There is so much to be said for attentiveness, warmth, and competency. Those three elements have the potential to turn any experience into a 5-star event. As I’ve noted previously, a 5-star experience is not necessarily about having luxurious surroundings. I have experienced world-class service in some of the most unlikely places. That, to me, is the most inspiring part of all. Anyone, in any setting, in any industry CAN provide a memorable service experience (if they really want to).
The Grand Bazaar
During a trip to Istanbul, Turkey I had an opportunity to visit the famous Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It contains over 3000 small shops, and some of the shops are so small that it’s hard to turn around without bumping into something. One clothing store that I entered was similarly small. The store owner gave me a warm welcome, invited me to have a seat (on a box), and offered a complimentary cup of green tea. We had not even discussed me buying clothes yet! I ended up purchasing a leather jacket and a few other items. Give what you can…with what you have.
Something major happened to me when I was still living on St. Thomas, and it helped shape my entire outlook on service. I was a junior in high school, and ended up missing the 6:30AM school bus. Fortunately, I had a few dollars with me, so I walked a few miles to a nearby shopping center, where I knew that “gypsy” taxis would be. Years ago in St. Thomas, we referred to gypsy taxis as any cab that didn’t belong to an official taxi company; basically, anyone with a car who wanted to make a little extra money could be a gypsy taxi. As I approached the shopping center, there was only one driver available. We walked to his car, and I noticed that it looked broken down, with peeling paint. Plus, a headlight was loosened. Then something remarkable happened.
He opened the car door for me (back seat), had a newspaper on the backseat and was very polished (yet warm) in his conversation with me as we drove. He even referred to me as, “Mr. Bryan”. Keep in mind that I was 16 years old at the time. I am now in my mid-thirties and have been chauffeured many times in towncars and other luxury vehicles around the globe. With a few exceptions over the years, I have not come across anyone who is on the caliber of that gypsy taxi driver. Some of the most memorable service is what you deliver from your heart, regardless of the resources you have.
Ultimately, providing great service is a conscious decision. It’s not something that can or should be begrudgingly done. Genuinely engaging service should be heartfelt. It should make the customer feel like you are interested in his/her well-being. No matter how brief the service experience is, customers should feel like their well-being is important to whoever is serving them.
So, how can this all be translated into action steps? We can go through the usual list that contains things like “smile, anticipate needs, follow-up on customer complaints, etc, etc”. Truthfully, a quick Google search can reveal a similar list. Even attentiveness, warmth and competency are fairly common action items. One thing that I’ve noticed that separates some of the best service from the rest is gratitude. Often times, the best service comes from people who exude a strong sense of gratitude. These people are appreciative for not only having a job, but also are happy for the opportunity to serve others. It’s unmistakable. There seems to be an inner-joy that may or not be reflective of their socio-economic place in the world. But the joy that they infuse into their service makes them seem abundantly wealthy. You almost look at them in awe. Even more beautiful, is how they manage to make EVERY customer feel like he/she is the only one being served at the moment.
One of the best things you can do is to acknowledge and celebrate those service superstars when you see them. Chances are that they don’t get nearly the type of recognition that you might expect. If the world had more taxi drivers and Bazaar shop owners like I described, I can’t help but think that the overall level of service worldwide would improve as well.