Trust in the Hotel Biz

Leo Bottary, author of blog Client Service Insights, has a great interview with Jonathan Tisch, the current generation CEO and Chairman of Loews Hotels. 

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.

Tisch gets it. I can’t speak to how well his tens of thousands of employees have yet gotten it, but with that message coming from the top, the odds are good.

It’s not easy to achieve escape velocity from the gravitational pull of self-serving corporate beliefs.  We live in a business culture that celebrates short-term metrics and behaviors all centered around improving financial performance—of the corporation.  The purpose of business, we have been taught, is to create profits and beat other businesses.  Never mind whether you agree about the goal—it’s becoming so 20th century. 

Not too many leaders have the discipline and the savvy to remember that a heavy hand on client service and a light hand on company profitability has a paradoxical result—heavy profitability for both company and customer.

The world simply works better when companies, and people, focus on serving their clients and customers, rather than focusing on competing with each other, or on seeing their clients as sources of profitability for their own ends.

No one wants to be treated as means to another’s ends.  Yet that is the dogma most of us have been taught, where “loyalty” means spiff programs, and “customer-centricity” is code for “profit-for-us.”

If you do well by your customer, your customer will do well by you.

What a concept.

Here’s to Tisch.

0 replies
  1. Maureen Rogers
    Maureen Rogers says:

    Bravo! When the customer-centricity concept started coming to the fore, it became, in many cases, the default position for companies that were never going to be operational efficient or product innovators/leaders. (Hmmm. Looks like we’re customer-centric. Hey, that sounds good…..)

    In this world, focus on customer as often as not translated into maybe we can exploit them. Thus a spate of upsell, cross-sell, and please dont leave us programs.

    Little true customer focus along Tisch lines results. Instead of "try seeing all this through the eyes of the customer experience," it remained all "let’s keep our eyse on this quarter’s profits."

  2. Mr. Waay
    Mr. Waay says:

    As Drucker said many years ago, "The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer". He didn’t say, "The purpose of business is to make profits". One is the cause the other is the effect. Tisch, thanks for the reminder.

  3. Michael Barnes
    Michael Barnes says:

    Good one!  I can actually show evidence of this with one client who actively "takes care of me" because I actively "take care of them."  This is an important lesson I am just beginning to grasp, and wish I had started a long time ago. 

  4. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    I’m obviously not the only one who notices what Maureen calls the "translated into maybe we can exploit them" phenomenon, which paradoxically keeps us from getting the benefits Michael talks about.

    Any thoughts on how we got from Drucker’s prescription to today’s take?

  5. Gabriella ORourke
    Gabriella ORourke says:

    Great post. I especially like the phrase "…a heavy hand on client service and a light hand on company profitability has a paradoxical result…"

    I’m not sure when and how we got so removed from Drucker’s original sentiment but I do know that far too many organisations use terms like customer-centric or client-oriented as an expression of their key differentiator, to the point of disbelief. I wish more would show, rather than tell, their orientation. If you wish to claim a client-centred approach, how have you structured your business to facilitate and ensure this. How are metrics derived to emphasise the focus on the customer and the essential dilemma between reducing costs and keeping a customer satisfied. I am not propsoing customer satisfaction at any cost (some customers may not be worth keeping after-all). But acting in ways that manage expectations and build trust that you sincerely have their best interests at heart is always the best way to secure sustainable growth. Even if you cannot ‘satisfy’ that customer’s needs, at least they will respect the way you handle their business and remain favourable advocates.

  6. Alexander Kjerulf
    Alexander Kjerulf says:

    Nice interview, though I do think there’s one piece of the puzzle missing: Focus on the employees.

    The only way to get the employees to put the customers first, is for the company to put the employees first.

    I always say that employees must be customer-centric…and management must be employee-centric.

    An inspiring example of this can be found in the excellent book "Put the customer second" by Hal Rosenbluth.

    Too many service-oriented companies take the customer-centric approach to extremes, to the point where ALL that matters is the customer’s experience. It’s equally important to give the employees good experiences.

    Does that make sense?

  7. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Elegant statement, Gabriella, and yes Alexander it makes perfect sense.  I believe the original Loyalty people (Freicheld, Heskett, Schlesinger) did some work that strongly suggested the link to customers goes through employees.  It also makes perfect common sense.  No way do you get excellent focus on customers from disgruntled people.

    More deeply, it’s just hard to conceive of an organization sincerely believing in serving one set of people while demonizing another.  The two are flip sides of a coin of respect for the Other, properly conceived, and they add up to a virtuous circle involving the company itself too.


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