Strategy & Marketing

When Helping the Customer Becomes Annoying the Customer

I’m a Marriott Hotel fan, but a couple of years ago, Marriott launched an interesting customer service strategy. When I check into a hotel, after all the credit card information and room assignment were taken care of, they would print my key, put it in the little envelope, and then – walk about the desk to hand it to me.

On the one hand it seemed like a personal thing to do. Take care of the official check-in stuff behind the desk, and then provide a personal touch by walking about the desk to hand me the key face to face.

Except that it wasn’t. It is awkward, the employees usually feel visibly uncomfortable, and most of all – it’s not helpful. As it is, I can have a nice conversation across the check-in desk, plus, he or she can hand me the key quickly and be done with it.

Taking the time to walk around the desk to hand me a room key is one of those ideas that sounds interesting when a consultant comes up with it, but when you see it in action, it’s actually inauthentic and not personal at all.

People notice when something seems “staged” for their benefit. Church visitors see it with over-eager volunteers attacking them in the church lobby. They mean well, but for a new visitor, it may just be too much. Church members see it when they’re overwhelmed with email blasts, newsletters, and mailers promoting the activities of the church.

It’s just too much.

I’m still a Marriott fan, but customer service needs to be natural and comfortable, or it’s not customer service at all.

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24 Comments

  1. I agree wholeheartedly! I’ve been in ministry for nearly 20 years but am naturally an introvert. As a guess, I would be looking for the entry with the least amount of scary greeters! Haha
    However, there’s a balance. I don’t mind being welcomed but I don’t want to feel like I’m at a Drs office where I give the same information to 10 different people. Let me say hi or thank you once or twice and let me find my seat.

  2. Such a great point, and this translates into so many different types of organizations. A friend is an ER nurse at a hospital. Recently they were forced to provide patient satisfaction surveys, as well as scripted messaging and required check in times. (Unfortunately, when a patient is coding in the next room, it’s not realistic to expect a script or to ensure the current patient’s pillow needs fluffing)

    In an effort to serve the customer better, someone disconnected from the service experience comes up with an idea and implements it. Their hearts are in the right place, but the execution can actually make things worse and not better when done improperly.

    Always get input from those on the front lines, and more importantly, from the customer.

  3. It really comes down to self-awareness. This is especially important when you consider young people (digital natives) that have grown up being bombarded with marketing and sales pitches – our BS radar is always on high alert. Don’t fake it. Just be real.

  4. Oh how awkward! I hadn’t heard about that. If it can be personal AND efficient, that’s terrific. But waiting there while someone with perfectly capable arms and hands has to walk around a counter to hand you your room key…when you’re probably tired or in a hurry…is just plain inefficient and uncomfortable. I think when it comes to churches, they can miss the mark too, but I would rather them err on the side of friendliness and welcoming than ignoring guests, especially in a big church. I think those over-the-top friendly usher greeters are sincere in their enthusiasm, so it’s genuine. But it’s hard because not everyone is always in the mood for all that, lol!

  5. Like when the restaurant hostess is walking me to my table, stops, turns around and says “how is your day going?” I’m like… keep moving.

  6. So true! Our family calls entry into our church “The Gauntlet” because we have to pass by so many layers of volunteers with smiles plastered on their faces. Too many is too much indeed.

    1. I feel your pain. I send my wife in ahead as a human shield to absorb any lunatic huggers. Damn, I hate huggers. Hate. Hate. Hate.

  7. I pastor a church but also have the opportunity to visit a number of churches every year some as a guest and some as a guest minister. I would rather a church be a little over-the-top then cold and unfriendly. Your point about genuineness is appropriate though and in reality we just need to develop a culture of friendliness in our churches and then we will not have to resort to some of the tactics of the marketplace.

    1. Quite honestly, I can’t stand overly warm and friendly strangers, so I’d rather people in church gave me my space. I can’t abide small talk in any case, and social interactions are simply exhausting. I think this simply proves the point that churches can’t please everyone.

  8. I agree wholeheartedly! I’ve been in ministry for nearly 20 years but am naturally an introvert. As a guess, I would be looking for the entry with the least amount of scary greeters! Haha
    However, there’s a balance. I don’t mind being welcomed but I don’t want to feel like I’m at a Drs office where I give the same information to 10 different people. Let me say hi or thank you once or twice and let me find my seat.

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