Insider Exclusive: Coloring Outside the Lines

Insider Exclusive: Coloring Outside the Lines

Creating a new customer experience

By Jeff Tobe

Why is Starbucks so successful in selling you a $4.00 latte when McDonald’s charges $2.00?

Why does a stay at The Ritz-Carlton seem so much different than a stay at the Holiday Inn?

Most people today would answer that it’s all about “customer service” when, in fact, they would be wrong! Both McDonald’s and the Holiday Inn usually offer great customer service. What Starbucks and The Ritz-Carlton understand is that it is about the customer “experience”!

Customer Service vs. Customer Experience

Customer “experience” has become the new buzzword in the motorcoach travel and tourism industry, and I am not sure that all bus and tour operators or destinations really understand it. “Service” is what you offer your customers everyday as a trained professional; it is personal and it comes from the heart. Customer “experience” is about considering your customers’ experiences from the minute they make contact with your business until the minute they leave.

Customer Touch Points

Those organizations that purposefully examine every customer touch point—those opportunities you have to positively affect the customer from the parking lot, to reception, to billing, and more—are those that will excel at the customer experience. By driving the message of the experience through every company department, you will help your employees realize that no matter their title or contribution, they are part of the customer experience. A 2017 “State of the American Workplace” Gallup study found that only 33 percent of American workers are engaged in what they do every day. By having your employees consider their specific customer touch point and how they can better that one experience, they automatically become more engaged and, ultimately, the customer is the one who benefits.

Creating Customer Experience

First, have your employees ask, “What is the customer’s experience at [fill in the name of your business here]?” Second, have them ask themselves, “What is one touch point that I could focus on this week that will ultimately shatter that stereotype?”

Imagine going to a new restaurant that has been touted as the best in town. You arrive at 7:50 p.m. for an 8:00 p.m. reservation and are seated right on time. You go on to have the best service and possibly the best food you have ever eaten. At one point, the chef comes out to your table and explains how each of your dishes was prepared. The manager checks on you a few times. But after dinner, you proceed to go outside, you proffer your parking ticket to the car valet and … 55 minutes later your car arrives! Isn’t that part of the overall experience? Of course it is. But, let’s take this one step further. It is now three months later and you have told hundreds of people to go to that new restaurant because the food is amazing and the service is outstanding. Then, you add: “… BUT your car will take forever to get to you after dinner.” I think my next book’s title should be, What Comes After the But?

So, what does this have to do with the motorcoach travel and tourism industry? Everything! The minute you get your employees asking, “What comes after the but?” is the minute you start to become 100 percent customer-centric. “The receptionist is wonderful but … I got lost in voicemail after that” or “I have always purchased my parts from them but … they have no clue who I am.” You need to examine the touch points mentioned earlier and imagine what the customer might say.

Make that shift from service to experience by examining those touch points and seeing the world through your customers’ eyes rather than your own.

Jeff Tobe is a certified speaking professional and author of Anticipate: Knowing What Customers Need Before They Do. He will be a speaker at ABA’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Marketplace in Charlotte, N.C.. For more information, visit

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
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