Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kind "services" every day

Customer service is automatically associated with business environment.  We think of clients, suppliers, employees, value, profit, loyalty etc.
But in fact we offer services every day to so many people who are not our clients at all. We support  our friends and family;  we help strangers, we advise tourists when they are lost in our city J
And all this we do without expecting anything in return- just because it is our natural instinct to offer “services”. We want and enjoy being helpful, and realising that we made somebody’s day even a little bit better, easier, happier.
We enjoy giving! As we are very close beautiful holidays, and to the beginning of a New Year…. I would like to share with you a video of how each of us, with minimum effort can give to everybody great “services”.

May every day in this and  the New Year be a chance for small acts of kindness.  And I wish you observe the multiplication and boomerang effect!  Apply it and enjoy the “consequences” in whatever environment: professional and personal.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Listen and act (dealing with complaints)

Often we lose a customer without a visible reason. At least we can’t see it.
It happens because we did not make the effort ask the clients for opinion. And they did not bother to tell us. They just decided not to come back.

If your customers took time to complain directly to you …
ü  they want you to become better
ü  they like your company, and do not want “just to leave”
ü  they are asking you to improve, in order to enjoy coming back to you again and again.
So, be grateful- you were given a chance to learn something new and advance.

But if they did not complain to you, it does not mean they are happy. And it does not mean they did not tell their friends about it... In US the percentage of consumers reporting bad customer experience has reached 13 percent, up from 5 percent in 2009. It became so easy, thanks to social media. And the message reaches far more people than ever before.

Look actively for feedback. Search online what opinions customers share about you... And respond: literally- communicate with your clients and report your further actions. Surprisingly very few companies do that: 70% of companies ignore customer complaints on Twitter. So, take your chance and make a difference! Show the customers that their opinion counts and you cannot ignore it. 

Nowadays we have more mediums to communicate with customers. There is no excuse to lose the opportunity to listen and act. Give your customers a reason to come back to you!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Don’t close the door in front of a friend

We use to say/hear: client is our boss- meaning that we “have to” serve him/her… It’s our job, our duty.  It is not fun, just routine.
Why not change this attitude?
Why not treat your client as your friend or guest? We treat them in the best way because:
·         We like our friends
·         We want to have a nice time together
·         And afterwards we want to share beautiful memories.
Offer this feeling to your customer as well.  
Do not close your door in front of the customer.
If your working day ends in 5 minutes, and you see a new customer coming in
 “Sorry we are closing” is not the right thing to say (this is not friendly). This is not what they expect and wish to hear.
Clients came to you for a purpose- they need your help, advice/product, service. They count on your support, and chose you out of all the competition.
So, why not being grateful for their choice?  Why not offer the help they need? Why not make a difference?
 Yes, stay longer, work harder, and deliver more than “in the job contract”. 
This way you show you are there especially for them. Yes, you deserve their trust. They can rely on you …. You are on the right path to become Friends.
Because you like them, and you care, you want them to feel good, and to come back.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Deliver Wow through Service

Zappos is an online shop, famous for its customer service, for its transparency and open communication. Zappos acts, grows and develops based on 10 Core Values
And the first one of them is Deliver Wow through Service.
“You must do something that's above and beyond what's expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver”
This attitude pays off incredibly: Any WOW service results in word of mouth, increased credibility and loyalty!
In this short video the Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, shares one of the elements of delivering great customer service
Amazing… Sometimes it is worth doing things against the general trend.
While most of the companies focus on “optimisation”, cutting costs (cutting clients) and standardisation, Zappos chooses the opposite way:  We don’t measure call time, trying to get customers off the phone in the name of efficiency”
How often it happens to call “customer service” and listen to a machine for 5 minutes telling us which buttons to press?…. And if we are Lucky… probably get connected to a Person.
And then we listen to a standard set of “advice” feeling that the primary goal of the person on the other end is to finish the conversation fast and record one more issue “solved”.

