Those five extra seconds

“Actually, what I loved most was that all the hotel staff spared no time in giving us those five extra seconds”, said an acquaintance with whom I met during the work tour back I did this week to Corn Island, for a vigorous national company.

He mentioned that the exceptional treatment provided by all staff was just five stars. “I thought we were not in Nicaragua”, he said, “but apparently the team hotel ‘conspired’ for us to spend the best experience of our lives.”

“Those five seconds,” he recalled, “when the staff greets you at the entrance of the property, helped with your luggage and took care of children, giving a genuinely warm greeting, wondering at what else they could do to serve you best- amongst other attentions- the time when someone makes the effort to ensure that you are passing the best, it´s simply priceless. I recommend this place to all my friends “-he continued.

The formula is deceptively simple. Believing that you can inject that amount of attention and dedication to all staff is often naïve or wishful thinking. Like any worthwhile process, it takes considerable time to build a culture of service, and far beyond, to take it to a higher level. This implies not only breaking in-depth cultural molds in our country, when often times we are conditioned to downpour on the client -that anonymous person who finally pays our salary or business income- bad manners, tantrums, dissent, anger, apathy, disinterest, lack of understanding, improvisation, imperfections, even dishonesty, among other feelings or actions that make the customer to perceive that he does get a favor when acquiring a service or good from us.

These wrong attitudes are severe mental viruses; who is infected should not be facing to meet the sovereign, the king, that individual with the appearance of an anonymous purchaser, but who does make it possible for us to stay as a business. Changing a culture implies a real structured change, a myriad of sacrifices, where as it is said, “To get to where you’ve never been, you need to do what you’ve never done”.

Stepping into the shoes of a client involves more than thinking about those widespread minimum expectations like: “We are only a hotel and we should operate like one”…but, we instead must challenge the traditional stereotype, conventional wisdom or limited vision of what anyone may think a hotel may be.   Let´s rather challenge the customer that he/she will feel better than at home staying with us. That must be the real target, a true promise of service, which should not be superficially spoken of in each company as an empty phrase or PR motto, rather it must be lived thoroughly each day, have it written, deployed conspicuously, start any meeting with the staff always remembering it, and where, by the way, you should always have an empty chair, assuming the client is sitting right there at any staff meeting, listening, to the end of the day, all the improvements about how to be served in the best way possible. We should promote at any business a full detoxification of wrong attitudes and behaviors -not only those habits that may eventually disappoint the client- but those more deadly yet, the dangerous “normal treatment”, which degrades your product or service to be one more of a large bunch, that “commoditization” that means perverting your business to just a single and undifferentiated provider -being the more serious vulnerability that your company may face ever- self-cloning into one more of the same offering, which is a trusted predictor that it will not survive in the mid-term.

“For that reason” ‘, -my interlocutor wondered- ” I was in a quandary; whether I should tip those who helped me with luggage and children, who laid off to boarding the vehicle at farewell; since, precisely … they were the owners of the hotel”  “By the way, what would you have done in such case” –ending this way his small talk.

Carlos R. Flores

General Director – Cambio Cultural, S.A.

Managua, Nicaragua


(Published also at La Prensa newspaper, Managua, Nicaragua, on Aug. 26th. 2015)

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