4 Customer Service Lessons from an All-Inclusive Experience

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An all-inclusive vacation can be a much-needed getaway from our daily routine. At the same time, it can serve as a great learning experience too, as it did in my case this July. What I’m sharing in this post is based on my observations during my stay at a Mediterranean sea resort in Turkey, which is the 6th most popular tourist destination in the world.  These lessons are inspired by my interactions with the locals, conversations with guests and interviews with various staff members, including the Guest Relations Director with over 35 years of experience. The names of the place and the people are omitted to avoid influencing readers’ choices through inadvertent advertising.

  1. How to stand out from your competition

Today’s customer is spoiled with choices. When it comes to vacation planning the variety of available options is mind-boggling. Everything one all-inclusive package comes with is also offered at other establishments of a comparable rank. So what do you do in order to stand out from the army of local,  regional and global competition all of which is just one click away from your customers? This is the question I asked and here is what was shared with me:

  • It’s very hard indeed to surprise a customer these days. Whether you welcome them to high-end restaurants and bars, picturesque beaches and swimming pools, world-class entertainment and spa, shopping and sightseeing – they have seen it all. What we constantly ask ourselves is how can we provide the ultimate value. With the wide range of lodging available at our resort, we are able to comfortably accommodate from  1 guest to a group of 20, thus creating tailored experiences for any kind of traveler. We allow guests to integrate their favorite pastime into their stay with us. We speak their languages and strive to stay relevant at all times. We want everyone – from a budget traveler to an affluent guest to truly get their bang for the buck.
  1. Is the customer always right?

Yes. …Except for the times when they are not. The customer is always right is a well-known business slogan, coined over a century ago, in order to protect consumers against the common practice of seller-buyer asymmetry at the time. But is it still valid today?

  •  Even though it is still our mantra around here, in reality, this statement does not hold true 100% of the time. There have been cases when witnesses and security cameras proved customers wrong in questionable situations. Once in a while, you have a particularly difficult guest who stays unhappy no matter what your staff does to bring satisfaction. As management, we cannot blindly side with the guest at our employee’s misery. And finally how about the situations when the conflict is between two guests with clashing viewpoints? Making one right would automatically make the other wrong. Instead, we either reconcile or separate the parties to reinstate peace and order.
  • With the goal of providing the best possible guest experience, our Customer Service training teaches among other things, how to say “no” in the most respectful and positive manner. There are times when you need this skill as the company resources are not unlimited.
  1. Why it is so important to treat your employees well

There is a strong connection between employees and customer satisfaction.

  • Management cannot be possibly responding to every guest’s concerns and requests. There are so many customer contact points around the resort, that pretty much everyone who works here is in customer service one way or another. People on the floor are the ones creating that magical “wow” experience we are striving for as a whole. That’s why staying on top of employee engagement and training programs is our priority, even though we lose some of our staff year after year due to the seasonal nature of many jobs.
  • It’s at the times when we have angry customers who bring to the resort the stress of the outside life, that we need happy employees the most. Because they are the ones who will turn things around with their genuine warmth and human touch.
  1. Should politics be separate from business? 

This point may not be on customer service per se, but the impact of politics on the economy and people’s well-being was impossible to miss. People in Turkey heavily rely on tourism, particularly, in resort towns, where there is not much going on in terms of other business or employment opportunities. Any political turmoil in the region or deteriorating relationships with other countries take away people’s bread and butter and take their toll on the livelihood of communities.

It is no secret that the largest category of foreign tourists in Turkish resorts is from Russia. With the sheer power of numbers, Russians become a major player for this country’s tourism industry and thus an important contributor to its economy. In 2015, the relationships between these two countries soured after the highly publicised incident of Russian jet being shot down by Turkish forces during an airspace dispute near the Turkish-Syrian border.

To retaliate, Russia imposed economic sanctions on Turkey, which resulted in canceled charter flights and plunging sale of vacation packages. The sanctions were removed in 2016, but the impact they left was so huge, that now, two years later, on my trip to Turkey, the echo of the crisis was still in the air. And everyone, from the hotel administration and various business owners to local residents remembers those days as a nightmare, refers to their country today as the “post-crisis” Turkey and jokingly calls themselves the “anti-crisis” folks.

5)  Bonus point:

You may indeed run rich entertainment programs and fun sports activities all day long; you may surround your place of business with the most beautiful scenery and have world-famous historic sites nearby. You may invest a great deal in highly courteous knowledgeable staff to provide a wide range of extra services at more than fair prices. But there will always be a fraction of your customer base who won’t notice any of it. They will be there for one thing and one thing only. And in the true spirit of excellent Customer Service, all you can do is to accommodate their wireless needs and make sure you have the right bandwidth for it.

What are some of your most memorable customer service experiences on either side of the counter? Please share, I would love to hear from you.

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  1. I can relate to your “bonus point”. I have teens of my own who are glued to their devices where ever we go.

    1. Aren’t we all becoming the WiFi Generation in a way?! I like to joke with today’s teens sometimes about what’s next. Are we going to walk around with our communication devices surgically implanted in our heads 🙂

  2. One of the worst customer service examples we had to experience was in May 2018 when we had to stay 2 nights in Congress Novum Hotel in Vienna. A very tiny smelly room, blocked toilet, broken water tap, a broken park instead of a baby cot, very snappy and rude employees with zero respect to their guests. Still find it difficult to understand how the hotel’s management can run their business with such a terrible attitude towards the guests at the hotel.
    And the most memorable customer service? Definitely Royal Park Boutique hotel in Budapest which was our next destination after Vienna. Very friendly staff members were showering their guests with attention. You could’t dream about better customer service.

    1. Wow, Lida, sorry to hear about your experience at the hotel in Vienna. Almost sounds like everything they could get wrong, they did! I hope you made a good effort to address at least the rudeness with the management at higher levels. On the other hand, I’m really glad you got to experience a remarkable customer service right after. Not that it would offset the effect of Novum but I imagine it allowed you to resume your trip in a more pleasant way. There is a lot people and businesses can learn from each other’s best practices. Thank you you very much for sharing!

    2. Lida, The story of your substandard travel experience at the Congress Novum Hotel compared to your wonderful stay at the Royal Park Boutique Hotel is amazing and really identifies the power of World Class customer service. The financial investment along with their investment in time, training, and their total commitment to creating a “Service Culture” within their team is worth every training hour, and every dollar. I’m willing to bet that their original investment is converted into sales and profit dollars from positive online reviews, word of mouth, and return visits from satisfied travelers. Here I am in Vancouver, BC, Canada and if I ever get lucky enough to visit Budapest I know exactly where I’ll be staying: The Royal Park Boutique Hotel.

      1. Outstanding customer service must be rewarded and praised. So I agree with Jason and do hope that this amazing hotel is getting a lot of referrals, repeat business through the good old word of mouth. This reminded me: I was recently listening to Tony Robbins’s teachings and he was sharing about this absolutely supreme customer service experience he received at a restaurant where he was having dinner with his family between his extensive travels. So the time he spent there was precious to him and the amazing service he got added to the overall experience exponentially. Blown away by the care shown to him and his family, Mr. Robbins went out of his way to recognize the waiter. But the best part was – how this interaction launched an entire series of amazing events in their life one leading to another.

        As for you, Jason, I hope you do get to travel from Vancouver to Budapest one day and build your own excellent customer experiences and get more stories to share with us.