A Simple Recipe for Customer Loyalty – 9 Ingredients

Posted on 10.04.2018
In the light of the Easter holiday last week, my family and I decided to enjoy a short but exquisite break at our all-time favourite resort: Alpenresort Schwarz in Tirol - an amazing 5-star hotel that comes with a fascinating story!

Almost 54 years ago, Alpenresort Schwarz arose out of nothing when a farmer and a hairdresser decided to start up a small bed and breakfast.  "Zimmer mit fließend Wasser" - "rooms with running water" - is what it said on their nameplate. Fast-forward to anno 2018 and the meanwhile 124-room hotel finds itself classified as one of the most beautiful luxury spa-resorts in Europe.

We love to go there because of the friendly Austrian people, because of the beautiful environment and because of the excellence we find in every experience the Schwarz hotel offers: every year we visit the hotel, we are amazed at how the Pirktl family (the owners of the hotel) once again succeeded in raising their service level even more!

Furthermore, another important reason why we personally choose to return to this magnificent place, over and over again, is because of the bond we established with the Pirktl family - a bond that started quite a few years ago, when my former dog managed to destroy a beautiful couch in our then hotel room. Very ashamed, I went to Mrs. Pirktl - the "Big Boss" herself - to explain what had happened. I expected an outrageous bill and a future 'no entry' for my dog, but things turned out differently. Instead of this negative scenario, Mrs. Pirktl took advantage of this embarrassing situation to build a long-term relationship with us by treating us like one of their most important customers - in spite of the fact that my dog had just destroyed their couch. And what she gave, she got back… and much more than that too!

Since then, we have never been to any other hotel in Austria. And it seems we are not the only guests who feel this way:  every day, the hotel is filled with more than 60% return customers and 40% new customers. And regardless of the economic downturn, this resort - year after year - has managed to achieve a yearly occupancy rate of more than 91%. These are astounding numbers for the hotel business!

So what is their secret? How does the Pirktl family manage to build such an amazingly high level of customer loyalty? Let me highlight for you here the 9 most important ingredients of this - in essence - simple recipe…

1. The power of personal contactDuring your stay as a guest, you meet at least one member of the Pirktl family every day. The Pirktls make a point of starting a small conversation with each of their guests to make sure they are satisfied on every level. This involvement and engagement creates a tremendous bond with each and every guest, as well as with their personnel. You won't find the Pirktls in their office or in meetings - no, you will always find them right at the centre of their hotel, surrounded by their guests and employees.

How many businesses do you know (except from the really small ones) where you have such easy access to the business owners or the management? And if you do, how does it feel or how do you experience this? What about your own business? How many businesses, do you think, have disconnected from their core and are instead primarily focusing on numbers and processes as their most important goal?

2. Actions speak louder than wordsNot only do the Priktls carefully listen to the feedback from their customers, they also take action. This makes their customers feel even more appreciated and, as a result, it becomes an important part of the value creation process.

How many times have you been asked as an employee or as a customer to complete a survey? And how many times have you had the impression that real action was taken based on your feedback? Or how many times were you informed of the next steps the organization would take as a result of your input?

3. The vital value of "love'The Pirktls, as well as their workforce, truly love their guests. Every initiative they take, everything they do, is initiated from the heart. They genuinely care for their customers, and this way of 'caring' is reflected in every single detail.

Can you name 5 businesses where you have the feeling that the staff and management really care about you as a customer? Where you have the feeling that they really go the extra mile to meet your needs, and connect with you in a loving way?

4. Recognition is keyThe 250 Alpenresort Schwarz employees receive lots of recognition from their management. This stimulates them to give the very best of themselves all the time, which is something the customers pick up on. As such, in turn, they equally end up receiving lots of recognition from the hotel guests, creating a self-reinforcing upward spiral!

What about the company you work for: do you get or give recognition on a regular basis?  Or do you express your sincere appreciation if you experience a great service when visiting a hotel or other venue?

5. Focus on quality-quality-quality!I never visited a hotel where the standards of quality are so high. From the food to the service to the accommodation: the Pirktls dazzle their customers with their excellent level of quality, reflected in every detail. Indeed, when it comes to quality, they don't compromise. Every euro they earn is reinvested to raise the level of service. Every time we return, we discover new things - tiny and huge alike - that they put into place to raise the resort's wow factor.

What about the company you work for? Or what about your job? Do you continue to invest in yourself and your company to raise the level of quality you offer?

6. One mission: "Freude geben, freude bekommen" ("Giving joy is receiving joy")Every employee - whether one of the cleaning ladies, managers or kitchen staff - is clearly connected to the resort's one and only mission: "giving joy is receiving joy". It is fascinating to witness how all communication is built around this one mission, as is everything else that is done at the Schwarz Hotel.

What about your company? Can you rephrase the mission of your company in three sentences? And is this mission equally clear for every employee? Do they know what they are contributing to, and why they do what they do?

7. The planet and its people - they care!Alpenresort Schwarz is located in a beautiful, natural and quiet environment, and this close-to-nature approach is also reflected in everything they do. They support the local farmers by deliberately doing business with them instead of buying from big concerns just to keep prices low, and they do their fair share when it comes to climate change by investing in new solar and rainwater systems to reduce their carbon footprint. On top of that, they designed a total health plan for their employees, and they continue to invest in them by offering them all kinds of training courses throughout the year. Indeed, Alpenresort Schwarz won several prices for their sustainable operation procedures!

How many businesses or managers have lost touch with what sustainability really embodies?

8. "That little extra": the difference between ordinary and extraordinaryAs a guest, "that little extra" is what you get and you are treated as a VIP - regardless of which room or package you booked. Alpenresort Schwarz builds their offers in such a way that everyone's expectations are met, and even exceeded. Whether you come with your family with children, or you are there to play golf, or you want to utterly relax, or you bring your dog with you, … everything is taken care of in amazing ways!

Every customer has different needs, and values different things. In which way do you craft your offers? Are they truly based on the needs and wants of your customers?

9. The importance of humilityLast but not least, it is striking that - after everything the Pirktl family has achieved - they nevertheless haven't forgotten the beauty and importance of staying humble. They feel they are there to serve you, and to make your stay one of the most fabulous experiences you have ever had. As such, notwithstanding their success, they are approachable and stay close to their employees and customers… a truly golden ingredient!

How many business owners or top-managers do you know who - notwithstanding their success -  nevertheless stay humble and remain approachable?

Nowadays, in this complex and highly demanding world, we sometimes forget that if we want to build an amazing bond with our employees and customers - and as such create a loyal customer base - all we have to do is go back to these 9 basic ingredients.
Indeed, the recipe can really be that simple…

And since, at Arteel, Customer Loyalty is our specialty, we would be honoured to help you to increase your wow factor too! Feel welcome to browse our website or simply contact me by email on nathalie@arteel.eu. My team and I will be delighted to inspire you.

Nathalie Arteel
Leading Angel Arteel Group
Recognition and Motivation Expert