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The Opposite of United. Customer Experience ... Delivered

Club Med Bali - An Experience
I just had the pleasure of getting a few family days in the Club Med Bali resort and, being me, working and writing about customer engagement and customer experience, somehow cannot not observe.
On top of this, Chef de Village Jeremie Gonzalez and his 280-strong team certainly deliver something that is worth writing about. Jeremy also agreed to having a chat with me about his resort and customer experience.
So here we go.

The Impressions

We were traveling with 9 persons, 2 families, 4 adults, 5 kids from 7 to 11, coming from New Zealand, with another friend arriving from Germany. Right from the beginning on Denpasar airport we have been in good hands. As one can imagine, in a holiday destination like this there are plenty of hotels and resorts receiving customers. Club Med was very easily spotted and their man took us under his wings with a warm greeting, guiding us to the van that was waiting for us to bring us to the 20 minutes away resort.
Where we received another warm reception accompanied by a fruit drink, from Jeremie and the one NZ G.O. of the team – G.O meaning “Gentle Organizer”.  Guests are referred to as G.M.’s – Gentle Members.
Check in was a breeze and we were guided to our rooms with some nice conversation about the resort.
The rooms were still as we knew them – we have been here before 5 years ago – not spectacular, small but good. And then Club Med is not about the rooms but about what is on the outside – a great, lush area on the beach, offering pools, bars, sports, and entertainment for all ages, if one is inclined to be entertained. Not to talk about an abundance of food and drink. The place is an all-inclusive resort. The resort itself is a 4 Trident (Star) resort and was established 31 years ago which makes it one of Club Med’s older ones; it, of course, continually undergoes some improvement. About 8 years ago a great alcove with a bar and relaxation area with a great view over the ocean got built, about 2 years ago an adult-only “Zen Pool” got finished, which makes up an oasis of silence in this family oriented resort. At the time of our stay the Internet infrastructure got upgraded – which caused my main point of grief, as the Internet and wifi connection was spotty. Bad timing, I guess … but these days people coordinate their days using Whatsapp and co.
What really struck me were the smiles. Every staff member seems to continuously smile. The people radiate happiness. And there is no hesitation at all when there just might be something that a guest could need. The word ‘no’ doesn’t seem to exist.
You have an issue? There is a solution to it.

The Conversation

What I have seen of Jeremie is that he is there all the time. He confirmed that his day is starting around 8 am and ending not before midnight. He is with Club Med for 12 years now, started as a sports trainer and holds GM positions for 6 years now. He visibly has a great passion for his job and is in my eyes the rare example of a true leader.
I asked him some questions about the resort, his team, and philosophy, clientele and customer satisfaction ratings. We also talked about one case of a very unhappy customer who I found, chatting with people. She wanted to leave on day one. Unsurprisingly, he knew about this customer, too. He also knew the answer to the most pressing question my oldest had – but to that a bit later.
Of course, Club Med measures CSAT scores and without going into details Club Med as an organization is in the 80 per cent mark of satisfied customers, with Bali being above 90 per cent. Club Med has a repeat customer rate of around 40 per cent, the Bali resort of around 30 per cent. Considering that Millenials are more experience-orientated than Gen-X’ers like me who in the eyes of Jeremie are more recreation-oriented this is a pretty good number, which partly also can be attributed to Club Med offering 80 different resorts around the globe.
Asked what he wants to deliver as the experience he answers with one simple word:
Happiness
Which also describes the atmosphere of the place.
The question who comes first, the customer or the employee gets answered without hesitation: Customers! Why? “It is what we do”. Jeremie thinks that happy employees create happy customers – and he walks the talk. The employees are mainly Millenials, too, so looking for experiences – which they get in a company like Club Med. Their average tenure is about 3 years and changing from one resort to another is actively encouraged. If they have a problem it is part of the Chef de Village role to sort it out. And looking from the outside it seems to work.
Where Club Med clearly can improve is on the digital side. Apparently the web site has become mobile friendly only two years ago and the mobile app is more like the electronic version of a book. But work seems to be underway; e.g. the Bintan Island club, which has just undergone a renovation, has got iPad based booking of events, tours, etc. Still, process is fairly slow. This is handled centrally to ensure consistency and the General Managers cannot do much about it. However, integrating digital into the experience seems to be on its way, probably lasts around 2 more years.
The unhappy customer stayed after talking with Jeremie. My impression, confirmed by Jeremie, was that this is a case of wrong expectations. The lady and her daughter stayed in the neighboring Sofitel the nights before. And a Sofitel, being a 5 Star hotel, is a different piece of cake than the resort style offering of Club Med. What made matters worse for her was the spotty Internet connection, especially having a Millenial daughter. One thing led to another.
My daughter’s pressing question? How many jars of Nutella do you need per day? Answer: Around 40. Demand will be lower after we leave …

My Take

It doesn’t take much technology to deliver a great customer experience. The most important ingredients are the people and culture. Many organizations of all industries can learn from how this resort is run.
Having said this, Club Med is clearly behind the curve when it comes to ‘digital’. Millenials just expect a matching digital service. Communication amongst group members happens using messaging services and a working, fast Internet connection will become a staple – if it not already is.

And with all advantages and disadvantages there are to technologies like Disney’s wristband or the Ocean Medallion, an integrated digital-offline experience is also something that people start to expect.

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