So glad to know that somebody makes it differently!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A bit different

Customers’ experience is greatly influenced by the small things and details companies offer.

Hairsalon Ch'veux

We all go shopping; go out to spend our free time to different places. But usually we prefer Some places and go there more frequently – because they have something special.
A new beauty salon was opened in Ghent. One of the many… but a bit different!
Yes, it has a modern design, comfortable furniture, many decoration attributes-just as many others do.
…And something more…  It has a bar- the place is specially designed for the partners of the clients. While She gets ready to start a new day beautiful, HE can enjoy a hot cup of coffee with croissants, and read a newspaper.
He does not have to wait outside- he is also the client of the salon!
When designing you offer: think how it integrates in the life of your customer.  It would be highly appreciated. They will feel you care…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Because they love it

I am really impressed how much people are willing to devote their Free Time to others.
Just because they want to help, just because they want to leave a good impression….
Simply because you are a tourist, and they want you to remember them as wonderful, outgoing people.  Even if they know, that most probably we will not meet again.
Recently while walking with a friend around the city of Ghent, Belgium we noticed an interesting building. When we approached the door, saw a sign: open from 13.00. I looked at the watch –it was around 12.00….
I just started thinking “Pity…” when a man came to the door, opened it and told:  “We are closed now…. But you can come in! - I will show you the place”

 -In Middle Ages the building was a hospital, and now functioned as a Concert Hall. The person told us the story of the building and showed the backstage- wonderful impression! I probably would not have a chance to know it, if not the inspiring guide.
We left the building with the concert programme for the coming year in hands…  I am sure that will visit this place again, already as spectators.
A huge “Thank you!” to all those people who love and feel attached to the place where they work! Thank you for giving us a chance to learn and for sharing you passions!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dealing with complaints

Some 2 weeks ago I had for the first time the nice experience to write a complaint. The heel of my new shoes broke in 2 not very attractive pieces J  No doubts I was very disappointed…
So… I went to the shop: guessing what explanation would the shop assistant try to find to reject the complaint (unfortunately there are so many stories when companies just don’t accept their products back- affirming that they were used improperly…)
And here comes the nice surprise: the shop assistant carefully looks at the shoe and says:
“Oooh, I see you also have the leather a bit damaged here” … and he shows me a one millimeter scratch on the other shoe J
Great trick which made me laugh!
I guess I could accept this defect if the heel would be a whole piece
In a minute the assistant wrote the description of the problem took my phone number and asked me to wait patiently for the decision whether the shoes would be changed or repaired…
That’s it! 10 minutes and excellent mood when leaving the shop.
Many thanks for such a professional behavior. I guess the policy of the company could serve a great example:
1.      The assistant accepted that such unpleasant situation may rarely but happen
2.      The assistant made me laugh and totally left no chance for frustration to be part of our talk
3.      The  assistant assured that the problem will be solved… and suggested two possible solutions
4.      The assistant gave me a deadline when should I expect a call from the company
So simple…. It is extremely important to be kind to the customers, help them and positively surprise when they come ready to face some problems….
Astonish them with your solution, and be sure they will come back… No more stress- just satisfaction!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A hotel is a “home away from home”

Wojciech Debski shared his philosophy on successful hotel management.
He was associated with the Marriott in 1989 – 2001.
He has worked in countries such as USA, Bermuda, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, managed hotels in Kazakhstan and Poland.
Currently Wojciech Desbski is the General Manager of three hotels belonging to the Louvre Golden Tulip Hotels & Group
On the most important element of the success
The hotel provides services for people by people. The most important in hospitality business is appropriate staff.
It has to be receptive, friendly, warm, accommodating… but first of all they need to like people.  Because you can not teach people smile… Your staff is 80% of success the remaining 20 are cleanliness, loyalty programs, etc.
There are people who radiate with happiness. Sometimes they are even not aware of it. It’s the role of the leader to wake them up!
On treating the customer
I have 3 different hotels under one roof. These are economical hotels. One of them after the conversion to Golden Tulip will become a 4 Star. The owner asked "what do we need to fulfill to become a 4* hotel." And there are certain rules, legal requirements that you have to fulfill, the variety of services you have to provide, and also building wise, let’s put it this way…

I also got a question, from head of Human resources: "Will we have to do special training for the staff to be a 4* Hotel?" And honestly I was shocked by that question coming from human resources. Because in my philosophy, because this is the only truth that can be in this business: whether its 1*, 2*, 3*, 4*or 5* Hotel you treat your customer the same way.

