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Branding and Quantity Imply Consistency

Consistency is key in many things… but I’m hard pressed to find an area as impactful as the Customer Experience.

Consider the successful consistency in the branding experience of McDonald’s.  Anywhere in the world that you want into a McDonald’s, you’ll quickly notice the same theme, colors, food, overall service, etc.

I believe it is also fairly safe to assume that when they open a new McDonald’s franchise, they hit the ground running with knowing how many staff to schedule for different times of day and days of week, knowing what are the favorite menu items overall and perhaps even by region, knowing how to interact with customers and make them feel welcome, etc. Basically, this isn’t their first rodeo anymore and each new franchise opens with only a minimum of hiccups… again, even those are most likely known to happen over the course of opening so many locations.

Last Spring Break, my family and I headed to Cancun to a new resort that had just opened. We were very excited because it was billed as a 5 star resort… something we hadn’t had the opportunity to do too often because our kids were small and, let’s face it, wouldn’t appreciate the “extras” that such a vacation delivers… and costs.

So, things started off well. We were greeted by the very personable staff and they reviewed the amenities of the resort and asked questions about the things our family enjoys while on vacation.

Our room was quite nice and the first two days of restaurant food met our hopes and expectations.

However… we soon began to notice things that left us confused.

While the resort itself was beautiful in design… we were shocked when we entered the entertainment venue. The seats were nice, but there was something about the stage that bewildered us. It was completely blank…. as in a stage against a completely plain, white, blank wall.  Nothing to match the ornateness of the other buildings less than 50 feet away. But to make it worse… when the performers were on stage, the spotlight would occasionally hit a spot on the wall behind them that had clearly been a door that had been speckled over and painted white. Not trying to sound negative, but it appeared that someone has non-handy as myself had done the job and that no one in the entertainment venue was concerned about the professionalism of the job. It just didn’t match the resort experience we’d had so far.

As I mentioned, the food was very nice overall. The servers were very pleasant, but we did find very quickly that very few of them, perhaps 30%, spoke English. Granted, we were in the Mexican Rivera. English is not the native tongue. But when almost 90% of your customer base speaks English, everyone would be better served when the staff speaks the same language as the customers they serve. While we were frustrated by the language barrier… we also noticed that the staff was as well. I could tell they were trying and making every attempt to understand my 2 years of high school and college broken Spanish.

The Room Service food was quite nice. They would bring it fairly quickly and followed the same protocol as most hotels and resorts we’ve stayed in over the years… enjoy your food and leave the plates outside your door to be picked up. Here’s the thing… those used plates stayed outside SEVERAL doors for over three days. Yes, the rooms were made up daily, yet somehow the staff didn’t know to pick up the plates or it didn’t fall under their responsibility.

We also found that there were staffing shortages during the times that the use of the pool or venues seemed to be high. There were far more guests than the staff could promptly serve during peak times. Yet during non peak times, there were more than enough staff to handle the guests.

In the main buffet… it was beautifully decorated and well laid out. The food was delicious overall. The great part about the buffet is that everyone can pretty much find something they enjoy. However, the experience was dampened when the line for the Benihana style food was over 10 people long… and there was only one chef during the main dinner time. This caused me to be waiting in line while the rest of my family enjoyed the food they found right away.

I was quick to write off these dips in service levels as just part of rolling out a new resort. The gentleman in front of me at the Benihana food line was clearly dismayed at the wait time. Because we had plenty of time and I’m just that type of person, I engaged him in conversation asking him where he was from, if he and his family vacationed in the region often, etc. He was pleasant but was quick to point out his frustration at having to wait for food and at the lack of English speaking staff. I suggested that they would likely have all of the kinks worked out soon as they had only been open 3 months at that time.

Here’s the kicker… he turned at looked at me and said “That would be understandable if this were their first and only resort. This company operates about 6 other of the most popular resorts in the area. This shouldn’t be happening. They should note everything that works and doesn’t work in their other resorts and work that into their new openings. I’m a small business owner. I do the same thing each and every day in my business and with my customers. I take every interaction and experience and learn from it to continuously improve the way I work with customers and my services.”

I hadn’t realized they owned and operated other resorts. I thought this was their first run at it. To me, that explained everything. I checked into the gentleman’s claim and found that this resort was owned and operated by a company that ran over 6 local resorts in the area… all of which were known to be highly regarded. And then dichotomy became very apparent, not only from the company operating the resort, but within the resort property itself.

Here’s where the consistency comes in…

Apparently, I was one of the few at the resort that didn’t know it was one of a chain. Each in the chain did promote the same company logo, so with the others being so highly regarded and not having complaints about language barriers, long lines, staff shortages, etc. why did ours?

Why was there such inconsistency within the resort itself? Why was there such a grand entrance and nice rooms… yet the entertainment venue had a stage that was so beneath their billing and reputation?

Why was the cleanliness of the rooms and overall resort so emphasized, yet the room service trays were left outside for days with staff walking right past them?

Why was the staffing so incongruent with peak times and usage?

Why the language barrier knowing that over 90% of the guests spoke English, yet it was hard to find staff that did?

Again, had this been their first or second resort, these could be overlooked. But because they had rolled out this exact same formula several times before, why did they not take their learnings from the other resorts and integrate them into this one?

This is where branding is also impacted. Remember McDonald’s? They’ve got it nailed. They know how to open new franchises. It doesn’t happen by chance. They are methodical about it because they know their brand name is front and center for all to see.

This resort company hasn’t realized that yet. I won’t mention the name because I’m truly hoping the they’ve gotten these kinks worked out and I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. But when folks travel from all over the country – or world – and you are affiliated with a high end name and reputation, be sure the consistency of the experience is strong.

Otherwise, your guests will set your reputation for you and it’s out of your control.

It doesn’t matter if you run a store, a service company, or a resort… consistency of experience is what customers crave and depend on. Those who actively seek out this parent company based on the other resorts may be in for a surprise when then stay at this new one.

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