For various travel reasons too lengthy to explain I ended up flying into Amsterdam for some UK seminars. I didn't realize it was the busiest convention weekend of the year and ended up staying in a "hotel" that was different than any other I have experienced in my 22 years as a road warrior. To call it a "hotel" is really stretching it. I don't think it had any stars. It was more like the kind of place you go with your college buddies, in fact most of the rooms were dorms. I upgraded to a "triple" room, (which was three skinny beds in a dorm room), but it had it's own toilet. That toilet was in the hall and was no bigger than an airplane bathroom, but hey, it was mine! ;-) I also had a "desk" and even a chair. Of course there wasn't enough room to pull the chair out from the desk so I never got to sit in it. No air conditioning or heat, just a good old-fashioned window for ventilation. And it was five flights of narrow winding stairs up to my concierge floor triple room with deluxe external toilet facilities. But there was something about this hotel that was as good if not better than 5 star Ritz Carltons and other resorts where I have performed programs. That was Sarah at the front desk. She was so genuinely welcoming and helpful. From hand writing the train schedule to the wonderful greeting she gave me every time I entered or left. No matter how busy she was she had time to make eye contact and smile. I have stood at the front desk of 5 star hotels waiting for two front desk employees to finish discussing some important piece of business that must have been related to national security because it obviously was more important to them than the Customer. But for Sarah nothing was more important than greeting each guest immediately, even when in the middle of handling multiple requests at the front desk from six college students with backpacks, who turned and looked at me with an expression like, "Dude, Dad's here!"
In my Customer service programs, I ask participants to consider a great service experience and to extract the essence which they can apply to their work. Here's my take on the experience of Sarah.
#1 People make the difference even when the circumstances are not ideal. #2 The quickness of her acknowledging me had an impact. It seemed she understood there was a "moment of truth" and timing was everything. #3 Sarah was genuine. She was not just trained to "use the guests name" and "smile". She was in a genuine state of "welcoming" and it effused from every aspect of her being. #4 She was 100% consistent over the three days I was there.
So what can I learn from this? People make the service difference with speed, genuineness and consistency.
Thank you Sarah for making this trip special. You're a service star! :-)