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Blog : Wowed and awed in New York


Wowed and awed in New York

In my view, customer service is all about making things easy for the customer. I called 118118 the other day for the number of a restaurant. I was pretty amazed when the voice on the end of the phone asked if I'd like her to book that for me, took the details and five minutes later I received a text to say it was all arranged. I have no idea what this cost though for a time poor person like me, it has to be worth it.

We launched our Edinburgh office this week; it was a fab success and there's tons of enthusiasm in Scotland for what learnpurple do. The night before the press launch we stayed at Tiger Lily, part of the independently owned Montpelier Group. Checked into the (very lovely) room. Good grief! As well as a proper hairdryer there were GHD hair straighteners. There was fresh ice in the ice bucket (aren't they usually empty?). In the mini-bar a shiny fresh lime, no less, to perk up your G and T, a candle in the bathroom, as well as an iPOD speaker deck there was an iPoD loaded with music for all tastes. All of this makes life easy and that bit more pleasurable. It's great customer care.

Last week I was in New York and popped along to see Union Square Hospitality group, users of our talent toolbox. Perhaps there's nothing new about American service but, wow, these guys were good. Now we have many lovely clients here in the UK and in other parts of the world but what a completely charming experience. Hugs all round and so delighted to see me; so very appreciative of everything our system has done for them - as if I was the valued customer, not them.

Then I had dinner at fabulous Eleven Madison Park and was greeted by name before I was even through the door. How do they do that? I discovered later that they Google all their guests so they can recognise them when they arrive. A bit creepy? No actually just, as they say in New York, awesome. One night we went to a branch of the 'Rosa Mexicano' chain, for a simple good value family dinner. Wow again though. Guacamole served tableside with all the showmanship of a 70s Steak Diane. And amazing smiling waiting staff -fantastic. And great bathrooms in all the places I visited, so important but often so badly done.

But it wasn't just restaurant service, perhaps you'd expect that to be good. On the subway, on hearing our English accents complete strangers were asking us if we were ok and knew where to go. In the shops people run around and help you and give you free stuff. In the UK we're not great at low cost give-aways to make the customer feel well cared for (although the Firmdale Hotel group do it very well). And when they say 'Have a really great day' they look and sound as if they actually mean it.

Despite the bitter cold and piled up snow, people went about their business looking happy and being pleasant. Attending to my Blackberry, leaning over a rail looking down on the lobby of the very lovely Time Warner building in Columbus Circle, a group of hoodies surrounded me from behind. Squaring up for some evasive action I turned to face them, giving my best 'don't mess with me' glare and then one of them said 'Hey mam, just wanted you to know you look really great backlit against that view'. Turns out they were a group of photography students and they were being sincere. So even the hoodies go out of their way to make you feel good. OK, so it would be naive to think all that Giuliani's zero tolerance policy and quality of life initiatives weeded out all the bad guys but things are certainly much improved from the big apple of the 80s. It would be far too controversial to say that tragic events have bonded and softened the people of New York though it is interesting to observe the way that people interact and help one another. It's inspiring to see - something amazing is happening over there and I, for one, was 'awed' and 'wowed'.

So what can we learn from this?

It costs nothing to smile and makes such a difference

Appreciation is a powerful thing and a useful tool for anyone in a service role

Customer service has no boundaries

Helping random tourists is great PR for your City

And saying something nice is so much better than just thinking it

It had been a while since I'd visited New York but I'm so looking forward to the next time. As the cliche goes 'a change is as good as a rest' and when it's to a City where people are so great, it's pretty therapeutic.

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