Our focus in business is to identify buyer problems and solve them in ways that create positive buying experiences. When we accomplish this we make the sale, and we build positive word of mouth. A poor buying experience and or an obsolete product that no longer reinforces your brand promise can quickly create negative word of mouth.
Keeping obsolete products in your mix is like playing Russian Roulette with your customers buying experience and ultimately your Brand.
As I have discussed I travel quite a bit. Some call it old school, but I need to be in the markets I serve. This requires air travel, rental cars, and a number of hotel stays. I was recently working with a customer in Indianapolis Indiana and needed a hotel room for the night. I booked a room with an airport hotel, however the Google maps instructions were not accurate and the person at the front desk of my hotel could not provide me directions. (Another post that needs to happen, but I will let it go for now). After two attempts to find my airport hotel I gave up, and pulled off the next exit to find a room. As I exited the highway I saw a number of hotels and one of which I recognized and had a good feeling about was the Ramada. I pulled into the Ramada as their brand has always meant; clean rooms at an affordable price. They often lack the frills of larger hotels but my understanding of their brand was clean, safe rooms at a completive price. Seeing as how I maybe was going to have seven hours of sleep, I thought the Ramada would be just fine.
What I experienced was the worst hotel stay I have experienced in the past 26 years of business travel.
It turns out a road rally was coming through town and they had a number of tired drivers checking in. Understaffed (although they had reservations) I waited over 20 minutes just to check in. I kept telling myself to lighten up, it’s just one night, and now for just 6 ½ hours. As I walked to my room I noticed the carpet in the hall was dirty and had little collections of food and dust in corners. Just as the restroom of a restaurant will tell you about the cleanliness of a food establishment, I have always found public areas of a hotel are a good indication of the cleanliness of your room.
I found my way to my room and as the door opened I was surprised how old and run down this room seemed. Again, self talk said…” it’s only one night and now only 6 hours…” I showered to calm down so I could fall asleep. I found the shower tub disgusting with stains. I found the towels were old and stained as well. As I brushed my teeth I was greeted with an old scratched sink with a rusted water stopper…” it’s only 5 ½ hours”…
As I walked to the bed my feet felt like they were sticking to the old dirty carpet. I turned down the covers and found the sheets too were stained and hopefully clean, but just stained. The pillow felt like someone bought a square piece of foam and cut pillow sized squares out of it. As I lay there, disgusted, my mind raced to the recent Animal planet I watched with my children about parasites and bed bugs.
I tried to relax but I could swear something was crawling on me. I turned on the light and could not find anything, .must just be in my mind. I tried to relax and eventually I must have fallen asleep. My alarm went off and still tired I quickly got ready and went to the lobby to check out.
What I found was a long line of people wanting to be checked in and checked out. I could tell one employee was experienced and one must have been new. Each time the new employee confirmed someone into a room, he would check with the experienced employee to see if it was a “good room”. Interesting, so they must have some old rooms like the one I slept in and others that were “good rooms”. Unfortunately you had to be an experienced employee to know which rooms were good or bad. New employees had no way of knowing with the tools provided what kind of a room they were checking guests into.
When it was my turn to check out, someone who checked in earlier returned to the desk demanding a better room. His room was quickly changed.
As I checked out the young lady did not ask how my stay was, but instead asked if I needed directions. Had she asked about my stayI would have said “disgusting and disappointing” but since they did not ask I felt they just did not care and were anxious to get me on my way.
So on to the next city and I checked into an amazing Comfort inn in Louisville KY that was clean, the person checking me in made me feel like I was his only guest. I went to my room that was very clean and Googled the Ramada to see if perhaps my understanding of their brand was wrong.
If you visit the Ramada web site, Mark F. Young promises;
You can rest easy knowing that we are expertly equipped to “create caring experiences for every person, every time.” We are committed to delivering excellent service. All of our properties feature modern amenities such as high speed Internet connectivity.
Tell ya what Mark F Young; I have a challenge for you. Visit your hotel on Thompson Ave in Indianapolis and stay in room 219 and tell me if you are living up to your brand promise…. NOT!
The more I thought about this the more convinced I became that businesses who keep products in their mix that are obsolete and do not reflect their brand promise are playing Russian Roulette with their customers’ buying experience, and their brand.
Bad products always seem to find their way to someone.
Your team members who have been around a while will know not to sell them, however new employees do not know any better. Negative word of mouth seems to travel much faster than positive feedback particularly with social media. Very quickly one bad customer experience can be heard by over 2,000 people.
In today’s competitive economic times can any of our businesses risk playing customer Russian Roulette with obsolete products?
Do you have any products in your mix you do not want customers to ever experience? If so, why are they still there?
Does your company have a formal process to audit the quality of your product and your customers’ overall buying experience? If so who reads this data?
Have you asked any of your people if there are products you have that should never be sold to customers?
When was the last time, as a leader in your organization you bought (shopped) what you sell?
When was the last time you inspected what you expected?
When was the last time you called someone who just purchased your product or service and asked them about their overall experience?
I know I was hard on my terrible experience with Ramada. I guess what bothered me most is I felt they broke my trust. So now I will avoid Ramada hotels even though I had great experiences in the past.