Those who know me know I’m fanatical about good customer service, especially when it comes to the hospitality industry. You know, because it’s an entire industry BUILT on showing people a good time, and nothing does that better than treating them right. Offering excellent customer service is not all that difficult and makes a big difference in a customer’s experience – and that business’ bottom line. Yet most places still screw it up.
A flight is canceled without a simple “We’re sorry for the inconvenience.” A waiter barks “What do you want?” without so much as a smile or welcome. A store clerk takes your money without thanking you for stopping by. These are the things that drive me mad. But during a recent vacation at The Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, Mexico, I experienced first-hand what’s it like when a place totally “gets” it.
After a long day of traveling on multiple flights (and through a Mexican customs process that could use a little work) my wife and I arrived at the resort around 9 p.m. one night. After a quick and friendly check-in, the front desk clerk asked if she could send complimentary “welcome cocktails” to our room to help us relax. Why yes. Yes, you can.
The next morning, I made it downstairs just after they had taken away the lobby’s complimentary coffee service. Noticing my dismay, a young bellman walked over and said, “Please wait here.” Three minutes later he came back with a personal pot of coffee from the kitchen, which he presented me with a smile. (For four days after that, every time he saw me he asked, “Did you get your coffee this morning?”)
On another occasion, when we asked where lunch was being served, the concierge didn’t just offer directions but graciously walked us down to the spot. Women were given fresh-cut roses every evening after dinner; there were artisan truffles delivered to our room each night; the list goes on and on.
And then there are the little blue flags.
When you walk out to the ocean-side pool area, you’re immediately greeted by an attendant (with towels) who will escort you to the pool or beach chair of your choosing. They’ll arrange your chairs, fluff your towels and offer to set up an umbrella – at no extra charge, I might add. Then they place a little blue flag on the back of your chair. All you have to do is flip up that flag and an attendant will be there within minutes to take your food or drink order, bring fresh towels, buckets of ice, sunscreen or aloe lotion, a refreshing sip of fruit-enhanced water or an herbal popsicles to cool you down.
I love the little blue flags.
During one long, glorious day on the beach, I used my flag to order an ice-cold cerveza. And then another. And another. When Manuel came back with what was supposed to be my third beer, he was holding a bucket full of them instead.
“Excuse me, senor, but I notice you are enjoying the cervezas,” he said, with a knowing smile. “May I leave you several on ice this time?”
Why yes. Yes, you can.