Saturday, March 5, 2016

Book review

Being a full time mom makes you focus almost completely on your baby. The danger is that one might forget even about topics she is excited about.

Probably this is what my husband gave me for the Birthday "The New Gold Standard" book about Ritz-Carlton hotels.

He knew that such an incentive, supported by the comment "This is the book my hiring manager recommended to me as one of the best practical reads about customer service" will not leave me indifferent. And he was striking right. I used every spare moment to read, even if my energy level allowed me just 7 pages before the eyes shamelessly closed to sleep.

Surprisingly such a slow path of reading, with very limited portion of information a time has its benefits:

  • I was highly concentrated into every piece of reading. 
  • It allowed time to analyse the information, during other routine activities. 
  • It made me more agile in connecting some of the concepts from the book with the business cases discussed with Alex, parents, friends starting a new business.

Slow reading seems to be just like slow food. You focus on the details, enjoy the serving, and feel all the nuances of the taste. Slow reading is a luxury.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely!

It is full of interview fragments with people from every layer of the organisation. It is a pleasure to read the words of people who are proud to be associated with a brand.

Every business concept described is supported by several anecdotes, from different parts of the world. This helps you avoid the thinking trap "Of course, this perfectly works in US, but my country is another story...."

It is impregnated with the drive for perfection. This concept of being the best ever is repeating all over again so intensively, that it becomes contagious to the reader.

In fact, when reading how well Ritz-Carlton is doing things, I caught myself several times thinking- "This sounds like a fairy tale, it is too good to be truth". But the understanding that this is a non-fiction book, makes you happy that reality can be so Fantastic.

If you are an entrepreneur, building up your dream- read this book as a benchmark.
If you are a manager- implement the practices to make your company more successful in the long run
If you are an employee, this may be a nice idea for a present to your manager ;)

P.S. Many thanks to Alex for the strong information impulse. May it have an impressive impact!

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Airlines, similar to hotels, sometimes overbook their flights. Usually there is a percentage rate of clients who do not show up. But every rule has an exception.

Could be an unpleasant scenario- but I loved how Lufthansa deals with it. In a short period of time I heard two such stories from friends.

Case 1.
  • The flight NewYork - Frankfurt is very popular, most of the passengers being on business trips.
  • The business class was overbooked. 
  • The staff asked if somebody would like to move to the economy class

Our friend accepted, and enjoyed the business-class service a few rows in the back in the sweet expectation of a cash reimbursment upon arrival. 

Case 2.
  • A local flight: Dusseldorf- Munich is a very popular one and occurs several times per day.
  • The flight is overbooked. 
  • The staff asked if somebody would like to wait two hours till the next flight 

Our friends flying on holidays heard an announcement and agreed to spend the time in the business class lounge, dreaming how they could spend the reimbursement Lufthansa offered to book their next vacations.

Overbooking is rather an exception-but we remember most the exceptional situations, especially if the company deals so nicely with them. Clients will always be glad to help if the compensation is higher than the inconvenience.

I don't remember hearing people more excited about an airline, than in these circumstances. Both friends told us their stories with such a great enthusiasm, that made me sure- we are not the only ones who will hear it. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

They are not very friendly here

Weihenstephan, Freising
It is already a tradition to go with the guests visiting us in Freising to the  restaurant of the oldest brewery in the world . The place has a special flavour. Very spacious, traditional and positively loud with happy people around. And usually the guests find the WeiƟbier very tasty ;)

Recently we have been there with our friends from Aachen. The menus were brought  immediately, and five minutes later appeared the waiter eager to write our order.

"- They are not very friendly here." came an automatic comment as the lady left

Actually, there was no sign of conflict or ignorance - the waiter was polite, focused but quite in a hurry.

"- Right, but very efficient!"

Indeed, it is expected here that you surely know what you want, and want to get it quickly.
It is amazing to follow the speed of the waiters running around and serving a huge number of clients.  How they achieve it?  -No redundant movements, words, jokes etc. Efficiency comes first.

I never though that I would say this, but this type of "imperfect" service fits well in this place :) It is not the best restaurant to ask for dish recommendations or expect some gourmet food, but the traditional choice "Sausage and beer" will always be the right one.

Efficiency comes at the price of friendliness, which is considered time-consuming luxury. A strange business model, but the business is successful. Surprising? Yes!

Maybe because the clients know "the rules of the game". They know what they come for: tasty local food, authentic atmosphere, picturesque view. As soon as these requirement are met, clients are happy and ready to return. We like as well to play this game from time to time. And you?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"I will make an exception for you"

Same words may evoke different feelings. It all depends on the tone of voice and the expression they are pronounced with.  

