How To Serve a VIP

When I was a line employee in the hotel business, I would usually be the person assigned to serve the VIP guests. Whether I was a server or a concierge, my managers trusted me to provide exceptional customer service to the CEO’s, celebrities, and royalty that would visit. In my manager’s minds, those guests needed “extra special service”. While I was flattered that my managers thought so highly of my customer service skills, I was always bothered by their assertion that some guests should get “better” treatment than others. In my mind, all of my guests were VIP’s. I truly never made a distinction between how I served the supposed VIP’s and every other guest I had. In my heart, I felt (and still feel) that EVERYONE deserves excellent service, regardless of their socioeconomic status, job title, or any other label. For me, serving the Queen of England is just as honorable as serving Joe Smith, who is on vacation with his family of four.

First Class vs. Coach

As many of you know, I am a frequent traveler and one of the perks of travelling often is being upgraded to the first-class cabin. While I enjoy the larger seats and additional amenities, there is one thing that bothers me: I am often treated much nicer by the flight attendants in first-class, than when I am in coach. It’s like a completely different service experience, although I’m on the same plane.

A company that is truly striving to build a “world-class” service culture will make every effort to develop service standards that emphasize exceptional service for EVERY customer, all the time. Now, this does not mean that every customer should get the same service. True service excellence requires personalization and making each customer feel as though there is no one else, at that moment, more important than him or her. Using customer’s names and learning their preferences are two ways to accomplish personalized service.

Service is NOT about what you want to give 

I have witnessed many occasions when someone tried to be engaging, but ended up annoying and disengaging the customer. For example, wrestling a suitcase from a guest who would rather carry it herself is annoying. Insisting on escorting a customer, when he has already declined your offer is annoying. Trying to establish an engaging dialogue, when it’s clear that the customer would rather be left alone is annoying. As I have written previously, service is not about what you want to give, it is about what the other person wants to receive.

Give “insider” tips

One of the best ways to make your customers feel like a VIP is by giving them insider information. In other words, making your customers feel like they are privy to valuable information that is not widely known (or at least they may perceive that the information is not widely known). For example, Enterprise Rent-a-Car has a service called, We’ll pick you up. This basically means that the Enterprise location, where you are renting the car, can send a shuttle to pick you up from wherever you are (home, office, etc.) and bring you back to their branch to rent the car. I recently saw an employee tell a customer about that service  and the customer was incredibly impressed. The customer commented that he thought that such service was only reserved for their big-shot clients. 

At a recent trip to the CVS Pharmacy in our neighborhood, an employee saw a shopper looking at canned salmon (yes, CVS sells grocery items too). The employee proactively approached the shopper and told him that the salmon was half price, even though the displayed price did not reflect the reduced price. The employee explained that every week, the CVS sales paper contains deals that only those who subscribe to receive the sales paper, will know about. How do you think that shopper felt? You guessed it, like a VIP.

So, here are a few simple tips on how to serve everyone like a VIP:

  • Have a sense of urgency for everyone, regardless of their “status”.
  • Tell yourself, “this is the most important person I will serve today”.
  • Remind yourself that every customer has at least one preference. Challenge yourself to identify it, act on it, and share it with your team.

Everyone deserves to receive world-class service. Whether they are in a gas station, hospital, spa, hotel, bank, taxi, or airplane, excellent service is excellent service. Your customers will appreciate your eagerness to serve and reward you with their patronage, their referrals, and their loyalty.

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