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Red Maple Retreat: A Lesson in Customer Service Excellence



Not only is the Red Maple Retreat in Milford, Michigan a charming and meticulously maintained vacation rental home for business and family travelers, it’s also known as the place to stay if you want beautiful surroundings AND exceptional customer service.

That’s no surprise considering the fact that owner and host, Colleen Kilpatrick, has an extensive background as a Marketing and Customer Service Specialist and Instructor.

Today she applies her customer service savvy to her latest endeavor, Red Maple Retreat, a Vacation Rental by Owner or VRBO for short.

“Providing fabulous customer service in any business really comes down to one thing: your ability to empathize with others. For years I’ve encouraged business owners to see their business, and the situations that arise in their business, through the eyes of their customer. The easiest way to do that is by asking yourself the question, ‘How would I feel if I were in the same situation?’ Your answer becomes your guide to great customer service.”

When a customer makes a request, it’s an opportunity to delight them – or disappoint them. As customers, we’ve all experienced both ends of that customer service spectrum.

We feel delight when a business person responds to our request by saying, “Let me see what I can do about that”, then set out to find a creative solution to our need. Even if the solution they come up with is not exactly what we had in mind, we appreciate their “Can-do / Will-do” attitude and feel they are doing their very best to serve and accommodate us. That’s delight.

At the other end of the spectrum is the business person who looks at every customer request as an imposition. Their default setting is, “No, we can’t do that” or “That’s against our policy”. That “Can’t-do / Won’t-do attitude that we so dislike as customers is the main reason companies lose $84 billion dollars a year to poor customer service.

It’s obvious from her customer reviews that Colleen is in the business of delighting her customers.

Red Maple Retreat

Her latest guests can certainly attest to that. In Milford to attend and compete in an elite dance competition, the guests sent an email in advance of their stay asking where they could buy organic food and take yoga classes in the area. Colleen’s email response included links, maps and personal insights about her favorite sources for organic food and yoga classes.

The guests then mentioned that they hoped to bake some healthy muffins during their stay and asked if there were muffin pans in the retreat’s kitchen. There weren’t any, but Colleen is in the business of delighting her guests so responded with: “I’ll make sure they’re there for you.” She then delivered to the retreat a set of flexible muffin pans, an extra mixing bowl and a hand mixer, just in case her guests needed it.

“I also like to eat healthy, homemade meals when I travel so I could completely relate to my guests’ desire to make muffins that would sustain them during two long days of competition. My response to her request was simply how I would want to be treated in a similar situation,” says Colleen.

That’s empathy in action and it earned her this 5-Star review:

“We loved our stay at the Red Maple Retreat. The owner Colleen was very flexible and great to work with. The beds were comfy, the neighborhood safe and quiet. The bonus for us was the sunroom. We opened the windows up in the morning, and listened to the lovely sounds of nature as we ate breakfast in the sun. The yard was in full bloom, and it was great to see and smell the lilacs. It was fantastic. The kids even read books outside on the porch chairs, just to be in the yard. The house was clean, and well maintained, the kitchen was well supplied with whatever you needed to cook. All amenities were close by and convenient. The internet was fast. We loved it, and would definitely stay again. Thanks so much Colleen for a great stay!”

Which side of the customer service spectrum is your business on? Which side do you want it to be on? If you want to delight your customers and create the kind of loyalty I teach in my book SMILE, follow Colleen’s example and cultivate empathy by learning to put yourself in your customers shoes. Your customers will love you, you’ll feel more satisfied at the end of the day and your profits will soar.

Posted by Kirt Manecke | 2 Comments
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2 thoughts on “Red Maple Retreat: A Lesson in Customer Service Excellence”

    1. Hi Colleen,
      You are welcome. Thank you! Good luck with your amazing Red Maple Retreat. I know with your excellent customer service skills and attention to detail it will be a huge success.
      Thank you again,

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