October 23, 2010 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
“How can I deliver excellent customer service for you today?”
“Did I provide you with exceptional customer service and satisfy all of your needs?”
How often do we hear this nonsense? If a company has to go begging its customers to say, “Yes, you gave me fantastic customer service,” then something’s wrong, and I doubt if management gets it.
In the hospitality field – especially hotels – exceptional service is the result of a manager who hires people who care about their guests, who makes his staff feel part of a team which will deliver more than guests expect, and for whom terrific service is the norm.
I met such a hotel manager. His name is Jim Douglas. He manages both Pan Pacific hotels in Whistler, British Columbia, one of the 2010 Winter Olympic sites. More on Jim in a moment, but first, let’s take a look at an example of his philosophy in action with a problem that could affect any hotel guest.
You check into a hotel, attempt to log onto their complementary Internet service, and your computer suddenly has a mental breakdown. Was it something you provoked during the log-on process, or was its bizarre behavior caused by the hotel’s Internet connection?
We had just checked in at the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Center for a little summer getaway in one of the most beautiful regions of North America, British Columbia. A gorgeous two-hour drive north from Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway, Whistler is a place worth visiting any time of the year.
Considered one of the finest ski resorts in North America, it is much more than a winter sports destination alone. It’s a true four-seasons playground: hiking trails, golf, you name it for outdoor activities, in an incredibly beautifully setting. And to top it all off, it’s Canada, a country with a special meaning for me, as my father was from Toronto.
Placing a call to the front desk, I heard a genuinely caring and helpful voice instead of the usual “it’s not my fault” attitude. “Mr. Beaver, I’ll get you the toll-free Dell technical service phone numbers and run this by our own computer people,” said Taschi, the guest experience manager. “By the time you return from dinner, all the contact information you need will be in your room. Don’t worry, we’ll find a solution.”
We returned to our room from one of the finest restaurants my wife and I have ever been to, Araxi (ask for horseradish, and they bring you freshly grated, real horseradish) and there, on the table, was a list of Dell contact numbers, a handwritten note from Taschi, and bottle of wine from BC’s Okanagan Valley.
I was blown away. That’s real customer service, not lip service. It was simply touching and clearly communicated to me: “We are so sorry you are having this problem, and we value you as a guest.”
I called Dell. The problem was resolved. (It was me, not the hotel.)
Be passionate about what you are doing
“Are we going to make a difference?” said Douglas. “We should be passionate about our work and, as in other areas of life, surround ourselves with people who excel at what they do. As Pan Pacific Hotels are Asian-owned, there is a deep, company-wide cultural philosophy of service, enjoying contact with guests, and sincerity.”
Douglas not only believes, but I witnessed this attitude reflected throughout the five-star properties he manages.
“One of the things which can get any company in trouble is when management remains in an ivory tower, removed from daily realities.” he said. “It is especially true in the hospitality field, where everyone needs to think of themselves as members of a team, and that includes the manager. I am very much a part of this team, proud to work with our associates, and they know that I am.
“No business is going to get it right 100 percent of the time, and when that happens here, we listen: naturally, to the guest, and to each other. We view these incidents as a way to improve and collaboratively find ways of fixing the problem. A guest can sense if hotel employees really like their jobs. That’s why a good restaurant or hotel manager is going to recruit and retain people who want to be there.
“From the moment our guests step onto the property, I want them to hear a little voice say they made the right choice in staying here. It’s that ‘wow’ factor which you can actually see and feel across both of our hotels in Whistler,” Douglas said confidently.
Indeed, he had just described the way we felt checking in, establishing the mood for a terrific stay at a lovely hotel in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.