Customer experience

What I learned about marketing and customer service from one genius family hotel

- December 2, 2021 3 MIN READ
free popsicles made this kid a happy customer

When I took my kids to America in 2017, the place everyone loved most was the Magic Castle Hotel in LA. You might know it. It’s a mid-range motel that has been gussied up with paint and lobby mirrors. It’s not fancy. Yet it’s the most highly-desired family hotel in the city and is consistently sold out even at nearly $500 a night.

How? I was super curious what their secret was.

Customer experience (CX) is the secret sauce

Turned out the reason the hotel is so good is it focuses all its marketing efforts on delivering an extraordinary customer experience by doing three things.

  1. They installed a Popsicle Hotline—an old-fashioned red phone by their pool which anyone can pick up to have hotel staff deliver icy treats poolside for you. The Popsicle Hotline has become legendary. Everyone wants a go.
  2. They don’t have minibars. Instead, there are free full size snacks (chocolates, chips, popcorn) in the lobby which you can take as often as you like, free of charge. Parents love it as much as kids.
  3. Laundry is not only free—it comes back gift wrapped with a sprig of lavender and a handwritten message from your personal launderer.

These three things have transformed their hotel and got everyone talking and referring friends. Now when I’m working with a client on their business I ask one question: What’s your Popsicle Hotline?

 How a great CX can boost your business

The key message is the more you double down on improving your customer experience, the less you need to rely on advertising. Why? You’ll activate word of mouth marketing where your existing clients rave about you and drive leads and acquisition on your behalf.

According to a CommBank Retail Insights report, 83 per cent believe ‘customer experience’ is very important to their business strategy, yet only 30 per cent rate their customer service as being greater than 9/10.

That tells me a great customer experience can turn a client into a raving fan who actively advocates for your business.

Just like the Magic Castle Hotel, here are three ways you can deliver an awesome customer experience

  1. Be engaged

Your customers want to interact with you. Provide opportunities through social media channels, a chat line on your website and blog comments.

I believe all small business owners should interact with clients weekly, if not daily. It not only drives engagement but allows you to develop a relationship and gather great insights into your target market.

Being engaged means you help prospective clients on the path to purchase.  And after they buy, you keep them engaged and—trust me—they will either recommend your business or come back and buy from you again.

  1. Be responsive

We all know problems can crop up within a business. It makes us real. It’s how we deal with mistakes that sets us apart from competitors.

Most problems can be solved easily and without damage to a relationship by admitting the mistake and taking immediate steps to resolve it.  Your job is to make sure you have a process to support this, then take the lead.

I recommend keeping a negative comment on a Facebook page rather than deleting it. This provides an excellent opportunity for prospective clients to see how you handle issues. It gives a more balanced assessment of your business and, arguably, makes your positive reviews and feedback stand out even more.

  1. Be extraordinary

The fastest way to build your army of raving fans is to exceed expectations. Mums in particular demand a high level of customer service as they are time-poor, juggling multiple commitments and well researched.

Delight Mum by exceeding her expectations and you have a powerful competitive advantage.

Early in my entrepreneurial journey, I made an awful decision and represented a client who didn’t share my business ethics.  My customers started complaining.  I immediately admitted my error of judgement, apologised to my customers and issued a refund to all 120 of them within 48 hours.

My proactive approach was rewarded. Owning my mistake and refunding their money was unexpected, particularly for those who hadn’t complained.

It told them I understood and heard their concerns and had their best interests at heart. Doing the unexpected turned a disaster into a PR success story.

Sometimes the unexpected is simply a handwritten note inside your orders, a card sent out to top clients letting them know how much you enjoy working with them or a bonus service offering.

I challenge you to work out a Popsicle Hotline for your business to delight your customers. Deliver a consistent, awesome experience and you will create an army of fans who will act as your most cost-effective marketing tool.

And look up the Magic Castle Hotel. You’ll see why I admire their marketing—a few cost-effective measures have turned an ordinary property into an extraordinary success. And you can learn more ways to grow your business without a marketing budget on my Marketing with No Money podcast.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"