Can you keep a secret? Don’t tell management.
Paul Cooper tells the story of some underground customer service.
A few months ago I was speaking at a conference in North Wales, and decided to stay on a few days in Llandudno with my wife.
On the first day, through no fault of the hotel, it was pouring with rain. Their car park was around the back of the hotel, a 200-300-yard walk around the outside to get there. I had no umbrella so I asked at reception if there was a back way out to the car park.
“No,” was the extensive, considered, and comprehensive reply from a lady who had no other customers to attend to. “Umbrella then?” I asked. A look that said don’t even bother asking was the succinct reply.
As I could picture the layout of the ground floor of the hotel, I found this a little strange, so I mentioned it to the porter who had been really helpful when we checked in. “Is there a back way out to the car park?” I ventured.
“Yes,” he said. He then personally led me through the staff quarters and the kitchens to a door, which he opened, right next to my car!
In the evening, my wife and I were settled comfortably in the bar area. Large, wide windows overlooked the beach and coastline in both directions, the sun had come out and it was bliss. A little later, ready to eat, I asked the waitress if we could have our dinner at this table, rather than in the dining room. She said she’d ask at reception. Uh-oh!
The reply was in the negative, probably an elaboration of the earlier “No”.
We were a bit downcast, but I spotted our trusty porter, now dressed in a waiter’s outfit, and called him over. “It’s a lovely evening,” I said, “so we were wondering if we could have our dinner here rather than in the dining room.”
“Yes,” he replied, and went off to get the cutlery, glasses, etc.
The meal was lovely. Our waiter served us all evening, professionally and personally, and we extended our stay at the window until the sun went down.
I spotted our “friend” still at work and called him over. I told him about the “no” lady on reception and asked him how he managed to swing it for us to stay at the table.
“Simple,” he said. “You were happy where you were, and you are the customer. I just went into the kitchen and ordered your meal for table 14 in the restaurant. I knew we wouldn’t be full tonight. When anything came out for table 14 I picked it up and brought it here. I hope you had a nice evening!”
When I came down the next morning to check out, I was full of an idea to speak to the manager and praise our “friend”. But then I started to think a little.
If I had read this hotel right, I could get the guy fired!!
At first hand we had seen personal initiative, going against procedures, ignoring the line of command, health and safety breaches (must have been in there somewhere!), and going the extra mile. Looks like a case for instant dismissal.
And how sad. I spend my life preaching to people how to get these things right, surprise and delight customers, do special things, be different, care and so much more. But when we experience it in the flesh, which happens so rarely, I daren’t speak up.
Of course, I sought him out that morning, thanked him again, and gave him a nice tip, which I am convinced is not why he did these things. I also hoped, secretly, that he would find a new position somewhere else, where this sort of openly rebellious great customer service would be appreciated.
So, if any of you catch yourself in a position where you could perhaps do a little more for the customer but your organisation’s rules or procedures might get in the way, do it anyway!
Up the revolution!
Paul A Cooper is a Director at Customer Plus