We all have great affection for good customer service. Sometimes our expectations are crushed, other times we are elated when it is done well. Those of us who work in or around the F&B or hospitality/travel industry have a key appreciation for this aspect of our business.
Just look at the plethora of resources out there to get it right. One notable of late comes from Rich Gallagher whom I met when he was at the CBORD group and I at Cornell. He leads the Point of Contact Group and his recent release The Customer Service Survival Kit (#1 on Amazon for customer service) ~ one of many great reads written by him ~ takes the art of "deeply hearing" and makes it an easily applicable tool for those on the front lines of people management.
I do think it's teachable, this handling of people thing. However, there are individuals that simply ooze it from their pores with very little thought about it. I have plenty of experiences with these oozer types in my back yard. Take Oscar the bartender at Saltus River Grill, who remembers your face and your name even out of uniform to introduce you to his family, because in his eyes you are one of his peeps. There's Nick Borreggine who owns Fat Patties that will take your text about your 84 year old father coming to dine in because you are home sick, who then sends ice cream home to put you on the mend. And Nancy Vista of Nuances who's outlasted many in the business sector along Parris Avenue in the Old Village of Port Royal. She has always put "local" on the map in a village seen more as a side show than a main event~no one leaves her store empty handed or without knowing a bit more about the Town of Port Royal.
Any day of the week I could provide an abundant list of the individuals with the uncanny ability to do it (customer service) right, but what spurred my interest this week was a trip to Savannah and a stop for breakfast at a Denny's on Abercorn Street. You know how it goes, you're dining with your elderly father, on a holiday weekend in a major destination location just outside Hunter Army Air Base, the dining room is filled with young families with multiple children in tow. What made the experience rather special was Mary our waitress. For every table she sat she asked where they were from, how long were they here for and then proceeded to provide several "not to miss" suggestions as to where the family could go. On our departure I remarked to her how special her effort was (going above and beyond). She replied "30 years I've been in this business and I have grand babies at home, I have a keen sense of what people can do in our town." I for one know there are many fine people that make a living in the food and beverage industry, despite the best efforts of many to deny its significance, so my first instinct was to applaud her longevity, but what struck me was her use of "our" town. I'm rather obsessed with communities speaking in plural terms "our," "we," etc.
The best referral comes from someone local and informed. Here's a petite woman, in uniform, clad in an over-sized Easter Egg necklace and a pastel colored sweater schlepping food, taking the time to make the breakfast experience more than about a plate of food. A genuine encounter with someone from Savannah who cares enough to walk you out the door into other parts of the city. That's grand. A local working the floor with a clear understanding of the big picture in destination travel. In a city filled with great food and multiple breakfast options, it clearly would be worth the drive to experience Mary again.
An army of individuals work hard to make us feel welcome on the road or at home. As we head into the peak season of the year for travel (summer) let's not ever fail to recognize their efforts on our behalf.