In Bed with Jonathan Tisch and 'Chocolates'

Loews Hotelier Says Reinventing the Customer Experience Means a Constant, Perhaps Infinite, Reworking of Your Product

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I picked up Jonathan Tisch's latest how-to on customer service after reading a February profile of NYC & Company in The New York Times. Tisch, who chairs the city's official tourism marketer in addition to his post as chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, will soon oversee a rebranding of the Big Apple to attract more European visitors. (Think lots of pink, less grime and low exchange rates.) Who better to know what a traveler (and thus a customer) wants, I thought, than a man who can actually recruit people to cross continents? Oddly enough, "Chocolates on the Pillow" hit bookstores the next day.

What you'll find here are the dozens of anecdotes on consumer loyalty, from In-and-Out Burger's 'secret' menu to Sephora's conservative cosmetics presentation. But the core message is a titular one: reinvention. A constant, if infinite, reworking of your product, its delivery and your staff's smiles is what Tisch purports will hand-pick your customer from the crowd. Too few Loews examples leave me skeptical of his advice, but hey, it works for Madonna.

Two chapters carry their weight in fresh info: "Everyone is Welcome" (on consumer diversity) and "Open-Door Policy" (on government transparency). Tisch hits the nail on the head in describing the evolving power of ethnic and minority consumers as not only a stateside phenom, but a sign of global change in Chinese, Japanese and Indian markets. It really gives perspective to the number of customers -- and preferences -- up for grabs.

With his analysis of the popular E-ZPass toll-collection program, begun in the mid-90s, Tisch traces the user-friendly brand expansion of U.S. government agencies. If bureaucracies can put their services on the line (and online), he argues, so can you.

And what of the pillow-sitting chocolate? Don't worry, it may just be enough to please, Tisch says, so long as it's nut-free, is understood as an asset by the management and employees, and includes "Open Here" instructions in Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Hindi.
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