A friend asked me recently, over dinner, about some specific hotels and what I loved about them. As the conversation got going, we all ended up sharing our own favourite moments. Which then turned to examples of exceptional service, and the ever so familiar discussion about ‘what luxury meant’ to each of us.
So I decided to ask my readers, from all over the world, to share their most memorable customer service experiences. And they were so varied – and oh so good. But they are all very similar – and what I mean by this, is that they are not about the decor of the hotel or the size of the airplane seat. They are about people – people who went out of their way to help them, surprise them, make things easier for them. All in all, things that do not cost money. But those are the things that we all remember.
I asked Mr. O about his top customer service moments and it took us a whole dinner to pick these! Here they are in no particular order:
- Room-service breakfast at the Pulitzer Hotel in Amsterdam. What was so special about it? It wasn’t the food. It was the fact that they called us as the food was leaving the kitchen so we could be awake and property dressed. We have stayed there a good 4 times and each time, the same thing happened. Costs the hotel nothing, but made such a difference – and no other hotel in the world ever did this.
- When we arrived in Belfast, in Northern Ireland, we had a dental emergency. Mr. O was in pain and had an abscess. We realised this when we were having lunch at Mourne Seafood and the waiter overheard our conversation and saw me trying to call 5 dentists (based on Google searches) and no luck. He then called his own dentist and managed to get us an appointment. When we made it to the Culloden Estate, where we stayed, we told the story at reception (as we were so grateful) and the manager said: ‘I think I know what you need now to relax’. After we got to the room, a hot toddy was delivered for Mr. O, and a glass of champagne for me. It was so kind.
- At Velassaru, in the Maldives, one night we were surprised by Ali Rasheed who greated us like long-lost friends as he remembered us from a previous visit to the hotel. I told him I really wanted some Maldivian curry for dinner one night and he said he would sort it. I was going to call the concierge to see if I could organise it, but was surprised at breakfast the next day by the F&B supervisor, with whom Ali had followed up, to set the venue and time. It was something tiny, but we thought it was so kind of him to actually do this. Needless to say that the dinner was excellent and if you go there, just ask for the same. They will totally go off menu for any guest.
- My flights from Lisbon to London with British Airways are always quite epic. Why? Because of luggage. If I told you the things we have brought over from the motherland to our home in the UK, you would not believe it (curtains, fabric, flowers, a wash basin once). It is always a lot – just because. One day, I wanted to bring a painting and decided to check in way before our flight and go for lunch (outside the airport) and just go straight to the gate. The other reason why I did this was also because of the painting. It was odd-sized and the lady, whose name I will never forget (Sao Godinho) said she was going to look into it. I knew that if it didn’t fit, my mother or sister would just take it and have it sent by courier. I wasn’t particularly worried. I was surprised to get a call when I was at lunch from her saying that it wasn’t going to work. Then an hour later she called again saying that Rui (one of BA’s airport managers) was coming on shift and was going to see what could be done and that I shouldn’t worry. The problem was the scanner – we were off by 1.5cm. When I got to the airport, I suggested opening the box, remove the painting and just get it on the scanner – we gained 3 cm and it went through. Then someone got some tape, we packed it up again and it was hand carried to the plane. Every time I look at the painting on our living room I remember this story. They really went out of their way – and don’t forget one thing, this team has been the same for years. They have always known me as Sra. Silva – sadly BA now has subcontracted their ground operations in Lisbon and it is a different team. Good old days!
- We were in Canada for a friend’s 50th birthday party recently and were driving back to Toronto and were supposed to have to drop the car at the airport, then get a taxi to the city centre. I decided it wasn’t the best idea, so I tweeted Avis and mentioned Trump Toronto on the tweet. I asked Avis where the closest downtown location to the hotel would be and what time would it close. Avis did not respond, but the hotel’s concierge team did, telling me they would sort the car out on arrival and drop it off to Avis which was a block away. I was really impressed.
- On a recent stay at the St. Regis Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi, we received the standard pre-arrival concierge email asking if we needed any reservations. As I had made no plans at all (for once!), I decided to ask for some very specific restaurant reservations and was surprised to see the conversation going through the night (Abu Dhabi is 2 hours ahead of London and it was like 11pm when I responded to the email). The next morning, everything was booked and sorted. Nothing crazy special here but what happened during our stay, over 5 days was exceptional. I asked for some changes to be made, they came within 10 minutes. I then decided to see if it was possible to make a spa appointment, and within minutes I had an email from the spa. All this took place whilst I was at the beach, in between dips. I think I asked for more things than I normally would just to test the service (by the way, I was incognito at the hotel, no one knew Mrs. O was there). This is an example for hotels to follow for sure.
- At the same hotel, we had lunch at its beach side restaurant on the first day, and really thought the Maitre d’, Joshy Antony was excellent. And so was the menu – lots of variety but particularly good fish which is something we love. Then on the second day, I went in during the morning to book a table – when we arrived at the agreed time, it felt like we were totally home. On the third day, I forgot to book and we just walked in (more or less at the same time) and there were two couples ahead of us waiting for a table. But a table (and a very specific table had been booked for us). He said he thought we would come that day too. And we did every day.
- You probably know by now that I like to indulge in a bit of shopping when I am away – taking 6 or 8 bags is not an issue and I will not even apologise. That is what premium ticket baggage allowances are for. When we were in Madeira (which we are dying to go back to), I bought 2 dresses at Lanidor (which is a nice Portuguese high street chain) and they needed alterations. This was Saturday and we were leaving on Monday. And it was Easter. The lady there said she was going to call her aunt and see if she could help – and very kindly she agreed to have them ready the following Monday at 1pm. Our transfer with Sovereign to the airport was supposed to be at 1pm, and we did not have much wiggle room. So I texted Sovereign’s 24 hour concierge service and asked for ideas. With time at a premium, they coordinated with the hotel so our bags could be ready (we were out for the day, by the way, just to make it easier), organised for us to go to the shop, had the car waiting for us outside, then got to the hotel where bags were literally at the door ready to go and off we went. Having this extra help from Sovereign was excellent and I really appreciated the effort.
- My husband arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 early for a flight to Paris and dropped of his car at the meet and great area with Perfect Parking, a company we have been using for over 7 years and cannot be happier. He had checked in online, so went to the lounge, and when he got some money from the BA Travelex Counter at the South Lounges, he realised he did not have his passport with him. He checked everywhere and did not have it, so he asked a BA staff member at the lounge if she could check at security if any passports had been found. She also helped him go through his carry-on case and briefcase in case he was being blind and nothing. At some point, he had a brainwave and called the valet parking company to see, if by any chance, the car was still there and if the passport could potentially be there. A miracle happened and the car was still at the airport terminal and the passport was sitting in the boot of the car! So the BA lady went through security to meet the driver and get the passport. At this point, the flight was boarding, so all he had to do was thank her a 1000 times, call back Perfect Parking to thank them and dash to the gate, where he made it just before the flight closed.
These are all super simple – it is not the caviar or foie gras meals that I remember. What I remember are people who went out of their way to make life easier for me (and 99% of these are all non Mrs. O stories) and my husband. It is people that we remember, isn’t it?
I am compiling your favourite stories too – so don’t be shy and send them over to me. Feel free to leave a comment on this Facebook post, leave a comment below or just email me through this page.