It’s the little things that matter.
After being on the road nonstop since finishing my book Scammed: How to Save Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals, back in June, I can tell you that good customer service isn’t a big deal — it’s a lot of small ones.
In July, I took a road trip with my family to kick off our family travel blog Away is Home. We drove to Richmond, Va., Montreal, Quebec City and Washington. Then we took a Nickelodeon-themed cruise of the Western Mediterranean on NCL. In September, we spent two weeks in Italy on an Adventures by Disney tour. And last month, we’ve been touring Florida. (It is, after all, the off-season.)
I also wrote a customer service blog for CBS Interactive over the summer — a short-term project that immersed me in the world of customer service while I wrote Scammed. So I’ve not only seen good service, I’ve pulled back the curtain and watched what happens behind the scenes.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Remember me. I learned this about service while staying at The Pierre in New York last month. Few hotels have their own elevator operator; it’s something you see in old movies or on reruns of Mad Men. This luxury hotel still does. Its operators could just phone it in every day, but the ones at the Pierre don’t. They are the best of the best. You only have to tell them your floor once. After that, whenever you return, they remember. And they always greet you with a smile and a sincere, “How are you today?” I think good service often just means being remembered and acknowledged. (By the way, I’ll have more on the Pierre just as soon as I get a few photos from its incredible art collection).
Don’t hover. I’ve stayed at hotels where the customer service is so overbearing that you feel as if you’re about to asphyxiate. Yeah, the same resorts that force their employees to say, “certainly” and “my pleasure” and refer to themselves as “ladies and gentlemen.” It gets old really fast when you travel. Which is why we appreciated how Shawn Duytschaver of Native Rentals on Anna Maria Island handled our family when we dropped by for a tour of Robinson Preserve a few weeks ago. He plopped our kayaks in the water, pushed a map in my hand, and said, “enjoy!” And we did.
Kids first. I learned this small but critically important lesson thanks to our friends at Disney. Most tours are created for adults, but kids can tag along and learn with their parents. But Disney does it the other way around: It creates tours for kids, and parents are welcome too. Our tour of Italy was punctuated with pasta-making classes, special meals and mask-making workshops in Venice. And for every completed day, we were awarded a special collectible pin. These are small and relatively inexpensive things — a subtle shift in focus, a pin that costs a few pennies to manufacture, a special item on the menu. But they make a big difference. The kids are begging us to take another Adventures by Disney tour.