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Conley: keep both customers and employees happy

Chip Conley knows the importance of keeping the customer happy. 

The founder of Joie de Vivre - California’s largest independent hotel company and America’s second largest boutique hotelier - had his ups and downs in the 2000s. With all of his hotels at that time in the San Francisco area, in 2001 the economy in that area endured one of the biggest economic drops anywhere in the United States since World War II. 

He wracked his brain to figure a wait to pull the company out of the quagmire of Sept. 11 and the economy starting to fail. He was re-introduced, after a four-hour bookstore visit, to Abraham Maslow, a renowned psychologist in the 1950s. Instead of studying those who struggle Maslow got to know what worked for those who flourish and apply it to other people. 

Maslow came up with the Hierarchy Needs Pyramid. At the top, where you strive to be, is self-actualization – “the final level of psychological development that can be achieved when all basic and mental needs are essentially fulfilled and the ‘actualization’ of the full personal potential takes place,” according to Wikipedia. 

His company adopted the theory and in the next seven years it tripled in business. 

Conley was the third general session speaker at the 32nd Annual International Convention & Trade Show. His, on Thursday, was sponsored by Matrix.  

“If you understand what makes you different, you will get more people to the top of the pyramid and be evangelists (for your company), Conley said. 

He said that almost three-fourths of a company’s customers will leave if all you are doing is “satisfying” them. It’s when you give them their “unrecognized needs” – the ones they are not aware of they want – that’s when they are happy. This happened for his company at one hotel in the San Francisco business district. Conley decided, with no statistics that said his customers wanted it, to put a morning yoga class where a penthouse room could have been. Soon after it opened there was a waiting list for the class. 

“We connected with our customers on a personal basis, not a demographic basis,” said Conley. 

“Look for how you can seek the peak at the top of the pyramid, not just for your customers but also employees. If these are happy then you will have a sustainable business in the future.”



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