Customer Service Explained: Match, Mint, Coffee

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   8-24-2012

Takeaways: Michael Gerber relates an example about customer service and strategic management – focused on pleasing the customer. Ask questions and listen to the customer. Then take action to serve the customer and anticipate his/her needs.

 Customer service explaqined: Michael GerberI’ve been re-reading The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber.  In the chapter about management strategy, he describes an experience he had with a boutique hotel in the California redwoods country. It’s a message about customer service and management systems.

Here’s a brief synopsis:
He stops for the night after a long drive on his way to San Francisco. As he walks into the lobby he describes how inviting it looks – large, comfortable over-stuffed sofa; a table as you enter holds a large, enticing bowl of fresh fruit ; a warm fire is blazing in the fireplace; the décor expertly blends together to provide a welcoming feeling of home and warmth.

The woman at the front desk wore complimentary colors and style, a matching ribbon in her hair, and a badge that showed the hotel logo and colors. She welcomed him, checked him in, and within 3 minutes the bellboy was ushering him to his room. Amazing!

His room was equally tasteful  –“ understated opulence” is how he described it – with a four-poster king size bed taking center stage. He noticed the fireplace was prepared and ready to light, thinking that would be nice after dinner. When he checked in, he asked about restaurants and the desk clerk suggested one on the hill a short walk away. She made reservations for him as he was being shown his room.

Customer Service: Learn the Customer’s Interests

There was a well-lit path between the hotel and restaurant. The restaurant was crowded with several people waiting when he arrived, but when he announced his name, he was immediately shown to a table. The meal was “delightful” and the service excellent, encouraging him to linger over a glass of after-dinner brandy.

As he returned to his room he noticed the lights on the path had been turned up to make it more navigable after dark. He was thinking about lighting the fire and having a brandy before turning in. When he got to his room, the bed was turned down, a mint was on each pillow, the fire was crackling in the hearth, and a glass of brandy was beside the bed with a card that read, “Welcome to your first stay at Venetia. I hope it has been enjoyable. If there is anything I can do for you, Day or Night, please don’t hesitate to call. Kathi.”

The next morning he awoke to gurgling in the bathroom and when he arose to investigate, the coffee maker was brewing his favorite brand of coffee. A card read “Your brand of coffee. Enjoy! K” And it was HIS brand of coffee. He heard a knock at the front door, and when he opened it no one was there. On the doorstep was HIS newspaper, the New York Times.

How did they know?

When he checked in, the desk clerk asked him what his favorite newspaper was. He gave it no thought. At the restaurant, the server asked what his favorite coffee was when he ordered coffee after dinner. The server probably also noticed he enjoyed a glass of brandy after his meal. They asked, noticed and listened. And they communicated between the hotel and the restaurant. This experience has been repeated every time he visits that hotel.

What did they do differently that makes this possible? They had developed a system and written it down in an Operations Manual so anyone could replicate it regardless of who was in charge. It was a series of color-coded checklists for each person at the hotel.  Each support person was responsible for eight rooms. When they arrived every morning, they had eight packages of checklists in their mailbox- one for each room they were taking care of. As they completed each one, they signed off on the package.  To sign off and not complete the work was grounds for dismissal.

The hotel had a strategic management system in place that could easily be followed by anyone.

But how did they get their people to use it? That’s the subject of the next article.