Merge's Blog

Personalized service (even if it’s low-key) attracts customers

About a year ago, I wrote about how Hai de Lao, a popular chain of “hot pot” restaurants in mainland China, has used above-and-beyond personalized customer service to differentiate itself from its competitors. While the Hai de Lao experience is definitely “up there”, a recent low-key experience in Honolulu reminded me that you don’t have to necessarily do it in the Hai-de-Lao-up-in-the-stratosphere style to achieve a similar result.

So what was the experience? The elevators at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani resort in Honolulu. Or more specifically, what was on the walls of the elevators. Three times a day, in each of the six elevators in the hotel, a hand-made quilted original wall-hanging with a greeting is replaced to reflect the time of the day. Each wall-hanging is original and different from all the others.

It’s just wall-art, right? Nothing to get excited about? Or so you’d think. During the five days that I stayed at the Kaiulani, I watched person after person stop to take photos, discuss at some length during their elevator ride, question hotel staff, comment to the front desk agents, and even make a special trip to the manager’s office just to show their appreciation for this seemingly inconsequential three-times-a-day event. It made me wonder why. Was it because these wall hangings were handmade and people appreciated the effort? Was it because the local Hawaiian language is different and unusual and therefore attracted attention? Was it because they were changed three times a day? The answer I suspect is all of the above, but perhaps most importantly, I think it was because it demonstrated a desire and willingness to personalize what is normally a common and uneventful experience. Let’s face it, we don’t usually expect much from an elevator ride; in fact, we’re usually just grateful not to be subjected to tiresome elevator music. Bottom line: people appreciate it when someone (even if it’s a faceless person somewhere in the building’s basement) makes an effort to provide personalized service, and when they observe it, they tell others about it!

As a leader, you have a responsibility to deliver a product or service, no matter whether it’s to external consumers, or internally within your organization. But it’s how you do it that will determine how its value is perceived by others. So … what’s your score? Whether you deal with internal clients or external customers, are your clients talking about the service you deliver as much as whatever it is you sell or provide? Would love to hear about your experiences, positive or negative.

P.S. Or perhaps you have another theory about why this three-times-a-day wall art change created so much excitement. Would love to hear your thoughts on that as well. Please add to the Comments link below.

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