WOW Word-Of-the-Week #365: Extraordinary

August 2, 2011 by · Comments Off on WOW Word-Of-the-Week #365: Extraordinary 

Extraordinary – far more than usual or expected.

What does “far more than usual or expected” mean to you?  When was the last time you experienced something extraordinary? How did it leave you feeling? How many people did you tell?

Excellence was WOW #360 and I wrote about our very disastrous experience on the Rocky Mountaineer.  The following is the response I received from them:

“Thank you for your email of July 8th, 2011, outlining your concerns on your recent Rocky Mountaineer rail journey.  I appreciate your feedback and want to express that I am truly sorry to hear that you were disappointed with your experience with us as we take pride in the high level of service that we provide to all of our guests.

As you are already aware, Rocky Mountaineer has been experiencing a labour disruption since June 22nd, 2011. However, the Rocky Mountaineer has continued to operate as scheduled and has departed from various locations without any delays. We have also received a number of compliments from our guests on the terrific service they had while travelling with us.

The Onboard team consists of management and temporary employees, who have undergone the same safety and service training provided to all our Onboard Attendants. To ensure that our guests receive extraordinary service, most of our newer Attendants are professionals in the hospitality industry with outstanding customer service skills.

I apologize for any disappointment caused in regards to the ongoing labor disruption and your experiences onboard as you referred to in your correspondence. We take your comments very seriously. At this time however, we are politely declining your request for compensation It has been a pleasure to have you as our guest onboard the Rocky Mountaineer. 

Once again, we apologize for the experience you had and hope to have the opportunity to welcome you onboard again in the future.

Yours sincerely, Ed Baklor

Executive Vice President, Guest Services

Well all I can say is that the guests who say they had “terrific service” were either not in our train car or were from a third world country!

This week’s focus is extraordinary. What can you do for your guests, customers, members or clients that is “far more than usual or expected?” If you were promised an extraordinary experience what would you expect? If you spent twice as much money than you ever had before would you expect it to be twice as good? If you were me, how would you respond this letter?

Reader Responses

“My response to the letter would point out that the level of service promised for the money paid did not even approach extraordinary. It was more like mediocre. Obviously, we don’t truly know what kind of experience the others on the trip reallly had, so it is hard to judge that. But based on what you experienced, it is hard to believe his response. Further, I would point out that even though there was a strike at the time of your trip, the onus is on the company to provide the promised service for the fee charged. In his letter to you, he was using that situation as an excuse and to justify the fact that he would not remunerate you. This is one of those situations where a contingency plan should have been put in place ahead of time. It was not. Therefore, there should have been a refund, if only a partial one. Kristen and I took the girls to Door County in July. We had to leave the hotel a day early because of a water problem in our basement due to a large storm that hit the Chicago area. We were informed by management when we left, that if our room was rented the day that we left, we would received at least our down payment. It did get rented on what would have been our last day at the hotel, so we were given a check for half of that down payment. At least the hotel made that effort. The guy you were dealing with would not even give a partial payment. If you could have had the others in your car send similar letters, that probably would have made your case stronger. As you know, it is word of mouth that can change things. I suggest that since you were not compensated, you can use word of mouth to make a difference in his business. His attitude seems to be, “Well, I apologized, but I’ll be damned if I am going to refund ANY money because it WASN’T MY FAULT!” That is not how you win friends and influence future customers. He only went halfway with the apology. He needed to go all the way and refund your money. He has a few things to learn. Extraordinary means above and beyond the call of duty. He did not even take care of the call of duty.” – “Warrior” Joe

“I think the people who are extraordinary are the workers who work outside for a living. They are out in the intense heat (like it is in San Antonio) of temperatures over 100 degrees and still do their jobs. Then there are those who work outside and do even more extraordinary things like save a life! I’ve attached a short news article about a Time Warner Cable worker who just happened to be at the right place at the right time and save a 7 year old boy’s life. The article doesn’t say, but this guy was given an award by the company and the Chief of Police for going over and beyond the call of duty to save a life. The one thing the Chief said in his interview with the media was and I’m paraphrasing, “It’s truly amazing how many good people there are out there, who are at the right place at the right time and who in the moment are calm and collected to perform CPR and save a life.” He then encouraged everyone to get CPR certified because one never knows when it’s their turn to do something extraordinary. I thought this was poignant and that is why I commend those people who are out there in the elements and who happen to be at the right place at the right time and know exactly what is needed to do. Simply extraordinary. Thanks.” – Linda

“I would call Ed Baklor and offer to come and do a program.  If you want me to call, please give me his contact info.  Turn it into business. Thats my ‘marketing’ thought.  Let me know what you think.” – Susan

“Usually, a person receiving a letter like this just becomes ‘the customer who never comes back.’ The train official has done his perfunctory duty, trying to make the best of a bad situation, you don’t get the refund or compensation you requested, and you never respond and never give them your business again. Nothing has been gained by either side. On the other hand, as Wayne Dyer puts it: ‘Everyday we are presented with opportunities to be kind, or to be right. Always choose kind.’ If you want to practice an act of kindness, and feel like taking the time to be conciliatory, you could respond that you appreciate the response, that these thing happen, that you hope the labor issue is resolved, etc. and that you hope he has a better day. It has been shown in numerous studies that people receiving an act of kindness experience increased levels of serotonin (the “happy” hormone). So do the people who perpetrate the act of kindness, as well as people who witness it. So you would be doing something good for yourself, and making the best of a bad situation. And that would be at least some kind of compensation. Keep up the good work.” – Bob

