Appreciating Great Customer Service

Recently I spoke at a conference of the Travel Industry Association. I arrived a couple of days into the meeting and noticed a buzz going around about something that happened earlier. I caught snippets of the situation, but got the full story after my speech.

During one of the meals on the first day of the conference, an attendee asked a server if he could have a Red Bull energy drink with his meal. It wasn't a typical request, but the server said she would see what she could do. Sure enough, a few minutes later she came back with a covered platter, and with a flourish uncovered the can of Red Bull. Everyone at the table got a kick out of it and had a good chuckle.

Another person at the table joked, "What if he had asked for, oh let's say, a monkey and monkey wrench?" Again, everyone laughed and promptly forgot about the comment. Before the meal ended, the server showed up at the table with a covered can guess what happened. With a flourish she uncovered a stuffed monkey along with a monkey wrench. The joke quickly spread and everyone was talking about the story - viral marketing at its best.

At the closing general session the association's president thanked everyone involved in making the conference a success. He then reminded everyone of the monkey/monkey wrench story and everyone laughed, applauded and thought that was that. But the president announced that the server was in the room and invited her onstage to receive a gift from the organizers for creating such a memorable moment. The crowd stood as one and gave that server a heartfelt standing ovation. The impact of the smile on her face will likely stay with everyone who was in that room.

Two key service principles were reinforced by this story. First, when we can create those wow moments by doing something totally unexpected, we should do it. The impact of the experience might just become legendary. We might not always have the time to do something like this server did, but sometimes we do have the time. At those moments the choice is ours on whether or not we'll create that "magic moment."

The second principle reinforced by this story is the importance of a sincere thank you. When we get great service, if someone truly does something extraordinary, creating an extraordinary thank you is a wonderful gesture. I can only imagine how quickly the news of that server's actions and the resulting standing ovation spread throughout the hotel's staff. Celebration of achievements creates a culture of achievement.

I hope the next time an extraordinary wow opportunity presents itself that you take a moment to figure out how you can make it happen. I also hope that the next time you are truly wowed by an employee you take a moment to think of how you can wow him or her with your thanks. Because of the story of this banquet server, I know I have a renewed energy to be on the lookout for both opportunities.