed in delighting guests with architecture that entertained with swooping lines and grand open spaces.

CSI: Share with us one of your favorite outstanding service stories, as demonstrated by one of your employees?

JT: During Hurricane Katrina, the staff of the Loews New Orleans hotel ran out of cars to evacuate guests. One of my more creative employees remembered that SUV prizes were parked at the hotel for an episode of the TV show "Wheel of Fortune." They found the keys and were able to evacuate the last guests just in time. These guests will remember the creativity and
attentiveness of these employees for the rest of their lives.

CSI: Great service can be like beauty - it's in the eye of the beholder. If you agree with that premise, then what's the secret to pleasing ALL of your guests?

JT: Customization. There is no one cookie-cutter way to make everyone feel special. Smart companies know how to customize their product or service so that customers feel like they are the only customer instead of just one of the masses. Land's End does this well with their custom fit clothing technology. And Build-a-Bear lets children create a customized teddy bear exactly as they want it.

CSI: How do you build a team and create a culture that cares about great service as much as you do?

JT: At Loews we have a people skills training program called Living Loews. It's vital that leaders get their teams to focus their attention on their guests. Once all your employees have a customer-centric mindset, all the other pieces of the business will fall into place. We find our employees enjoy their jobs more when they understand that their role is to help and please others.

CSI: If there's one takeaway you'd like people to grasp after reading your book, what would it be? Is there an over-arching aha?

JT: Absolutely. Too often we think of business as the sale. But no customer wants to be sold to. They want great experiences. The more we think of giving our customers experiences that feel special, the more customer loyalty and profits will follow.

CSI: Thank you for your time!

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