Customer Advocates, the Experience Economy and the Hotel Elysee

The holy grail of customer loyalty in the social era is to have your customers doing your on-line marketing for you. That’s more likely to happen in some vertical industries – mostly B2C – than in others. For example, last week I was in New York following CRM Evolution, and I transferred my lodgings from the brutally disappointing New York Hilton to the Hotel Elysee, a bit of a throwback on 54th Street.

Throwback, for me, is a good thing – the room looked like my grandparents’ bedroom, with comfortable furniture, and the wallpaper and paintings were reproductions of 18th century works. And here’s a throwback: the hotel offered free breakfast, and a happy hour with complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres. It also had free wireless Internet access. Not only did these items knock about $60 per day off the real cost of the hotel, they left an extremely pleasant feeling about the place.

The staff was great too – especially when we arrived and discovered we’d failed to book our first night (classic calendar fail). The desk staff accommodated us with a smile and some friendly ribbing – I can’t recall a hotel where there was so much laughter around the front desk, upon our arrival and any time guests were nearby. Clearly, someone was paying attention to the idea that customer experiences start with hiring the right people.

So there you have it: a good product, good people and good amenities. People want value, and they want to be valued; the Elysee got both of those things just right. So, what was the result? I found myself Facebooking about how great the hotel was – and getting responses from friends who happen to be New York-bound road warriors who were filing the name of the Elysee away for future trips.

Bang! Customer word of mouth, conveyed through social media, to other likely future customers. Well done, Hotel Elysee. I wondered how the hotel had gotten so smart, when I found this while browsing through the hotel’s small library:

That’s the title page of the hotel’s copy of the Experience Economy, autographed by authors Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore almost nine years ago. It’s not ironic that this book was found on the premises – it’s instructional. The value of customer experiences was so perfectly embodied by the hotel that it could have been in the book, and I refuse to think that the proximity of this volume to the business that so perfectly embodied it was an accident. Someone was paying attention.

The hotel could have seen Internet access as an opportunity to maximize profits. It could have looked at the price tag for breakfast and for happy hour and seen its elimination as an instant addition to its bottom line. It could have hired a skeleton staff and shot for people willing to accept a minimal salary. It could have substituted its old-timey charm for something more modern and less distinctive (and memorable). But it hasn’t, and by avoiding those “obvious” short-term money-oriented moves it created a memorable experience that will lead to future stays.

So: how are you making you business more distinctive, more memorable and more value-filled? Are you cutting all the corners, or are you keeping those corners that make your customers happier and more connected to you? There’s a lesson in the Hotel Elysee – and it’s not just in the pages of the books in its library.


6 thoughts on “Customer Advocates, the Experience Economy and the Hotel Elysee

  1. Great article! Inspired some ideas on how to improve my business’ customer experience.


  2. JDay-

    Keep us informed about those ideas! I think a lot of delivering great customer experiences is in the inspiration to think about your business from the outside-in rather than from the inside-out, and any additional inspiration you can add to the conversation can help.

  3. Great post! After I ran across that book back in ’05, I was excited to see there’s a whole body of thought concerning the concept of being able to add value to a service or product through a positive customer experience. Due to the normally distasteful experience of what we do here (automatic transmission repair) it wasn’t hard for us to adopt the concept as our own.

    We have even coined a new word for it in our industry: “Edutainment”
    Entertaining education about the most complicated part of a vehicle.

    It has transformed our front lobby into a larger transmission museum complete with displays, cutaways, and other common relevent items to help explain, in an entertaining way, what we sell everyday. We send a Show-N-Tell video of every transmission we work on, along with a .pdf of the estimate by E-mail. We also do live Show-N-Tells. Virtually every customer is Wowed.

    I have since read all the books concerning this concept by the authors as well as a few written by others. I would strongly suggest that any business looking to increase revenue, profits, and customer satisfaction, to invest in this book. It has set our company far and ahead of not only other direct competitors, but has allowed us to draw a significant market share away from the new car dealers as well.

    An astronomical return over the price of the book.

    J. Larry Bloodworth
    Certified Transmissions
    Draper, Utah

    • Hey, if the “Car Talk” guys on NPR can make it entertaining, why not? 🙂

      No one wants to have to have their transmission fixed – but shifting the emphasis off the hassle and expense to something interesting can dramatically alter the customer’s experience and make it less onerous have work done. What about word of mouth, Larry? I’d bet customer referrals have jumped, too.

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