It is not often that something happens that makes me stand up tall and think ‘now that is the way customer experience should be done’… but it happened on a recent visit to Buenos Aires. The destination, the Four Seasons Hotel. It was a rainy Sunday and I had booked into the spa for the afternoon… a wonderful experience… yet when it came to paying my Bank, HSBC, declined my card for no apparent reason… then told me they were updating their computer system and it would ‘take a couple of hours before they could help me and could I wait for that to happen’.
I hate this experience, as I am sure anyone reading this does. Picture the scene, me standing in a swanky hotel lobby speaking to a more than difficult, obstructive call centre representative on the other side of the world making the banks problems my problem - all for a bill for $160.00.
What happened next left me in awe of the Four Seasons team - it should be normal in any business, but to see it in practice was fantastic.
The gentleman on the front desk obviously heard my conversation with HSBC. He smiled, said ‘I totally understand, these problems happen sometimes’ and told me ‘not to worry about the payment’. He would try again ‘tomorrow’ and see if it went through. He then asked me where I was staying, I told him. It was raining and dark outside… he then offered a car and driver to take me to my hotel, free of charge.
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This gentleman had no idea who I was, he was not looking for anything in return, but was empowered to make sure that a stressed out and angry customer (who incidentally was not staying at his hotel), was brilliantly cared for… unbeknown to this gentleman, his simple act of kindness will broadcast to my readership of over 20,000 weekly, his efforts to deliver customer service excellence will be admired across the world… and this experience will ensure that others (particularly me), will choose Four Seasons Hotels above any other in future… and reconsider who they bank with… most certainly on this basis, I would not recommend HSBC for customer service…
So, what can we learn from this?
Organisations we work with are striving to deliver better customer experiences, in technology, service and design, however, as I am constantly writing about, ultimately, it is the people you employ - they make the difference. You can create the most beautiful spaces, the most frictionless experiences, and the most gorgeously designed environments, but if the people in them are not empowered to make decisions, your money is wasted. Here are 10 tips for ensuring your organization sets forth on a journey approaching the excellence of the Four Seasons service.
Ensure your staff understand your organisation's values and live them every day
Purpose and Roles
Be certain that each and every member of your team understands their role and purpose in your organization - and make sure this is regularly communicated in a language they understand
It is not enough to pretend to care about customers - you have to really care
Empower your teams to solve problems in a non-confrontational way… not forgetting to smile
Remember to give a little could mean enormous rewards in the long-term
Remember that your staff are part of a team - a brand - they represent your organization collectively. Everything they do should be positive and represent the values you stand for
Remember that people have different personalities, allow individuality to shine through
Remember, people, talk about bad experiences more than they talk about good ones
Keep it simple, remember that your problems are not your customer's problems
Put yourself in the mind of the customer: Always think, how would I feel if I was in this situation and how would I want it to be resolved to my satisfaction?
I do hope this article finds its way to the gentleman from the Four Seasons Hotel in Buenos Aires. I also hope this article finds its way to the Senior Management team at Four Seasons Hotel Group. Guys, you are doing an incredible job… if anyone from HSBC is reading this… please get in touch.
About the author
Nicholas Griffin is Managing Director at Principle Global (www.principleglobal.com) Information on how to contact Nick is in the footer of this web site.