The power of outstanding service
Most business offer ‘good’, ‘great’ or even ‘excellent’ service to their clients and customers.
Here’s what I firmly believe.
If you offer outstanding service – and by that I mean truly outstanding service – you create fiercely loyal customers who will buy again and again, and rave about you to their friends.
When my sons were very young, my wife (at the time) and I took them to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai for a 2-week Christmas holiday.
The room was ‘great’, the service was ‘great’, and the weather was ‘great’ too!
We had a lovely time.
The following year, we tried to book the same hotel – but it was sold out.
We found a hotel called the Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort Hotel in Fujairah, which is a 2-hour drive from Dubai.
I wasn’t that keen on staying there: the hotel looked lovely, but it was located on its own in the middle of a long empty beach.
The Jumeirah Beach Hotel is right next to the thrilling Wild Wadi water park – but Al Aqah was located miles away from anywhere!
It was in the middle of nowhere.
Very reluctantly I agreed to book the holiday.
But I really thought that the holiday wouldn’t be as wonderful as our Dubai experience.
I was wrong.
Boy, was I wrong.
The service we received during our 14 days there was beyond anything I’d ever experienced before (and I’ve stayed in other top hotels like The Peninsula in Hong Kong, and Al Aqah’s attention to guests is far superior.)
I was really intrigued to find out why the service was so great. I asked some of the managers what was behind their phenomenal service, and they all credited the manager: an Egyptian guy called Patrick Antaki who went to university in the UK.
My family loved the hotel so much that we went there twice a year for many years, then 3 years ago we moved from the UK to Abu Dhabi, so we were then only 3 hours from our favourite hotel! 🙂
My wife and I are no longer together, but I took my sons to this hotel in the Christmas break, 2012 – for our 16th holiday there!
As we have been so many times I now consider Patrick a friend. Here’s a photo of the 2 of us at a fair the hotel put on one Easter…
So what makes this hotel different?
More importantly, what are the lessons you can learn from this hotel’s success?
Here are a few nuggets for you…
1. If you are relaxing on the beach and you want, to take this to an extreme, a glass on beetroot and spinach juice, then the staff are trained to say “Yes, I can get that for you. It will just take a little time.” (Of course, this drink is not on any menu.) The staff will then do whatever it takes to get the ingredients for you so you can have your drink.
2. The lifeguard staff by the pools are rotated every 30 minutes or so to ensure that their concentration is 100%. (In other hotels, lifeguards can be at one post for hours at a time.) What this means is that if, say, a child starts to struggle in the paddling pool, 2 lifeguards will be in the water in seconds and lift them up. I’ve seen the speed they react and it’s jaw dropping. The consequence is that parents know their children are safe here.
Equally if, say, a child trips and bangs their head, a nurse appears with a First Aid Kit phenomenally fast.
All this is tremendously reassuring for a parent.
Here’s a photo of the hotel…
3. If you see a member of staff walking by, and you ask for something, they make it happen themselves. There is no “please go to reception and ask” etc attitude. They take personal responsibility for any request, and really go the extra mile. All staff members smile constantly, and have strong eye contact.
4. The team make it a priority to learn guests’ names and greet them accordingly: front line staff meet daily to discuss new arrivals so everyone is up to speed. They know when you last visited if you came before.
5. The staff are well paid, have their own gym, have a 24-hour lounge, get involved in inter-hotel tournaments, take part in events like a vertical marathon: running up the stairs of the hotel from the bottom to the top.
6. If a member of staff gets married in their home country (such as the Philippines), management make a big effort to find employment for the staff member’s partner in the hotel so the couple can be together.
7. When a member of staff had kidney failure at the age of 29, all the staff chipped in to pay £12,000 / $19,000 for his hospital treatment.
8. When the tsunami destroyed homes in Sri Lanka, the hotel helped pay for the rebuilding of 7 of the homes of the families of some of the staff members.
9. Patrick reads most of the comment cards that people leave behind after they’ve checked out. Any bad ones are displayed on a noticeboard for all staff to see. A manager will then ring up the person who made the complaint, and they are invited to visit again.
Patrick told me…
“If you treat people like kings and queens, they come again and tell their friends.”
In chats I have had with Patrick he has related a whole series of stories which show how powerful his philosophy is…
“One man, who had stayed with us a few times, decided to try one of our competitors, who offered him a lower price to stay there. Within several hours the man rang Patrick up and said, “I don’t care how much you charge me, just get me a room in your hotel – because my wife is giving me hell here!”
I spoke with one of the other guests at the hotel who told me this story…
“We got stuck in this hotel when the volcano in Iceland erupted, and so many flights back to the UK were cancelled. We had friends who were staying at hotels in Dubai, and some of those hotels put the room rates up much higher, which made their prolonged stay that much more expensive. This hotel, the Al Aqah, offered us special deals, free meals and free drinks. That’s the way to treat guests.”
Although this hotel charges more per night than the other hotels in the area, their occupancy level is far higher: a testament to the power of outstanding customer service.
And the percentage of guests who are repeat visitors is very high.
Does this hotel always get it right? Of course not. We all make mistakes.
For example, when my eldest son was 11, I found him one afternoon watching the beginning of the movie The Hangover which one of the new members of Kids Club had put on in the movie room. There was just the 2 of them in the theatre.
As you probably know, this is a 15-rated movie, so I was annoyed. But I went to see a manager who was extremely apologetic, and such an incident never happened again.
The hotel had built up enough credits with me that my opinion of the operation was not dented.
Is everyone thrilled with Patrick’s obsession with being the very best? Well his wife, Vicky, rolls her eyes while laughing…
“If we go on holiday to another hotel with our children, Patrick gets really frustrated at the service, and can’t believe the corner cutting and lack of attention to detail, so he’s constantly spotting things that need fixing. Bless him.”
I have been so inspired by Patrick that I’ve tried to emulate his approach in my own business, and spent a lot of time training my team (which was 13 at one time). It really paid off. For example, one customer told me, “I so love your company that I got 14 of my friends to order from you.”
Another customer told me that the best service he’d ever had before was while living in Japan, but our service topped that. And so on.
There’s a chance that you may feel that you can’t afford to give the kind of service that Patrick provides. After all, his hotel’s rates are higher than average.
My response to that is this…
You can’t afford not to give outstanding service!
With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor, etc, people are more likely than ever to let others know if they haven’t received outstanding service. One mistake by one of your team could be very costly.
Here are a few questions for you…
- When was the last time you employed a mystery shopper to ring up, write in or email – and got them to report back to you in detail?
- How many clients/customers have you personally telephoned in the last month and asked for their feedback?
- When was the last time you ran an online survey with a big incentive to compete the form, which asked for people’s experiences of outstanding service from you and stories of less-than-stellar service – and you captured their email addresses and telephone numbers so you could get back to them?
If you can answer “within the last 3 months” to all 3 of these questions, fabulous!
If you can’t, and you’re willing to implement one of these suggestions, or something similar, I think you’ll embark on a journey which will lead to you having a very rewarding and far more profitable year ahead.
You never know… one day soon a blogger may sit down and spend an hour raving in detail about the outstanding service they got from your business. Who knows where that might lead! 🙂
Finally… I’d love to know your thoughts on the power of outstanding service, and the potential damage that can be caused when there’s isn’t a truly customer-focused culture.