Lessons in Service from Nairobi

In July, Forbes put out an interesting piece titled "Why Everyone Should Do Customer Support." Ever since reading the piece, I’ve been thinking about the following line: “By allocating more time to listen you tend to spend less time building and distributing the wrong product and going back to the drawing board. This generally means the difference between leaving a deep crater and building a great business.” Then, I traveled to Nairobi—and wanted to throw an impromptu birthday party for my daughter.

I know; keep reading. I stayed in the Sarova Stanley and had the most unexpectedly incredible hotel experience. Better than the Ritz, yes. And it was because the staff had seemingly internalized the piece mentioned above. They listened; when my daughter got tired in the middle of dinner, they moved the table AND THE EXPERIENCE—wait staff, wineglasses, and all—to my hotel room. They lived in a world of possibility; when I said I needed a cake, decorations and a party by the pool that my daughter would love in 4 hours, they began making calls and telling me how it was going to happen. They worked together; when I needed directions to a bank, the doorman left his post (his teammate took over) and personally escorted me three blocks. It was unbelievable.

On my last night there, I asked the general manager how he had created such a cohesive, positive service experience for his guests. In addition to monthly trainings including mock customer scenarios, he attributed the atmosphere to learning from every guest experience, hiring people who were innately service oriented, and giving them the freedom to act on service impulses.

I thought about our conversation for most of the way home. It was pride in service, it was not being afraid to “let your service show”, it was, in the words of Ranjith Kumaran, Forbes contributor and founder of YouSendIt, the way to build a great business. When Optimal has their second Spirit Day of 2012 this month, I’m leading a roundtable on Service without Fear. The discussion will be based on three points:

  • As I client, you chose us. How can I make you thrilled about that choice every day?
  • Hearing vs. listening: What more can I do to enhance your experience?
  • Go crazy with it: Wear your service passion with pride and don’t be afraid to let it consume you in "out of the box" ways.

I want to know what you think:

  • If you were leading the discussion, what points would you make under each bullet point?
  • Which examples would you give to illustrate passionate service delivery execution?

Post your response and check back for a reply!


I'll blog about the roundtable and results achieved (and responses received) after Spirit Day. Thank you, Nairobi, for the inspiration.


Topics: business, communication, customer service, service