Example: To assure a standard level of service and higher efficiency companies set rules and procedures. But if a situation does not fit the standard case, the human factor comes in, and we may hear: "I will make an exception for you"

These words can have very different meanings: 
Either you demonstrate that it is a huge effort for you, but unfortunately you feel uncomfortable to refuse the customers request or you show your sympathy - sometimes the circumstances are higher than the standard scenarios- and you sincerely want to be helpful.

The choice is yours! Choose your tone, choose your expression, choose your smile.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lost and Found

Case A: In January my parents were on vacations in Czech Republic (Marianske Lazne), and one of the days made a city trip to Prague. It was beautiful and sunny. Only few days later, on the way to Moldova, my mom realised that she lost her sunglasses, and most probably forgot them in the tour-bus.

It took two phone calls to realise that the glasses are indeed in the tourist company and two more to figure out that the company is not able to send them by post to me in Germany, because it costs money. Even though I suggested making a bank transfer to pay the service, the answer was No, because the company did not have such a product category as post deliveries in they offer. ...

Case B: Last week we were to our first mini-holidays with the baby in Obersdorf, Germany. We came back on Friday and realised that we forgot the bottle warmer for the baby food in the hotel. Don't ask me how that happened- it is a pretty big and visible machine :) As it is a simple/cheap device but necessary everyday, we bought a new one the same day. I just started wondering on Tuesday, why we did not get any call from the hotel, when somebody rang the door bell and I saw the post officer holding a box from the hotel :) Thank you!

Sometimes we do not need multiple steps. We like so much sending e-mails and discussing things. But sometimes we need to Just Do It! The action will speak for itself! The parcel was the best way to show us that the hotel cares about its clients. Fast, modest and competent!

And regarding the tourist company- It is worth being careful about your cost, but maybe you are saving on the wrong thing?

Small things make a big difference!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The person in front of you

While mostly focusing on how we are being treated as clients it is worth looking at our interactions from another side as well. How do we treat the people offering us a service?

Do we take any time and emotional effort to make those who take care of our comfort, to feel appreciated? We rarely know who stays behind the counter. But, there is always an opportunity to change it. All you need is willingness!
For example: Remember that moment when the doorman comes with you to carry your luggage and show the room.  Here we have a choice: either to walk in awkward silence, or take the chance and be interested, ask a question? Do they have a good day, do they like their job, how long do they work in the place?
The effect may be magnificent. You are almost guaranteed a smile. Surprisingly, in most cases the service received will contain a small extra J Just because…Although there are clear rules about the service to be delivered, the human factor is incredibly impactful…Everybody appreciates attention.
Next time, when you have a chance to meet a new person, take a while to learn a bit about them. Everybody has its unique story and ideas. Let’s rush a bit less and try to listen to them.

I wish we are more willing to bring some human touch and sympathy to our interactions. Let’s try!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Making the best choice

The famous Jam experiment is frequently used to prove that too much choice makes customers unhappy. But maybe, the problem is not about having too much choice, but rather having too little chance to learn about the options.

In a big variety of choice, the thing you mostly need is an expert able to “help” you make the right choice. The expert may be anybody, whose opinion is trustworthy in a certain area: strategic consultant, account manager, sales person in a fashion store, or the gardener you buy flowers from. A customer may need an expert opinion in most unusual situations. For example: Do you know how to buy chocolate?  

Preparing for the visit home, of course I wanted to bring some Belgian chocolates. My path led to one of the chocolatiers… Faced with all the variety, I looked at the sales person… and met an understanding smile.
She took time to explain me: all the terms related to the ingredients and types of pralines, also shared which chocolates are traditional for Belgium and which are house speciality.
Additionally, asking what occasion I needed the chocolates for, she could “help me choose” the present (in fact she just told me what would be best to take) … And I left the shop so joyful; being sure that I will bring home the "best chocolate I could choose" J

…. In another case my friend and I have just visited a store selling chocolate with “strange” flavours: vinegar, chilli, beer, ham, cheese etc.  We were extremely excited…. and lost  J So, we asked for advice and received, as my friend described it later: “a reflection of the unwillingness of the seller to make any compromises... because then, we would judge her opinion and taste:
“They are all good or depending on your taste.”  To be honest, no idea if we prefer chocolate with beer or cheese taste. We felt like the person was neither interested in helping us nor in selling. Quite a disappointment!

Realising that we did not buy the best possible product makes the customer feel unhappy. They lost the chance of trying something special. I wish all the professionals facing customers (consultant, account manager, sales assistant) are indeed experts in their area. In that case, please, do express your opinion and preferences. Your customers will feel you really take care of them, willing to recommend them the best you may offer.

Experiencing the top product/service, the customers will probably come back eager to try your “special offers”. That is the moment you have a chance not to scare, but to delight them with a lot of choice.