Would you spend $250 for a bottle of water? How about $750? How about … well, pick a multiple. Wondering what a simple bottle of water has to do with reputation? Sometimes, it's everything.
A friend of mine recently traveled with his wife and 1-year-old son to a lovely boutique hotel in the wine country, noted for customer service. In fact, the hotel pledges exceptional customer service. This is infused into their customer-facing marketing efforts, including Facebook and Twitter.
Once in the room, the 1-year-old had one of those meltdowns that all parents can relate to. My friend called the desk and asked if a bottle of water could be sent up so they could prepare some baby formula. The answer: room service was closed; there was no way to accommodate the request.
My friend quickly tweeted about the experience. Later, he posted a customer review on Yelp.
A small misstep over a $1 bottle of water results in a tweet or two. No big deal, right? After all, this hotel spends thousands annually on advertising. Unfortunately, multiple consumer surveys show that nearly 80% of consumers trust peer recommendations, and less than 15% trust advertising.
So how much did that bottle of water cost? Do the math. My friend won't return, which means the hotel loses several future nights of room and restaurant revenue. An unflattering review on Yelp likely will drive others away. So it's not hard to imagine that a $1 bottle of water costing this hotel $1,000 or more.
Reputation balances on a razor's edge. Simple decisions and rote responses can have a lasting impact on a business. Now more than ever, businesses, from the CEO down to the night desk clerk, have to sweat the small stuff.
Bob Silver is SVP at MWW.