Passionate Pillow Talk of the Customer Experience Kind

a.o.k behaviours Nov 18, 2017

In this post, you will learn from an experience I had when travelling aboard a cruise ship and what to ask if you want similar extraordinary things to happen with your own customers, guests or clients and the experience they have doing business with you.

Not Everyone Can Be Excellent

"Anybody can be a waiter, not everyone can be an excellent one."

That's what our waiter Pepe said as he set down our drinks on the table and arranged the small bowls of nibbles alongside. We were on a cruise a few years ago.

I'd chatted with Pepe to find out a little more about life aboard his ship and one of the answers he gave me included this. And what a great observation too, one which applies to all walks of life.

"Anybody can be a .......(insert your own job title here), not everyone can be an excellent one!"

We met Pepe when we spent five days aboard MSC Fantasia, the then recently launched flagship of Italian cruise line MSC Cruises. The trip was partly a holiday and partly conducting an audit of the ship's customer experience.

The brief was simple - "explain how the customer experience can be improved, where are the opportunities, what's being missed, where are the WOWs?" Trying to find ways to improve the experience of a premium brand is always going to be difficult.

If you were carrying out an audit of your own business or brand where would you begin? Well, start by standing in your customer's shoes.

Pepe told me how he was passionate about doing his job and serving guests the best way he could. But Pepe wasn't alone in his eagerness to please. Elton our cabin steward also adopted a positive and helpful attitude throughout the trip. In fact, Elton went beyond expectations.

Passionate Pillow Talk!

Let's be clear, it's not that sort of pillow talk! One of the first things we checked out when we arrived in our cabin was the pillows. Were they too soft, too firm, too thick, too thin? I'm a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to pillows and sleeping in other beds.

I found the pillows on this occasion to be too soft so asked Elton if he could replace them with some firmer ones. Now I was surprised when Elton said they had no alternatives but he would see if he could find a way around the problem by asking his supervisor. But later that evening he returned to our cabin with a look of disappointment on his face only to tell us that his supervisor had failed to find anything better. So Elton suggested we fold some towels around these soft pillows in an attempt to firm them up.

We tried this improvisation but it didn't work. An uncomfortable night's sleep left me waking with a stiff neck. Once again we spoke with Elton who was very empathetic but could offer no alternative. During the night the ship had arrived at Naples so after breakfast we disembarked for a tour ashore.

We didn't know it at the time but Elton had also left the ship as we learnt later that evening when he explained how he'd found four new pillows for us. This young cabin steward had decided to take the pillow problem and own it himself. With some time off that he was due he left the ship and purchased the pillows ashore in Naples. He was able to claim back the cost from his supervisor.


To say that we were impressed would be an understatement especially as it was Elton that had initiated the errand, not his supervisor or the ship's Guest Services Dept.

Elton had bothered because Elton cared and was looking for an opportunity to WOW! within the customer experience,

Another great example of AOK in action (attitude, observation, know how).

So what can we learn from this example?

Consider these questions:

  1. Who are the 'Eltons' in your organisation and how do you reward them? I made sure Elton's work was reported to the ship's master and in the feedback that will go to MSC Cruises in the UK.
  2. When was the last time you looked at the customer's experience and stood in their shoes to feel what they feel as a result?
  3. If one of your employees were faced with an opportunity to resolve a customer's issue, would they be empowered to do so, could they act without referral to their supervisor or manager? If not why not?
  4. What are you doing to develop AOK in your organisation to drive recommendations from great customer experiences?

Take Action 

Would you like to fill your tank with great ways to improve your customer experience? Do you need to rev up your team? Ask us to run a session for you to kick-start the process or run your own workshop with our ready-to-use course materials.

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