November 29, 2015

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First Mediaworks

03/19/07 Five Stars — And Then Some

Traveling in Europe on business, my wife and I recently spent a few days playing tourist in Aix En Provence in the south of France. While planning our trip I had discovered that a hotel in the area was rated number 11 in Travel + Leisure magazine’s Europe’s Best Hotel Awards. Wow! I booked two nights.

The massive iron gates opened as we approached La Villa Gallici, and a man was waiting to take our bags as he welcomed us to the hotel. Walking past a classic statute in a fountain, we realized we were in a special place. Outside the main doors was a welcoming outdoor reading chair and fresh flowers in a setting that called out “welcome home.”

“Mr. Rhoads, we’ve been expecting you,” said the gentleman at the front desk. I had not given my name, and I’m not sure how he knew who I was. I later learned I was one of three Americans in the 22-room hotel; perhaps the others had already checked in. He walked us through the villa, which had been a private home in the 1700s. Every corner was decorated with elegance, every turn opened onto another scene from a book of classic architecture. In our room we were treated to a sense of comfort we had never before felt, and it’s stunning design was full of detail. After setting our bags down, the man who greeted us reappeared with a plate of melt-in-your-mouth pastries and a dozen pink roses. Every moment of our two-day stay was better than anticipated.

I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotel rooms, including the best of the best — but this hotel deserved its number 11 status. Its owners have the customer experience so well defined that my every need was anticipated. No matter what I asked for, I received much more than I requested. One evening I asked for a glass of wine and received an elegant decanter, a silver plate with cookies and pastries, and a platter of meats and cheeses.

So what does this have to do with radio? Radio faces many challenges ahead. What if your local and national customers received more than expected when dealing with your station? What if their customer experience was better than with any other media? What if you defined the experience to exceed what any station in the country offers advertisers, and you trained your staff to provide excellence beyond the expected?

I would have been fine if this hotel had met my expectations. I probably would have been OK if it came close to meeting my expectations. But instead, this hotel exceeded my expectations not by 10 percent, but by 100 percent: excellence in every detail; no expense spared in the décor, the quality of the bed, the pillows, the furniture; candles lit at every turn; soft music to set the mood; high-end crystal drinking glasses in the rooms; top-of-the-line everything. The service made me feel I was the most important person on earth.

What if you created the perfect customer experience on a local level? Would your station earn more business as a result? Would customers passionately brag about your station, as I am about this hotel? Indeed.

I stayed in two other five-star hotels during my trip, and I was sorely disappointed. The cost was the same, but the experience was as expected, which no longer is enough. Once I had had my expectations exceeded, it became my new standard. I only want to do business with hotels like Villa Gallici, and other hotels don’t live up to that standard. What if your advertisers said: “I only want to do business with your radio station, and no other station can live up to that standard”? Or better yet: “I only want to do business with radio, no other media can live up to that standard”? It all starts with defining an experience unlike any other, and teaching your staff how to implement it. There are lessons to be learned for all businesses from my experience in Aix En Provence, and our industry would benefit greatly by making radio use unlike any other.

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