You can not treat your customer differently in 1* Hotel, I mean servicewise. The customer is a customer. He pays your salary. And you are in the hospitality business: whether you are in the 1 star hotel you treat them in the same way as in Marriott: you smile, you show them respect, you are hospitable. You do not make a difference. I guess this is what Marriott gave me. The principles I was taught during training in Marriott will always stay with me. The learning that we took from our first tutors, teachers- this will carry on in other jobs. And very often we hit the wall when we try to change other people, because they don’t understand.

On being a sales person
Actually every person in the hotel is a sales person: From the doorman through the waiter, to the general manager.
The waiter who greets you in a restaurant would not offer you only water; he should try to serve you wine, cocktail, food... And if you order food, again he should insist that you take wine, vodka, whatever. 

The bellman who takes you up to the room, on the way to the room should sell your food and beverage outlets, should sell you additional services. Every one of us is selling the product.

On First Ten
In the middle of 90’s we came up with a program called first 10. First 10 are the first 10 seconds of your experience in the hotel. How you start it? - You tell all the departments that they are the most important departments in the hotel. They are all important for different reasons.
The first 10 seconds of experience are crucial for his/her stay in the hotel.
From this perspective who is the most important? - A doorman! From the doorman to the bellman to the front desk.
If the guest experience is great, then even if in the restaurant they will get not that good food they are ready to excuse you, they are happy. But if the first 10 experience is bad then the whole stay is bad.

Very often guests’ the flight was late, they have to queue up to get a taxi, and they come to the hotel already desperate, they are angry. And this is really a huge role of these people to diffuse the stress.

Usually in this business you try to build a portfolio of repeated customers, you build relationships. So you have to answer yourself: "Who builds relationship, the beautiful marble floor or your receptionist?" This is what you should focus on.

On breakfast experience

When you (the guest) get up in the morning you already hate the day, because you have to go to work. So it is very important that your breakfast experience is something which will set your mode for the whole day. 
These are economical hotel, but still we create them for business people, for middle business, or for bigger companies, but also there the big chiefs go to the 5*, 4* middle management staff are going to these hotels.

People are coming to work and in the evening they very often have negotiations that end up in the restaurant. They drink…-it’s human.
So in the morning when they have to get up and suffer from hangover, they go to the restaurant and they want a good coffee, they want somebody smiling, they want a variety of food on the buffet. They want to eat quickly; they don’t want to wait, because they are already late, because they overslept. And there is a whole chain of things. And you can achieve it only with happy staff.

