What customers taught me about customer service?


Customers can be your most valuable training resource. If you pay attention and listen closely, you will learn what matters to them. Paul was checking in to the hotel very late and asked where he can get a nice cold Dr. Pepper Soda? Since the restaurant was closed at that time, the staff suggested the gift shop. The customer came back and said that he prefers the can soda instead of the plastic bottle they have stocked in the gift shop.

The staff went to the kitchen storage, but came back empty handed, “Looks like it will be here first thing in the morning. Our drinks order has been delayed.” The reaction on Paul’s face was a sad one, the “mission” to find his favorite drink fell short. One of the staff members overhearing the conversation, volunteered to go out and get the customer a full six pack of Dr. Pepper drinks. He delivered it up to the guest room immediately and delighted the customer. Paul told the employee, “You see, this is why customers come back to your hotel.”

What’s the lesson here? The customer did not tell the employee that Dr. Pepper was the reason he will come back, but it’s the employee’s extra effort to exceed the customer expectation that wins the day.

This is only one example of many customer and employee interactions that happen almost every day. I have been training and grooming leaders in the hotel industry for almost 18 years, and sometimes our customers can teach us the most important lessons we teach.

So, I wanted to share some of those hospitality lessons that can set you apart from your competition. I would love for you to dive into the conversation and share some of yours.

First Impressions are lasting impressions

As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” If you consistently make a positive, memorable impact on your customers, you’ll increase your chances of exceeding the customer expectations. Many places take that for granted and undervalue the initial contact by not welcoming the customer to their business. Imagine a friend or a favorite person coming to visit you and they are not being acknowledged? How will they feel?

Personal Service

I learned that not all customers are alike, but more importantly, each customer wants to feel valued and receive personal service that exceeds their expectations. Customer Service legends such as Ritz Carlton, Amazon, Four Seasons and Southwest Airlines master the delivery of personal service to their customers. They learn as much as they can to customize their service and products to the needs of the customer. This requires having systems in place to keep the customers’ preferences up to date and utilize “listening posts” to capture the best data to create moments of WOW.

 Pay attention to the details

Customers are relying on you to ensure that their experience with your business is flawless and stress free. The last thing any customer wants is a problem or a crisis on their hand that will take up their time and inconvenience more than they have been already. Regardless of the business or industry, the details communicate messages to your customers. Sometimes these messages seem critical such as a stain on a carpet or a clock radio with the incorrect time. But sometimes they can be significant like an unattended help in a restaurant or dangerous surfaces around the pool. Every detail says something about the company’s commitment to service excellence.

Listen and empathize with your customer

Empathy is the art of understanding a situation through a customer’s eyes. It’s probably one of the key aspects of a successful customer service culture. Empathy can be learned. It takes good listening skills that are vital in helping you to understand your customer’s feedback and identify their needs. Our ability to listen to, and empathize with our customers is very important when it comes to building a relationship with them. Customers will return to do business with an organization if they feel that you cared about their challenges, actively listen to what they are saying, pay attention to their point of view, and own their problems. Listen with your heart as well as your head!


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