“That is one word I think is its own ‘oxymoron’ and I avoid using it. If you ‘dissect’ it one may ask is there an ‘ultimate degree of ordinary?’  So if someone or something is Extraordinary they have achieved a level of ‘ordinariness’ heretofore unknown to the most mundane of mere mortals.” – John

“Hi honey.  Regarding what you should do, a long time ago you told me that 99% of people who don’t return to restaurants never tell anybody why they were dissatisfied.  Over the years I have taken that stat to heart and have begun many letters to restaurant owners or managers with that line, saying I was going to be in the 1%.  Using this tactic I have gotten free (very expensive) meals in places like Bistro 110 in Chicago and Del Frisco’s in Las Vegas.  So I think you should escalate past this person and go to the next higher level or all the way to the top.  Not only will you be doing them a favor by letting them know of your unhappiness, you might also get something out of it!  All the best!  XO” –  Leslie

WOW Word-Of-the-Week #360: Excellence

June 29, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Excellence – exceptionally good; superiority.

What does excellence look like to you? Do you remember the last time you experienced service excellence? What are your expectations when a business claims service excellence? Do you expect it to be an exceptionally good and superior experience?

We just returned from a three week road trip in the US and Canada. I have to tell you there’s a lot to be said for having paved roads and toilets when you’re traveling! One of the things that has been on our “Bucket List” is taking the Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver to Banff. They did a great job selling me on the GoldLeaf service which was almost twice as much as the RedLeaf service. I struggled with paying the extra cost and in the end justified it by repeating my travel mantra which is, “We are only going to do this once.”

Their website states, “Our custom-designed, two level, glass-domed GoldLeaf coach puts you right in the middle of the awe-inspiring scenery of the Canadian Rockies. Take in the dazzling vistas upstairs, and enjoy delightful meals downstairs. From the attentive service provided by your Onboard Attendants, to the gourmet meals prepared from regional cuisine by our award-winning, onboard chefs. GoldLeaf Service is quite simply, as good as it gets.”

Rocky Mountaineer

On June 20th I received this e-mail stating, “On Wednesday, June 15th, we were served with strike notice by the union. In order to provide our guests with exceptional and uninterrupted service, we had no choice but to give the union lockout notice, effective 12:01 am on June 22, 2011. Please be assured that if there is a labour disruption, it will be business as usual and the Rocky Mountaineer will be operating as scheduled. Guest service remains our number one priority and we have a comprehensive contingency plan in place to ensure that your experience onboard the Rocky Mountaineer exceeds expectations.”

We started that portion of our trip in Vancouver on the 22nd and boarded the train on the 24th. When we arrived at the train station we were met by picketers who blocked the parking lot and were chanting, “We love our jobs.” We boarded the train and took off knowing everything would be great since they said, “We have a comprehensive contingency plan in place to ensure that your experience onboard the Rocky Mountaineer exceeds expectations.”

We sat back in our very comfortable seats and proceeded to read their Mile Post newspaper. The headline read “World Class Service” and went on to say, “At Rocky Mountaineer, our team is committed  to providing service excellence to our guests. Each member is specially trained and committed to ensure you have a comfortable and enjoyable journey.  Each coach is assigned On-board Attendants who will do their utmost to exceed your expectations.” And the final paragraph states,” Now that you know more about us, sit back, relax and enjoy our hospitality – Rocky Mountaineer style!”

I probably don’t have to tell you how the trip went. From bad to worse! Our two attendants (for our entire train car) did the best they could provided they clearly had no training (or uniforms). Our gourmet meals tasted like something from a grocery store frozen food section. On the bright side the scenery was beautiful (at least they couldn’t screw that up). I intend to follow up and find out how they plan on exceeding my expectations and when I should expect to experience there service excellence.

Key Point: The more you charge the pickier your customers, guests, and members become and the higher their expectations!

This week focus on what excellence looks like in your operation. Would your  customers, guests, or members rate your business and your service as exceptionally good and superior to your competition?

Reader Responses

“It’s too bad we don’t see more excellence in customer service.  It seems we’re a dying breed…” – Rebecca

“Wow!  You had me sold on the trip till I read how it had not met your expectations, bummer!” – Susan

“I was taught at a young age to “autograph my work with excellence.” It is unsettling for all of us when we are told about the excellent service we are going to receive and then it is much worse. Obviously, our expectations are dashed and disappointment and frustration then set in. Don’t tell us, show us! I am a big believer in not telling someone how good the job will be, but showing them by example. Every day in our office I try to lead by example. People are much more impressed when you show them rather than tell them. And when we show people consistently what we can do, that is impressive. But continuing to tell them about our excellence and then not delivering on it hurts everyone over the long haul. I am not surprised at what you experienced, Susan. This should be a lesson to all of us. As my father has always reminded me during my lifetime, “You have to show me, because I’m from Missouri” (The Show-Me State). Thanks, Susan. Take care.” – “Warrior” Joe