Tag Archives: customer service

A Customer Service and Marketing Lesson from Club Wyndham Resorts

CW_Twitter_Icon_400x400We’ve all been there – on a well-deserved and long-awaited vacation, when you get “the pitch.” Someone from the resort interrupts your day to ask if you’d give them just 90 minutes to come look at a time share. They’re aggressive, but you really don’t want to give up time in the sun having fun with your family, so you politely say no. Most of the time they accept your decline, encourage you to call if you change your mind, remind you of the lovely dinner gift certificate you can get, and move on.

Well, not Club Wyndham. They don’t take no for an answer.

My family arrived in North Myrtle Beach Thursday night after a very long car ride from Boston. We were looking forward to a nice, quiet beach vacation. When we pulled into the parking garage, we were greeted by a lovely gentleman named Bill, who happened to also be from Boston (Watertown, to be exact) and was a former Harvard University police offer. Bill was awesome.

Bill’s colleagues could stand to take some lessons from him. 

We proceeded to the third floor to check in. Annie at the front desk was pleasant enough. Then she sent us to another desk to “get our parking pass.” This process was less about getting our parking pass and more about three women accosting us with more paperwork than a plastic surgeon, and a hard core pitch on spending 90 minutes the first morning of our vacation attending a “presentation” that was “just so you can get to know more about Wyndham, because we don’t advertise, so we’d love for you to tell people about your experience.”

You got it, Wyndham. Here’s our experience.

I very politely declined. They then “upped the ante” with new offers of dinner certificates, “cruise” packages (more dinner certificates on a cruise if you paid to take the cruise) and more. They didn’t seem to get that 90 minutes taken out of my very short vacation with my family was not worth $200 to me. My time with my family and in the sun was way  more important.

But they wouldn’t take no for an answer. When my fiancé came back to get us, I was so overwhelmed with all the paperwork that had just been shoved in my face, that I very politely again said we would need to go talk about it, trying to get him (and my four kids who were sitting there still holding their bags and very tired) to walk away before they wasted 20 more minutes of our time. The woman – we nicknamed her “Manhattan” because that’s where she was from (and she never told us her name) – suggested that I take the bags and go upstairs with the kids, and they would then repeat the pitch and tell my fiancé all about the “deals” that we “really shouldn’t pass up.”

I again stated that we would need to talk about it, we weren’t going to commit right there, and that we both had work conference calls the next morning anyway, so it was unlikely we would attend. I was trying to be nice.

Nice doesn’t work.

They filled out paperwork and signed us up anyway, and told us to “let them know if we decided we wouldn’t attend.” Fine, whatever it took to get out of there and get out to the pool!

When we finally got up to our room a half hour later, we dropped of our bags and my fiancé  needed to go park the car. But… no parking pass. The women had been so busy with their pitches for the 90 minute presentation and the push to all of their suggested vendors to patron, that they forgot to even give us a a parking pass!

So my fiancé  had to go back down and get the pass. And he got pitched again. When he finally flat out explained that our time with family was more valuable than a $200 gift certificate, he was given a rude wave, shooing him away and a “fine, goodbye” from Ms. Manhattan.

Class act, Wyndham, class act.

So we were pretty upset. The entire situation set a very negative tone. But we had said no and so we went about our evening.

This morning we awoke to a note under the door, indicating we should call Amber at the Hospitality Desk. We were excited, thinking maybe they were going to upgrade our room to an oceanside view like we had requested.


The call was so that Amber could “reschedule us” because we hadn’t shown up for the 8:30 presentation. Apparently, Ms. Manhattan didn’t take our “No” to heart and left us on the list anyway.

We checked out Friday morning and got our money back. We weren’t about to spend our vacation continually bullied and pressured into a situation we didn’t want. It was beyond uncomfortable and Wyndham didn’t deserve our dollars.

There’s a customer service and marketing lesson or two in here:

  • Know your audience – when I filled out the form indicating our preferences, household income, etc., it should have been clear that $200 for our time wasn’t something that would really entice us.
  • Listen to your audience – look, we’re all in sales. We get it. But when your audience isn’t responding favorably to your tactics, you don’t do more of the same. You figure out a new strategy.
  • Train your marketing, sales, customer service and all departments that the customer experience relies on all of them to do their job well. It didn’t matter that Bill was nice and welcoming – his colleagues didn’t follow suite, and thus, we left and they lost revenue.

There are more to be had but like I said, I am on vacation and, thanks to Wyndham, have lost nearly a full day in the sun with my kids to rescheduling, rebooking and moving to another hotel (also adding a half hour more to our drive home). It’s time for me to get out in the sun.