On cost of doing business
Every Year there is GMs convention where people come from all over the world. So Bill Marriott comes on the stage and says: "Listen 98 % of you guests are honest, 2 % are cheat, but this is cost of doing business. Stop policing them" I love this attitude.
I had a front desk manager at Marriott, and he would not let go. Very often there are certain kind of customers that always want to get something for free. They pay 10K dollar bill but they want to get a 100 dollar taken off of their bill.
So lets say if the guy comes to the front desk and he is disputing his telephone charges for 200 USD, the whole bill is 5000.Here is the situation: this guy would not let go, he’d say: "No, but you made this call" So the client would ask: "Get me somebody higher". And I would come down listen to him and say "Ok, take it off his bill".
On the knowledge your boss may have
Then the manager would get frustrated, he says “I look stupid, i said No! No! No!"…
There will be situations when you will say "No! No! No!" and the manager will come down and say "Yes!" There will be situations when I will say “No! No! No!” my boss will come and will say "Yes". This is life!
But on the other hand these 200 dollars... Your 40 minutes is much to me is worth much more that these dollars. Don’t do it! Your time is much more valuable for me.
But sometimes there are people that don’t see beyond their desk.  You boss may have the knowledge that  you do not possess and he may know, for example,  this customer is gonna bring in 2 months time business worth 200K dollars. There are things and things that you have to take in consideration.
On  overbooking …
There was a time when the company said:  “We want you 100% sold out every night, regardless of the price. “ This means that you overbook the hotel, and you pray to God that somebody does not come.J That’s the frustration!
You play with percentages, you build the history of your hotel, and you build your market.  As I mentioned before usually the guess is expecting problems, it’s the way how you resolve the problem, helps to turn your failure into a victory.
…and dealing with problems
I will remember to the end of my days one guy from the World bank, which was one of our biggest customers, that was a guy coming from US. That was one of the guests which I had to walk to another hotel. Of course he “played golf with Mr. Marriot, he knows Mr. Marriott; he will talk to Mr. Marriott to get me fired. I am a nobody, I am just a lowlife!”…
On his next visit I used to be behind the front desk. We were very busy, and there was a huge line, and this guy was at the end of the line. And I look at him, big smile and I waved my hand, and I shout through the lobby: “Welcome back Mr. Singh!” So the whole line turned around…. The guy was my best friend since then on. Everybody new how important he was, he got recognized. Since then on I could have walked him to 1* hotel and he would not even speak. We became buddies…. Because he felt important!
On being able to say “No”
It’s very important not to be shy to say “No” to the customer.  But you cannot say it straightforward. When the customer comes to you and requests something that you now you cannot give, you never say “No!”. You say: “Sir, Ma’m- let me double check!”
You are going to the back, you count to 20 you come back and say: “Sir, I’m extremely sorry but we cannot do that”. If you say straightforward No, they get angry. Nobody likes a straight forward No. They want to feel that you make an effort that you really try to do something for them. Or you say “Unfortunately we can not do that but…” and then you come with another solution, an alternative.
The worst think you can do-to say “No”, you turn around and you walk away.
On making it look effortless
The majority of GMs in the big chains started as a waiter or as a cook. And to become a good chef is years of schooling. Right now it’s a science! It’s a rocket science. And the same thing is in hotel management with all the materials which you have to use for carpets, curtains- it’s a whole science. The way you maintain them, they can not be flammable…etc. 
But the trick is in a good run hotel a customer should think it’s easy, it’s the natural way, effortless. They should not know what an effort it is behind the scene.
In many restaurants on the exit to the dining room there is a sign “You’re going on stage”. The customer does not care that we are tired, that it is hot in the kitchen… Smile! You are entering the stage.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Recipe for a fantastic restaurant

Recently I visited a very nice restaurant. It was full, but still had the nice, calm and relax atmosphere; very friendly and helpful staff. It was a great experience. The first thought was: great job, I would like to talk with the manager of the place….

When I told abut the place to my friend (real estate specialist), the automatic question was: How did you get to this place, it is a “dead point” in Zlote Tarasy, and you say that it was full?
At that point I could not find a specific explanation, but after talking with the owner of the place it became obvious.(here is the full version of the interview)
Here are 9 lessons from Halina Obrycka:
1.      Adjust your offer to your client. Even if something works perfectly and is very popular abroad, it is not a guarantee for success in the local market.
I always try to prepare the dishes, which I know polish people will accept
“But here I have to take care about Polish guests, who behave totally different”
“When we opened the restaurant the idea was to keep all the food in the bar area, but Polish people are not used to it… so now I will introduce it step by step”
2.      Offer something attractive for every group of clients
       “We have a business area around us and every day I change the lunch menu”
       “And what is really fantastic for me, sometime we have Spanish people coming here, only for    visiting Poland, and they come the whole week to our restaurant”
       “But also we have lots of people from the railway station, waiting for their trip… Of course these are not regular clients, but for them the idea of Spanish food is very good, as we can offer it in a short time”
3.      Instead of worrying about competition do your best
“It is not that I do not care about what are they doing, but I do my job. My way of doing is to do my best to keep this place on the nice level”

