The Line Between Good Customer Service & Being Creepy

23 May

Earlier this week I had my first staff retreat  at work – which was basically a ½ day seminar on customer service, followed by a make-your-own fajita bar and cake. All in all, not too shabby of a way to spend a few hours.

Obviously the cake was the winner of the day, but the training presentation was actually pretty interesting. We had a speaker from the Ritz Carlton Leadership Center who spoke about their customer service practices that lead to them winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (which is apparently the most awesome award in ALL THE LAND for performance excellence).

Many of their customer service practices are pretty great, with them encouraging staff to go ‘above and beyond’ with every single guest. However, there was a point in the presentation where I started imagining how it could easily cross the line.

For example, they encourage their staff to call guests by name and to use the guest’s name three times in conversation to have the highest level of satisfaction. In addition to this, they make sure that their staff keeps a file on each guest so that they know their spouses name, children/pet’s names, anniversary and birthday dates, and miscellaneous preferences.

So, this sort of makes sense in theory… but isn’t a little weird too? You know, in this world of identity theft and weird stalker dudes, we’re supposed to be flattered when the random receptionist at the hotel knows our kid’s name and that he just had a birthday?

I was wondering if I was being a little oversensitive, but a colleague of mine confirmed that when he recently checked in at a Ritz and they said, “Good morning John! How was your flight from Baltimore? I hear it’s raining there this morning,” it was just a little creepy.

Maybe I’m a bit too cynical. Or possibly it’s just because I’m not in the age range of their typical guest. I certainly don’t have the kind of money to throw around on their more impressive suites. And if I did have the money, I’d use it for something other than a fancy hotel room.

Perhaps an older, richer guest may be thrilled with that extra attention that shows they care? Since they’re the winner of the extremely prestigious service award, they must be on to something, right?

Anyways, make up your own mind. Here’s an example given in the presentation to show how they give fantastic customer service:

The guest is out of their room and the maid comes in to clean. While she’s cleaning, she notices that a button on one of the guest’s suit jackets is loose. The maid takes the initiative to get the jacket fixed – she takes it downstairs to the tailor, has the button repaired, and returns the jacket back to the room with a note saying that it’s been mended.

Is this awesome customer service?

One side of me says, yes. Absolutely! They fixed something that I didn’t even know was broken. I’m a busy, rich person and I don’t have the time to deal with that sort of thing myself. So I appreciate that they did it for me.

The other side of me says, heck no! What if I had accidently left my jacket behind and ran back to the room to grab it in time for my meeting? But instead of waiting there for me to grab, the maid had taken it out of my room without my permission! The audacity of her – if I wanted the jacket fixed, I would have taken care of it myself!

What do you think?

Feel free to comment directly on this post, on my facebook page or tweet me at @JoulesDellinger.

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