Road Signs for Success – February 20, 2008

By Kay Caldwell

I recently spoke at a conference for Meeting Planners International in Houston and they scheduled my stay at the Four Seasons hotel. The first step out of my cab, the doorman raced to welcome me and take my bag inside. He walked me to the front desk and asked if I wanted to check my bag with him or if I’d like someone to take it to my room. The next experience was with a cordial front desk person. He had everything ready in seconds and handed me my room key. Now, instead of sending me on my way, he escorted me to the elevator around the corner and hit the button for my floor. Before I could thank him he asked, “Is there anything else I may assist you with Ms. Caldwell?” I heard this statement from every staff member I came in contact with over the three days.

First impressions are a big deal to me (after all, we only get one chance to make a first expression). But my Four Seasons’ customer service experience was exceptional during my entire stay. For example, the hotel manager sent me a different box of candy every evening with a personal note thanking me for staying at the Four Seasons. They made me feel special.

It was so refreshing to receive exemplary customer service that I have been telling everyone how wonderful my experience was at the Four Seasons. Unfortunately, that experience is the exception rather than the rule nowadays. But it shouldn’t be. I became a customer service fanatic working at Southwest Airlines. We sold Customer Service (we just happened to sell airlines seats in the process). I know when it is good or bad, we all do. I think customer service can be defined simply. Here’s what it is for me:

• Infinity  — which is immeasurable greatness
• Delicacy — sensitive to others’ feeling, tactful in interactions, treat someone the way you want to be treated
• Accountable — being responsible for your own actions and proud of those actions because you did the right thing
• Integrity — people know your word burns like a lamp — they can count on you
• Establish Trust — let people get to know you and what to expect
• Common Sense — it is a gift.  In Latin it means common feeling of humanity
• Servant Heart  — care, build valued relationships, show compassion always

More than anything else customer service is about serving. And serving is a matter of the heart. Heart is the key to understanding others. If we listen to our heart, we do the right thing. Heart is about listening to that voice inside. In our daily walk throughout life, we have the opportunity to touch the lives of countless individuals. “Heart,” says Michael Jordan, “is what separates the good from the great.”

Each individual I encountered at the Four Seasons had to choose to deliver great customer service. Have you ever wondered what words people use when they describe you? Great, remarkable, average, mediocre? You can be great because you have the power to make a difference, to make people feel special — just like I felt during my stay at the Four Seasons. How exciting it is to know you can choose to create a memorable experience for someone else. And when you do, you create a memorable experience for yourself.

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