Just the other day, my wife Terri was in a place where for no apparent reason she was forced to take a new number and begin her wait anew, without any explanation or apology. When she finally got to the counter she was greeted with an artificial urn labeled, “Ashes of Trouble Customers.” Nice. (Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, it was actually a government office and not a bona fide business, but we’ll leave that huge topic for a future post.)
Every now and then, however, someone surprises us. When it happens, it’s as refreshing as the sunshine after a cold rain.
Observe Exhibit A: our family cocoon packed into a small minivan traveling sleepily through rush hour traffic in Rome. Scooters zip by on all sides, cars dart in and out, horns blare, and pedestrians play chicken with cars by avoiding eye contact. After three hours of hazard-avoidance, our quota is used up and we collide noisily with a passing scooter (see previous post for details). Since the incident occurred on a busy street directly in front of our destination hotel, I suggested Terri take our kids inside to safety. Within moments, I became vaguely aware of hotel employees in black uniforms extracting the baggage from our damaged vehicle. Next I looked up to see one of them bringing me a bottle of water with two fancy drinking glasses. Soon, the general manager of the hotel was standing next to me, comforting me, advising me, and reassuring me that he would provide assistance to help my with any language barrier issues.
After several hours of cleanup and paperwork, we were ushered to the hotel’s courtyard where our children were comfortably seated and being pampered by the hotel staff. We were offered drinks and informed that we had already been checked into our rooms. As a final exclamation point, I was informed that the hotel would additionally be changing my flat tire for me. “Prego, prego, we insist!” I was told.
The hotel in question? The Hotel Forty Seven. The general manager? Paolo Dalle Vacche. The employee who brought me the water and took care of my children? Piero Galli. The man who changed my tire? Valentino. I mention them all here because they deserve worldwide recognition for putting into implementation what most people only talk about – world-class customer service. Thank you gentlemen! Grazie mille!
So, do you think I’ll stay at the Forty Seven upon my next visit to Rome? Wild horses couldn’t keep me away.
When it comes to you and what you do for a living, here are a couple things to think about when attempting to provide true customer service:
- Your heart matters – all the best intentions and formal training don’t amount to a thing if you don’t have a heart for thrilling your customer
- Your actions speak louder than words – everyone talks, few walk. Let your actions exceed your promises.
- Put yourself in the customer’s position – this should be obvious, but what made my experience at the Forty Seven so exceptional was the way in which the hotel staff anticipated my needs and met them.
- One individual is not enough – it takes a whole culture to get it right. Not that one individual taking the lead and the initiative isn’t how a culture is built – it is – but ultimately, most of the team has to be emotionally on board and committed to authentic exceptionalism.
- It makes a difference – the hotel Forty Seven didn’t merely cement their relationship with me as a customer, they made an impact on my life. Who knows what calamities they steered me clear of by their attentiveness.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but you get the idea. Can you imagine what the world would be like if companies absorbed just these five lessons deeply into their operating psyche?
All of this makes me wonder why more companies don’t get it - why they don’t truly implement the high-sounding platitudes and pronouncements that litter their flashy brochures and walls.
I have two questions for you, dear readers:
- When is the last time you had an exceptional customer service experience like mine in this example?
- What can you do in your business, job, or career to be like the staff at the hotel Forty Seven in Rome?
(Please share your responses in the comment section below. I want to hear them!)
Thanks for participating!