These are notes from a candid chat between Kapil Chopra, founder of EazyDiner and The Postcard Hotel and former president of The Oberoi Group, and Kunal Shah, founder of Cred, held in 2021. The contents of this chat were so valuable that I made extensive notes and shared them with everyone I could. Of course, like most other posts on this blog, the following is written for my own reference and is contextualised.
Some of the ideas presented below may be difficult to implement at scale without considering the specific context, but they serve as excellent examples for learning. As part of my job and personal curiosity, I speak to users to constantly learn about what aspects of a brand make them fall in love with it beyond just the utility use case. These are some of the questions that Kapil was addressing in the talk.
High quality service oriented organisations outlast transactional businesses. How can one build service oriented organisations?
People should love consumer brands. Period. People are smart. Typically consumer brands think that their products are so unique that consumers don’t understand them — and that is where many brands make mistakes. Question is, how to build that love?
Lastly, how to focus on loyalty through service experience instead of price?
Some rough numbers he shared:
74% of customers leave due to poor service, not because of price or product issues
97% of customers are unhappy with inconsistent service across different locations
92% of customers form their opinion based on initial interactions
76% of all products and services purchases are made by repeat customers
In the context of hotels (The Postcard Hotels) and some from building EazyDiner, service meant giving guests control and making it everything about making holidays great. Typically, other hotels operate on a cookie cutter playbook and don’t focus on how people do holidays. He talks about 4 pillars for building a service oriented company.
The 4 pillars to build a service oriented company:
Zero defect product
1. Warm welcome (and proactive service excellence)
Write down 5 things on how is your welcome warmer than others.
No check-in/check-out timing. At Postcard, they want their guests to feel at home and like Kings and Queens.
Caring. If one checks in to the Postcard hotel after 1AM at night, they’ll always get night shots with the hotel's compliments!
No sugary drinks. 80%+ hotels in India serve water melon juice because it’s cheap, and tastes good (sweet). Postcard hotels always serve some local speciality beverages as welcome drinks.
No breakfast hours or buffets. Postcard believe that guests are there to relax. Guests should wake up when they want to and have breakfast when they want to. Postcard hotels don't do buffets; since it keeps getting re-heated, stays on for a few hours and food degrades in quality.
No croissants, but regional artisanal breads. If you go to any other countries, they don't serve you Aloo paratha, Idlis by default. They serve their local versions of breads. But in India, we serve Croissants everywhere, in every hotel - no matter where you go. But nobody wakes up in India to have Croissants in the morning. Because it's a difficult bread to bake. India has 120+ varieties. Postcard hotels in India serve only local bread variant like Poee bread in Goa.
2. Zero defect product
Gun for literally zero defect on your product.
3. Anticipatory service
Anticipate what people need.
Cleaning cars. Postcard ask how how guests are arriving - if it's a car, the staff will clean the car when guests arrive.
Super fast check-in. At Oberoi, check-in is less than 2 minutes for guests arriving before 10PM. After 11pm, it's less than 40 seconds. Guests don't need to know all the details of the hotel when they check-in late, they just need to know the basics and go and get some rest. Most late check-ins at Oberoi would be for international flights and Oberoi wanted their guests to rest.
Monsoon treat. If it rains when guests are staying, Postcard hotel will give complimentary beverage of choice and hot, fried bhajiyas to the guests. For returning customers, the hotel already knows choice of beverage from their order history.
Pool surprises. A location delight. The moment guests are at the pool they'll be offered complimentary choices of either ice-tea or relaxing foot massage. One therapist is always kept available (don't solve for 100% supply utilisation).
4. Fond farewell
Take a piece of us home. Postcard Hotels wants to be at the home of the guests. They'll give a farewell gift. Not generic but observation based - if the guests likes T-shirt, bags etc., the gift given will be accordingly a Nicobar t-shirt or a locally made bag, local spices collection, etc.
At Postcard, the hotel manager will always be there to bid you farewell - no matter the time. If the customer can remember his/ her experience with the brand after some time, then it's the start of a cult.
Instead of asking guests to give review on Trip Advisor, Postcard appoints a personal trip advisor and that person writes a personal email to the guests talking about what they liked or didn't like in their last trip. They also talk about some of the things happening at the hotel they stayed, or that they got a new Chef since last time the food wasn't great - and so on.
I took two strong takeaways from this conversation:
Charge good for service but once customers are in, treat them like Kings and Queens.
The ultimate differentiator in a gold standard service company are people. It’s how one trains the people who deliver the service.