Some friends and I recently decided to do a “staycation” in Scottsdale, Ariz. The experience was horrendous, but they taught me several valuable lessons about our industry.
Rather than stay at one of the traditional hotels in the Valley, we thought it would be fun to stay at one of the brand new, Vegas-style resorts that offers gambling. Any vacation associated with gambling should have been my first clue to stay away. Why would I want to ruin a perfectly good losing streak?
Now, anyone in our industry will attest that we have a ton of conferences, and as a result I travel constantly. Fortunately, some of these conferences are held at some beautiful hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons. You never know how many things these companies do right…until you see a company that does things wrong.
I made my reservation with the Scottsdale resort a month in advance because I knew it would be a busy weekend for them. I also arranged for an upgrade to an executive suite. When I arrived at the hotel, I was welcomed by a 15-minute line at check-in. When I finally got to the front of the line, the guy checking me in must have been overworked and underpaid, because he was obnoxious. When I got up to my room, it was a standard room—and not the executive suite I had paid extra for. I dragged my bags back down to registration, and they told me they would hold my bags until a suite became available. I let them know that I would be enjoying some poolside margaritas and that I’d be back in a few hours.
After a few hours, and a few drinks, I returned to the lobby to pick up the keys to my new room. The concierge said, “Sorry, all of those rooms have been filled—our mistake.” Nice. They kindly offered to return me to my original room at a reduced rate. I was not the happiest customer at that point. They didn’t even offer to have a bellman bring my bags to my room, so I suggested that it would be a nice touch.
Once I settled into the room, which to their credit was very nice, I noticed that one of the trashcans had debris in it. I mean, come on! This experience carried through my entire 24-hour stay—and my friends had similar experiences. Yes, there were some very nice people working for the resort, but unfortunately they were overshadowed by the rudeness and consistent mistakes of their peers.
When I left the resort, I thought, “Thank God for the Ritz.” And then I started asking myself what makes a hotel experience so enjoyable. When I call to make the reservation, they begin by asking for my rewards number, which tells them everything they need to know about me based on my past stays—the fact I like a corner room, a view of the water or downtown, and a king bed. When I arrive at the hotel, a bellman immediately asks for my name and whether I’ll be checking in with them.
As I approach the entry, a person smiles, opens the door, and welcomes me to the Ritz. The smell of the taxi starts melting away. When I go to check in, there is no line; they are properly staffed to handle the rushes.
The front desk person says, “Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton, Mr. Olsen.” They know this because when the bellman originally asked for my name, he radioed it to the front desk. By the time I get to the front desk, they have pulled up my reservation and reviewed the details of my stay. Without any prompting, they let me know that my corner room with a view of the water and a king bed is all ready for me. My bags are brought up to my room; lo and behold, there is no trash in the garbage can. In fact, the room is spotless every time. I’ve always wished my maid at home was this good.
How does the Ritz do it? They have a passion for the customer experience. They anticipate needs and desires. Some very smart people have brainstormed how to make the Ritz a thoroughly enjoyable experience—and they have done a wonderful job.
Continuing down this rabbit hole of thought, I asked myself how the customers that we serve at Loan Resolution Corp. can have this same experience. How can we anticipate their needs and desires?
Our mortgage servicing operation communicates with customers over the phone, e-mail, and through our Web portal. We perform modifications, short sales, deeds-in-lieu, quality assurance and REO asset management. This is not an industry known for its customer service. So, how can we turn this around? How can we make it a Ritz-Carlton experience?
My company is in the midst of re-evaluating every point that the customer touches. When the customer calls our company, what is the voice they hear to welcome them to LRC? Can they get to the person they want to speak with as quickly as possible? When they access our Web portal, what is the look and feel of the portal—is it inviting and helpful? When doing a modification, short sale, or deed-in-lieu with us, does the customer always feel informed about where they are in the transaction and what the next steps are? The questions go on and on.
We did find some things in our operation that we weren’t crazy about. There were some things that we knew weren’t as good as they could be. But they are areas of opportunity to improve. We’re excited about where we’re going—and we are helping our customers enjoy a Ritz-Carlton experience.
Travis Hamel Olsen is co-president of Loan Resolution Corp. He can be reached at TOlsen@LoanResolution.com.