We have gone to Laguna Beach over the years for many vacations. In fact, my mom and her family have been going each summer since the 1950s. Needless to say, it is a family tradition to converge on Laguna in the summers and get together with family members to enjoy the beach, surf and each other’s company.
Since the mid-1980s, we have always stayed at a hotel called Vacation Village. They have their own beach, ocean-view rooms with kitchenettes and is in the middle of town. It was a great place for family gatherings and is very convenient.
In recent years, however, they changed ownership groups and changed the name to Pacific Edge. Part of that change was remodeling many of the rooms. Truthfully speaking, this was needed as many were outdated and old. However, during those years of renovation it was tough staying at the hotel. In fact, we had poor experiences that included not getting the room we reserved and had to settle for a room that smelled, had no view and no functioning kitchen. The latter was especially problematic since we have a son with food allergies and we depend on being able to make meals for him that are safe.
You could also see, based on customer reviews, that during this period many guests were frustrated with the experience. To Pacific Edge’s credit, however, they responded to all the negative reviews with a great deal of understanding and explanation. In fact, they even responded to one of my complaints with a certificate for a complimentary overnight stay in one of their remodeled beach-front rooms.
This year we decided to stay at Pacific Edge again, but we didn’t expect much. We decided to give them “one more try”. If you have been reading this blog recently, you may recall that to create great experiences all you need are two simple things:
- Use my name
- Surprise me
This trip to Pacific Edge, they did those two things in spades! We pulled into the driveway and entered the lobby and were greeted with a “Welcome, Mr. Griffin”. Naturally, I looked over my shoulder expecting to see my dad, but then realized they were speaking to me.
We checked in and we were presented with a little basket that included some beach toys for the kids, microwave popcorn and a selection of Keurig coffee for the room’s coffeemaker as well as a personally written note from the manager welcoming us to the property. They also asked us what type of wine we preferred: red, white or champagne. We said champagne. And, within an hour of getting to our room, a guest services manager came to our door with a chilled bottle of champagne for us to enjoy. That was incredibly surprising and was great later that evening while sitting on the deck watching the sun disappear into the Pacific.
Pacific Edge had obviously learned that they needed to make some serious changes that were more than simply updating rooms. They suffered from negative reviews and feedback from longstanding customers. While our room was updated with fresh paint, new layout and pictures, what really made the difference was the fact they used our names (even when we went to the beach to get towels or have chairs set-up) and they sought out ways to surprise guests with welcome packages. They have won us over and instead of us throwing in the towel and posting a negative review, I am blogging about them and their new and positive guest experience.
How to Use this Information
As they say, you can put lipstick on a pig and it is still a pig. Same thing goes with marketing and communications. You can make a great looking website, do some great ads, but at the end of the day your company has to have more than just window dressing. The experience you create for customers is really where the rubber meets the road and keeps people coming back and referring others. Call us at 303-300-2640 and we can help you create great experiences to keep your customers coming back.