Customer Service

A recent trip to music city, Nashville, TN, for the wonderful occasion of my eldest son’s wedding presented opportunities to view some really interesting approaches to customer service and profit maximization.

Customer Service has always been a passion or obsession for me. It has caused me to fume over and sometimes at, some poor innocents who have been contracted by companies in the United States to do customer service from some, apparently cheap, far away place like India.

“Hello, my name is John”, says the voice answering my call. John sounds a lot like my friend Vijay, the Indian business consultant I worked with some time ago.

My experiences in Nashville were not with offshore customer service, just plan old, eye on the ball, get it done customer service.

The Hermatage Hotel in Nashville is one of the United State’s grand old hotels. She is one hundred years old this year and managed to avoid the wrecking ball in the late seventies and to be wonderfully restored sometime after that.

Staying here is a complete joy as you are surrounded by the most beautiful, turn of the century (19th to 20th not the last one), interior decorative arts lovingly restored to their original glory. The folks who did this did not feel that they had to pay homage to newer architectural directions, thank goodness.

The rooms are beautifully modernized with fabulous bathroom facilities, including a TV you can watch as you soak in the huge tub, and wonderful bedding that is becoming more of a standard in US hotels. Total comfort.

But, I mentioned customer service.

We had breakfast in the Grill Room, a rathskeller style restaurant also restored to its early 20th century glory. We were a bit late and consequently nicely behind the crowd. The hostess and waiter greeted us with that consistent, Nashville niceness which felt completely sincere. That is not the point, however.

As we enjoyed our most delicious coffee and food, we observed the waiter moving through the empty tables, now set for lunch, and lining up the place settings with an intensity of focus rarely seen in any endeavor.

As I studied this behavior, I was struck by the question, “Why?”

It seems clear to me, that whoever owns this hotel, loves it with the passion that some of us have for old things (it comes with age, trust me…). The amazing restoration, the care exhibited in the maintenance of the facility, and now the intensity of the waiter as he made the Grill room look its very best for the lunch crowd, are behaviors associated with an amazing sense of your customer and your task of delighting them.

The waiter had been imbued with this focus to a degree very rarely seen anywhere. Nice job, Hermitage.

It is a short walk from the Hermitage to the country music hall of fame. There you will be treated to a wonderful and loving display of tons and tons of memorabilia and stories about the inductees. They will also offer you a tour of “Studio B”.

This is a tiny studio that RCA opened in 1957 and that stands out as the studio where Elvis, the King, recorded over 250 songs. Of course, lots of other wonderful talent recorded there, Roy Orbison for example, but Elvis IS the King. He sat at the piano pictured here, yes, that very piano.

I sat there too…

A simple facility and tour but our visit was made more than memorable by the delightful young woman who guided our tour and whose name I unfortunately have forgotten. How did she do it? Her love for music in general, her respect for what had happened at Studio B, and her great personality naturally connect her to her customers and bring the deal home.

Now, did management do this? Probably not. She did it. Still, it represents excellent customer service through love for a shared passion. Simple concept, right?

In the beginning I mentioned profit maximization. Do I really have to link this notion to these examples of extraordinary customer service?




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