Thursday, November 23, 2017

Is everything good?

"Is everything good?"
Have you noticed that this question is quite often just a formality?  Same as "How are you?" The person actually does not worry about your wellbeing. He/she is rather polite and expects a "Fine. Thank you. And you?"

Recently we had a hotel manager approaching us during the dinner to ask if everything is good. To his surprise we actually had some things to share...:)

We shared both: the points of admiration, and possible points of improvement. First 50 seconds he seemed curious. But that was probably the limit of his attention span...

He started looking how the waiters are performing their jobs, looking at the customers sitting at further tables to make sure he can catch them for a polite chat, etc.

Amazing! Finally you get a client, who wants to take time and share his/her opinion before publishing  it on Tripadvisor, or other online media! But somehow you are not excited about it. Because the initial plan was to make a walk around all the tables in 3 minutes, and suddenly you have already spent 4 at the very first.

When we ask a question let's be prepared to hear and actively listen to an answer.
  • Be open to hear the feedback
  • Take time to ask for creative ideas
  • Take time and consider the reasoning behind 
  • Be engaged
  • Ask Why? How? What if not? 
While collecting all of the information, you  obtain a bunch of more specific questions to ask your other guests. This helps you test if the concept voiced by the first clients is a unique case or it  builds up into a trend.  

This is hands-on market research. 
Extremely cost effective and time saving.
It allows you solving multiple issues before they become troubles. It allows you coming with new concepts, inspired from your customers. And what is going to make them more loyal, than knowing that the way you are today is thanks to the ideas you shared last time? 

It may be more time consuming than just a polite chat, but it will result in a tangible impact, rather than a "check mark" on your To-Do List. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Parents dining

Many young parents will tell you that they forgot what it means to have a romantic dinner, or even what it means having a slow and relaxing one.

Dinner becomes the equivalent of consuming enough calories to play the next few hours with your kid before getting him/her to sleep.

The time you have to enjoy equals to the time the kid eats- about five minutes. After that you start changing: first you play and your partner eats, then the other way around J

Imagine my surprise and gratitude, when few days ago as the little one happily told us that he finished eating, and escaped from his chair, he was met by the restaurant staff who started showing him around and playing with him. As I approached to them the magic words followed: “Don’t worry, he is in good hands. Please, enjoy the dinner!”

WOW J I have never before heard such a message. This is when I thought that somebody geniunely takes care about the parents, and their small special moments. And it does not matter at all how long were they able to entertain the little one, the mere intention is just priceless. Thank you!

Monday, November 6, 2017


People move in life, people change jobs. They navigate and try new things.

Every time a person comes into a new place he dives from one culture into another and changes by his presence the shape of the current team.

What if the newcomer is coming from a company with extremely high customer service background?
For him, joining a good company with just good customer service attitudes, will be frustrating, because he knows, it is not enough and he knows how much distance is there between good customer service and an extraordinary one.

A manager will notice the frustration quite soon. And here she has a choice:

  •  If the company aims to be customer focused, use the opportunity to “import the knowledge and skills”. Give the newcomer a chance and authority to be an official/or unofficial coach for the rest of the team. Allow him to be an example and an inspiration to set new standards.
  •  Or maybe the company aims to be customer focused, but allowing a newcomer to bring in new standards, seems dangerous to manager’s authority, so she will prefer avoiding any change.
  • If the company focuses on cost saving and average service, the newcomer will become very soon demotivated.  The outperformer will be seen as a disturbing point for the company culture. In this case the person will either remain an idealist, urging for the extraordinary; or will assimilate and accept the lower standards

Last summer we’ve been on holidays, and on our last dinner had a chat with the waiter about his plans for the winter time. There is a holiday for 4 months between October and February in Portugal.

He was glowing with joy and told that next week would be his last day in the hotel, so he made some savings and booked a trip to Asia. He was eager to travel around and then probably look for a place to work, with “higher service standards”.

This surprised me a lot, as we were sitting in a very pleasant place so I started asking what he found wrong.

“You know this is so annoying. I used to work on cruise ships. There you have to put the fork on the table in X way and no other. Here you can put it in A, B or C way and nobody cares. What they expect you here is to work quickly and not loose time chatting with customers J

It was amazing to see how emotional he could get about the topic.

“Many people in this place work since its opening, and it’s about 20 years. On one hand this is great, but they became so confident that what they are doing is right, that they are not open to any new concepts. They just keep doing the things the way they used to,  just to feel safe”

Apparently, that place was too traditional to him. So, there is another more possibility:

  • The member will look for a different team or maybe choose in favour of a freelance activity to test if his assumptions about what is good for the customer and business are right. Certainly, some consulting projects start like this

We say: employees are our key asset. The question is what will we do with a service-overqualified asset? Would we empower him to contaminate us with his urge for growth? Would we ignore his virtues or maybe even try to persuade him that excellency is not a must?

There is no single good answer to this question, as every business needs to decide which level of service will be the best for the strategy and benefit of the company. The only sure thing is that in work field same as in every personal relation, needs to be a good compatibility among the members in order to build a long-term relationship.  

People navigate and try new things- we search for the best fit.

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.