Four Lessons ALL Businesses Can Learn From a 5-Star Resort

Have you ever experienced service so pure that you could literally feel it? Service that is unpretentious, unrestrictive, unscripted, yet seamless and professional all at the same time. Even as a service consultant, it would have been difficult for me to imagine that such a caliber of service could exist so flawlessly and naturally. I am referring to a recent memorable experience during a trip to the Ayana Resort & Spa in Bali. I wish that I could pack up a few of the staff and take them around the world with me so they can show everyone what excellence, humility and professionalism look like. Everything from the shuttle driver offering chilled face cloths, to a framed photo (of my family) in the villa, the attention-to-detail was inspiring. Here are four quick lessons that anyone, in any industry, can learn from them.

Expect Perfection

There is no question in my mind that the staff at Ayana is very proud of their property and the service that they provide. Since the team has so much pride in what they do, it makes sense that, for them, good is never good enough. Even if 99 out of 100 guests have a stellar service experience, the staff will  listen, empathize, fix, and follow-up to ensure that the disappointed guest is happy from that moment on. Striving to be perfect is not a disappointing activity (that some cynical observers may label as “pointless”). On the contrary, there is an obvious difference in how diligently one prepares, when the goal is to score 100%. Think about students who are studying for a test. Those students who have made up their mind to get every question correct actually score 100% more often than students who study just to pass. In fact, students who study for, and expect to receive a 100% are actually quite disappointed (even shocked), if they receive anything less.

*Takeaway: Develop the habit of preparing for and expecting a 100% flawless service experience every day, for every customer, at every touchpoint. You and your team might be astonished at the results.

Be Thankful

To understand the Ayana Resort & Spa’s service quality, it is important to appreciate the “thankful” nature of the Balinese culture. Balinese people are used to giving thanks multiple times per day for such things as food, shelter, health, and life. Most people I know take those things for granted and have a sense of entitlement, as if such things are owed to them. I believe that there is a strong linkage between being thankful and delivering great service. I am not inferring that being thankful is the ultimate panacea to cure the world’s customer service woes, but I do see a strong relationship between the two.

Start your day (everyday) by being genuinely thankful for life, food, shelter, and clothing. Being thankful and appreciative removes the entitlement factor that can dilute the ability to genuinely be of service to others. Entitlement is a selfish characteristic because the focus is on yourself. It is difficult to be focused on yourself AND give engaging service to others at the same time. So, regularly ask yourself, “What am I thankful for?” and “What would life be like if I did not have those things?

*Takeaway: Always be appreciative of the opportunity to be of service and to positively impact someone else’s day (or life).

Connect the Touchpoints…Seamlessly

As you will recall from my earlier articles, a touchpoint is any interaction between the customer and the business. The Ayana team did an amazing job of connecting the touchpoints so there was never a moment where I felt lost or not taken care of. For example, allow me to share my spa experience at the resort.

  • As I approached the front desk, the staff was smiling, as if they had been waiting all day just to see me (keep in mind that the resort was 98% full at the time).
  • I was warmly greeted, then was escorted to the spa’s open-air welcome lounge, where I was offered a seat and a delicious “welcome” drink (a cold hibiscus beverage).
  • Shortly thereafter, another attendant brought me a short form to complete (standard spa questionnaire that covers health concerns, past spa visits, allergies, etc).
  • Next, I was taken to the locker room entrance, where another attendant eagerly awaited. He directed me to my assigned locker, explained the locker operation and asked me to change into my spa gear (robe, slippers).
  • I was then escorted out of the locker room to meet the massage therapist, who was smiling of course (seriously… I have never seen so many happy and smiling people in the same place at the same time).
  • As the therapist brought me to the massage room, he confirmed which massage I was scheduled for and then gave me an articulate overview of that massage’s health benefits.
  • The rest of the spa experience flowed along the same lines.

*Takeaway: Map out the customer experience from start to finish, per department.


Kaizen is a Japanese term that means “improvement”. In the business sense, it is often referred to as having continuous, incremental improvement over time.  Essentially, next month you should be better than you were this month, and next year you should be better than you were this year. In 2010, Ayana Resort’s spa (Thermes Marins Spa) was voted as the #1 spa in the world by Conde Nast Traveller Magazine. Their staff is amazing. In all of my travels, their spa team is second to none; yet, they are constantly looking for ways to improve.  Many people and organizations believe that once you’ve reached a certain level, then there is no longer a need to aggressively learn or seek improvement opportunities. Interestingly, I have found that the people and organizations that are the most eager to  improve, are the ones who are currently the best.  Olympic gold medalists often train harder to win additional gold medals in future Olympics. They believe that anyone can be world-class on any given day. Almost like a fluke. However, it takes dedication, passion, and a strong vision for excellence to create consistent world-class performance.

          *Takeaway: Excellence is not a destination, but an ongoing journey.

Be bold enough to expect perfection, be thankful, connect the touchpoints, and strive for continuous improvement on a daily basis. Don’t try to keep up with the competition, but rather strive to become the benchmark in everything you do. Encourage your team to dream…and dream big. As you assess your team’s current service acumen, it is important to appreciate where you are, but imagine where you could be.

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