4.      Always experiment, bring something new
“We always try to implement new ideas to make the place more attractive…Yesterday we started    with another new idea, offered Spanish sport channel… Yesterday was really fantastic! It was very nice, but I don’t want to make a sport restaurant, I just want to introduce some variation. “
5.      Keep in touch with the clients
“I have huge base of e-mail addresses, so every time something is organized we let people know”
“I try to connect with clients every week”

6.      Form a qualified team
Waiters: “Everybody who comes and starts must have some training. We work with new people very hard. We show how we want them to work”
   “In my opinion the most important thing is the service, and waiters must assure it. Clients should feel good here and be happy as they spend nice time”
            Managers: “They are responsible for the whole stuff necessary for managing the restaurant.”  
                  “Yes, I trust them and I am quite happy”
         Chefs: “I also have very nice staff in the kitchen, I like them very much, and I know that they   are responsible.”
                 I already know from Spanish people that we have really good Spanish food, so I am happy with it.”
7.      Respect your team and be on the field with them
       “This is the most important for me: I respect them; I have nice relation with them”
       “If there is lots of work and the restaurant is crowded I work together with them at the same level”
8.      There is always place for improvement
“I never rest! I see that everything is fine but I must do more, and I always think about improving the place, about finding new ideas.”
9.      Focus on quality rather than quantity
“I want only one- I am sure! In my opinion you can not manage 2 or 3 places at the same level. …I prefer to have one place but good and nice”
And here comes the result of all efforts:
“You know, I have some people who come from the very beginning, I have some couples that come every Saturday-this is nice! So I do not need to ask them whether they like it. I just always take care about the guests; I try to remember their preferences.”
“I know because they told me that for them it is very important that they feel comfortable here. They know that we take care, and they come for favorite dishes”.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thank you for great service!

As clients we always expect a good approach, attention, and professional help. However we know this is not a must. This knowledge is based on our past experience. Often we remember negative incidents much stronger, and recall them easier.
With this baggage of awareness we come into a shop, a service company, a restaurant, etc… and we are astonished… because we get extraordinary service! It feels good… and customers may be very grateful for this experience!
My friend shares her experience of working in service sector:
“...Everybody likes to get attention from those to whom we devote our time. In a natural way client expects attention from a manager, and vice a versa… if the managers' work deservers clients’ praise- nobody will refuse it.
Chocolates, pens, souvenirs, greeting cards with “thank you” words- all these are well known to professionals in service industry. My small but very nice experience as a restaurant hall manager also had such pleasant moments.
The most important in this job was the opportunity to meet new people and make friends. The most striking example comes to my mind...
Once a nice couple from Russia, who already became our regular clients (which is basically the most anticipated form of praise and gratitude), asked me for advice in the choice of excursions, agencies or tour guides in the area where restaurant was (a small prestigious resort in Croatia).
It was just the beginning of my work there, and I even did not know whom to recommend. So, I called my friends, Russian speaking tour guides, who have lived in those places and asked to help me. It turned out that they were the best guides for the day on the coast.
A bit of randomness, some of my personal time, and extra effort: in exchange- an infinite number of gratitude words from clients.
Besides the fact that these people remained our regular customers, they loved those places even more and came every year, always bringing to me and the restaurant owners gifts, never forgetting to praise me to extremes. Moreover they became my and the tour guides friends, which is especially valuable.
But the greatest gift from them was a trip to the mountains. It gave me the opportunity to relax, explore the country and see its beauty…
Sunset in the mountains was so beautiful, and atmosphere so friendly-that these memories will be alive for long time.

In my opinion this kind of gifts and attention from our customers, in gratitude for our efforts, are a particularly strong motivation for performance and over-performance of our duties"
I am sure that each of us experienced an outstanding customer service. How do you express your appreciation?