One last note – our check out was lovely. The manager was pleasant and understanding and apologetic. Ironically, he, too, was from Massachusetts, one town over from us. So our two most pleasant interactions at the Wyndham Towers on the Grove were with people from our hometown. Way to go, Boston.

JetBlue’s SVP of Commercial on Marketing, Mission Statements & Humanity

It’s too soon to make light of the Bruins loss, that much is clear. I’m on the phone with Marty St. George, SVP of Commercial for JetBlue. Marty is a diehard Bruins fan, having grown up near where I now live, on the South Shore of Boston, Mass., and he’s not happy about their elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs. But regardless, Marty was gracious enough to give me some time to sit down to chat about the airline business, marketing and how a company’s mission ties to its brand. Here’s our chat.

MSG headshot

CP: Tell me about JetBlue’s mission

MSG: Our mission used to be “Bringing humanity back to travel,” but recently, it’s morphed into simply, “Inspire Humanity.” And that’s what we strive to do every day.  Our mission and values are an integral part of what we do at JetBlue – there are so many pieces of the process that we don’t control in the airline industry, but our customers don’t differentiate between what’s us, TSA, air traffic control, etc. – so our goal is to get crew members in this mindset – to own any issues, fix them even if they’re not our fault, and be emphatic and humane. Ultimately, to solve the problem to the best of our ability.

We’re so committed to this mission, that anyone who is hired – including our business partners (our terminology for vendors) – goes through two days of culture training solely focused on ensuring that everyone is clear on expectations for a successful crewmember. We don’t cover duties, but just focus on the mission of the company – how you fit in, how you’ll be evaluated – all in a very inspirational manner. Our CEO is personally in attendance at 90% of these trainings, as are many of our senior leaders, myself included (I teach a module about brand.  A lot of people know the word but they don’t understand what it means.) We’re in a service business so how you react in any situation affects the brand. Even with internal communications, you can’t be rude – it’s simply not good service.

CP: How does this mission tie into one of your most recent ad campaigns – “Air on the Side of Humanity”?

MSG: The “Air on the Side of Humanity” pigeons are really a metaphor that made sense to travelers. For many airlines, you may be an “elite customer” on paper but you don’t get any tangible benefits for that loyalty – no upgrades, etc. – so there is a big part of the traveling market that is underserved. Your fare gets you a cramped seat, but everything else you pay for: seat assignment, ability to bring a bag, to eat food, etc. Yes, you can find cheap flights – and for some, that’s the goal – but there’s a whole other segment that thinks it’s terrible – that the “cheap” airfare isn’t worth it, especially after you’ve paid for all the other “amenities.” The goal of this campaign was to get travelers to recognize this and to create a metaphor that made sense to them, and enlighten them that there’s another way. We had to break through the fact that customers have been made so numb to the airline industry’s downfalls – and view all airlines the same way – that they aren’t open to differences unless they’ve flown us.

And, like all of our campaigns, it had to be something that other airlines would never do. Our ads are distinct – they don’t get mistaken for others.

CP: What are three reasons you believe JetBlue has been able to build a highly respected brand in such a competitive industry?

MSG: There’s only one reason: we recognize it’s a service business. We’re in a service business. It’s not the product (airplane), it’s the service (airline). The industry has become commoditized and we’re building a better mousetrap and securing more business because of that. And of course, we use our mission and values as the North Star around service. That’s key.

CP: You’ve been known to talk about using a lot of data in your marketing strategies. What’s your #1 tip for merging the data side of marketing with the creative side? 

MSG:  Let me start by saying one thing: the CMO/CIO relationship is the most crucial one today and nobody is going to crack the data code without a strong relationship with their CIO.

Assuming you have worked with your CIO to build the right infrastructure, I always come back to one question – what is the problem that we are we trying to solve? The challenge on the data front is that you can go down a rabbit hole by chasing cool, interesting data– but you have to differentiate between insightful ways to solve a problem and a realistic search for the solution of a problem. We’re a small airline, but with 32 million customers a year and 10 million frequent fliers, we have plenty of data – so it’s crucial for us to focus on data that addresses the problems we have and not just the cool, fun sexy data.

CP: Thoughts on social media?

MSG: Brands don’t get to decide what “doing it wrong” means – the customers get to decide it.

