I travel this country from coast to coast on a regular basis. As a result, I see more than my share of airports, hotels, restaurants, convention centers, retail operations and just about any other type of business which might profit from superior customer service.
As a result, I constantly marvel at the fact that one business in one location cannot communicate the importance of superior customer service to the staff it employs. Apparently the negative consequences of poor service is not discussed any more than the positive consequences of exceptional service.
It’s also apparent that there is little or no focus placed on exceptional service as an expectation. Few, if any, employees are held accountable for the lack of outstanding service and consequences are obviously nonexistent in today’s competitive business environment.
Just when I’m ready to toss in the towel and admit that good service may very well have become a victim of our chaotic national status at the moment, financially and politically, the unforeseeable brightens the horizon and offers promise to all.
I found not only a single business but an entire city which realizes the impact of exceptional service and the role it plays in its future success. I was recently working with a major client in Nashville, Tennessee, during the week in which our two Presidential candidates were in town at Belmont University for their second debate. I was staying at a hotel just a matter of blocks from the debate location and, oddly enough, so was John McCain, Barack Obama, and a great number of radio, television and press people. In fact, thousands of people invaded Nashville for this global event.
Now you might say that Nashville was on its best behavior because it was in the national spotlight. However, I would argue just the opposite. Witness thousands of out-of-towners invade your city overnight, tie up traffic for miles in every direction causing delays of up to two hours, flood every restaurant, hotel, bar, cab, bus, and limo in the city adding stress at every level of the city and see if it’s conducive to great service. Place snipers on the rooftops and agents in the lobbies of hotels and campus buildings and watch the stress levels rise. Add heavy rain, thunder and lighting at the most inopportune time, and you begin to anticipate trouble on a large scale.
If anything, you could almost justify poor service under these stressful circumstances. And yet I found exceptional service at every turn during my entire four-day stay. I also found tremendous inconvenience everywhere due to this rare event. However, I was surprised to find the fantastic level of service actually reduced the many stressors to a very tolerable level.
This exceptional service actually began at the Nashville International Airport. Tootsies Orchid Lounge, a famous honky-tonk bar located in the heart of Nashville, has opened for business at the airport as well. In fact, there are several locations throughout the terminal, and they feature live bands and singers from early morning to late evening. It’s kind of a nice way to be greeted after the tension of a long flight.
As if that weren’t enough, the voices of well-known country stars welcome you to Nashville every few minutes with announcements providing directions or tidbits of local history and attractions. Any airport could do these things, but I’ve only witnessed it in Nashville and Vegas.
That same “welcome” attitude could be found all over the city … cab drivers who acted as tour guides as well as historians, desk clerks who actually asked about your trip, waiters and waitresses who seemed to appreciate your presence, and locals who gladly provided directions and conversation.
It seemed as though the entire city had been briefed on the importance of pleasing every visitor in hopes of having them return again and again. What a concept! Wouldn’t it be nice if employees of every business followed that game plan with that same goal in mind?
Nashville has made that choice and is obviously reaping the benefits. If it can get an entire city to focus on this goal, why do so many organizations struggle to do the same? Let’s hope others follow Nashville’s example before it’s too late.