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tea-cup

When you travel as much as I do (over 100,000 miles last year) AND you write a blog about customer service (four years running), you can start to overlook the little things, feel jaded, and think you’ve written just about everything you can about luxury customer service. Then the littlest thing can happen and you’re reminded again how important good customer service is and to appreciate those who go out of their way to provide it.

We’ve all read the stories of luxury hotel staff who have flown across the country to deliver a laptop inadvertently left behind, or the department store that allowed a customer to “return” four tires even though they don’t sell tires. All grand gestures indeed and worthy of acknowledgement. But this post is dedicated to those who serve—perhaps in the smallest of ways—but who take the time to notice what’s going on and who make that small, extra effort to make your day.

This week I was staying at a mid-level chain hotel in Atlanta. It was the kind that offered a free buffet breakfast: self-serve, but with omelets made to order. Let’s be clear, this was not a luxury hotel. Self-serve, plastic cutlery, watered-down juice, some less than healthy breakfast selections. My service expectations were by no means high. As I finished my last bite of toast and was sipping my tea, a young woman approached in a dull brown uniform and asked if she might take my plate. Nothing extraordinary here, but at least she asked and didn’t just grab the plate—and she said the word ‘may’. All standard good service.  But then, without skipping a beat, said “so you may enjoy your tea.” That is, “May I take your plate so that you may enjoy your tea?”

This simple question blew me away. In her unassuming way, she managed to remind me what luxury service is all about. And that’s PAYING ATTENTION! Here’s how her question breaks down and how you can make the format part of your luxury service repertoire. 

Explain Why
When making a request, give the reason why. My server could have simply asked “May I take your plate?” I would have responded in the affirmative, the plate would have gone on its merry way, and I would have left the table feeling I’d received good service. But by letting me know why she was making her request, she grabbed my attention and involved me more deeply in the process.

Make it about me, me, me!
No it isn’t all about me, but when she explained the “why” of her request, she phrased it so it was about my benefit, not hers. She asked to clear the plate, not in order to expedite the clean up, but to provide a nicer environment for me to enjoy my tea.

Make it personal
She noticed I was drinking tea!  I’m a bit of an outlier in the morning beverage department. Most folks opt for a cup of joe to accompany their ham and eggs. I prefer tea. (So much so that I travel with my own tea bags). She could have looked at the cup on the table and simply assumed I was drinking coffee, as most folks do. I honestly would be writing this same post if she’s said “so you may enjoy your coffee” chalking it up to an honest mistake. But she noticed the string hanging off the cup and let me know she wanted me to enjoy my tea.

So what are the lessons learned?

  • Always ask permission (“May I”) when making a request
  • Explain why you’re making the request and why it benefits the customer
  • If possible, personalize the request

Following her example, I took the time later that day to find the manager to let him know about this exceptional employee. He smiled and replied, “I know exactly who you’re talking about.”