A funny side note, in 2007 we were one of the first corporations on Twitter and a guy wrote this fantastic blog post saying “JetBlue is following me on Twitter” – and how ridiculous and wrong he felt it was. At that time, we had to defend ourselves and say, “We’re just trying to help.” Compare that to where we are today – if a brand like ours doesn’t answer someone on social in five minutes, it’s a travesty.

We have a reputation of being one of the top brands in social, and I think that only happened because we had that groundwork of a strong relationship with our customers. When social came around and we had a channel that enabled that one-to-one communication between customers and brands, we were lucky enough to have already built the kind of brand that people WANTED to connect with!

CP: What do you find to be your biggest daily challenge as a marketer?

MSG: Trying to keep a good balance between strategic and tactical. People get really excited about the big brand statements, sexy advertising, etc. but at the same time, I need to measure my ability to fill 100,000 seats a day. Both strategy and tactics are important, but depending on the revenue at any given time, strategy could be off the table and we’re just focusing on tactics, or vice versa. As a CMO, you’re a coach, and it’s your job to ensure that the team has a good balance between strategic vision and practical, tactical execution.

CP: So what’s the biggest goal of your marketing?

MSG: To drive revenue and bookings, period.

CP: What kind of smart phone do you use? What are your “must have” apps?

MSG: iPhone, but I still use an old Microsoft Zune for music. My favorite apps: 1) Twitter (I’m addicted); 2) Google maps (not only does it have good traffic data, it has great transit functionality, which is key in New York) 3) I love Yahoo’s Weather app (in this business weather is important). Oh, and I was glued to the Bruins app until last Wednesday but we’re not talking about that.

CP: What are your “must read” outlets each day?

MSG: I have a long commute (1:45 each way), so I read a lot and I have a routine on the train: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Boston Globe. I also like Yahoo’s news aggregator – the industry module is good for airline news, and I enjoy AdAge and Digiday. I also get a great deal of information from links on Twitter and Facebook.

CP: How often do you travel and where are your favorite locations?

MSG: On average, one trip a week – sometimes less, sometimes more.  I love London, Hong Kong and Dublin. I’m always biased towards Boston, it’s home, and I love Austin, it’s a great city. I most recently discovered Charleston because we just started flying there.

CP: What’s one piece of advice that you would give to a college graduate entering the marketing industry today?

MSG: I’ve got two kids in high school and they roll their eyes when I talk in clichés, but please indulge me: “Find a job you love, and you never work a day in your life.” It’s so true. You can get the most exciting, sexy, lucrative job but if you don’t wake up every morning excited about it, you won’t be good at it.

After eight years at JetBlue, Marty is still excited to get up every day and go to work.




Make It Easy

Staples had the right idea with its “Easy Button” campaign. Make it easy for your customers. From shopping to getting the right service, reading and sharing your content to finding you – make it easy.

This morning I received an email requesting my participation in a book. Sounds interesting, right? But the person filled out a form on my site and in his signature, only gave me his first name. It’s not likely that I’m going to commit my time and personal brand to someone I don’t know. I’d want to learn more about this person – his career success, network – heck, even his location or company name would be a good starting point. But he hasn’t made it easy – with just a name and email address, I’ve got to go try to find a website, a Linkedin profile or other details. If he had left the correct information and made it easy for me to find additional information, I would be quicker to respond with an answer for him.

Make it easy:

  • Use informative and linked signatures, even when you’re leaving a blog post or site comment – it helps those who want to connect with you further, to do so.
  • It’s not enough to just sign up for social networks. Use them the right way: allow readers of your blog or visitors to your website to share (your content, your accounts, etc.) easily with others by adding plugins such as “Pin, Link, Tweet, Like.” Make it easy for them to share and they will be more likely to do so.
  • Believe it or not, people still do use the phone. Include your number on your site, in your email signature and on your corporate profiles in communities such as Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Don’t make customers who need service go through multiple steps. Let them contact you via phone with one number, and not more than one button to push once on the line. Make your customer service Twitter handle easy to find and ensure it’s responsive – outline the hours clearly in your bio. Add an option of Instant Chat on your website.
  • GoDaddy impressed me yesterday by making one of their first customer service questions, “What is a good phone number at which I can call you back if we should get disconnected?” Thank goodness they asked, as my mobile service provider dropped the call five times!
  • The instaweather app makes it so easy to share – not only by adding insta details to my photos taken in the app, but by auto posting suggested hashtags when I go to share such photos via Instagram. Smart way to ensure that the key messages they want to be associated with are out there.

Make it easy. For your customers, and for you. It just makes sense, doesn’t it? What are some ways you’ve made it easy for your audience?