Remember when Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe was arrested for assaulting a New York hotel employee?
According to news sources, the actor is said to have struck the man when the telephone he threw bounced off a wall and hit the employee. Inexcusable behavior, to be sure. Not even the snottiest employee deserves to have a phone thrown at them.
But now, as Paul Harvey says, here is the rest of the story.
Crowe had repeatedly tried to call his wife in Australia and was unable to get through to her. He had called the front desk several times to ask for help and, when none arrived, a frustrated Crowe, who was renting nine rooms in the hotel, took the phone to the lobby.
“It’s absolutely worthless,” Crowe allegedly told the employee, “So I figured I’d come down and give it back to you.” At which point, he threw the telephone.
We saw this story on one of the morning news shows. The best part was they came back from the video clip to find the two anchors laughing. One of them said, “I’m sorry. We’ve stayed at that hotel. It’s very chi-chi and the employees do have an attitude.” Ouch.
Nobody else reported that part. Now, Russell Crowe is well-known for his bad behavior and perhaps this played a part in how he was treated at that hotel, but how many times have you been pushed to your limit by a less-than-cordial employee?
Sometimes businesses get a bad rap about service. And sometimes they deserve it. While others are willing to accommodate just about anyone, regardless of how they look or act.
We’ve encountered this plenty of times during our research, posing as different kinds of customers. And yes, we have found that generally we do get better service when we’re nice and well dressed. But you can’t judge a book by its cover or customers by how they present themselves.
There is a famous story about the farmer who went to a department store to make a big purchase. The full time salesmen took one look at his dirty overalls and passed the customer off to the part-time guy. The part-time salesman was gracious, and the farmer ended up buying the complete kitchen and bathroom that he had promised his wife he’d buy her when the time was right. When the farmer pulled a wad of cash from his pocket, the look on the full-time salesmen’s faces must have been priceless. Imagine the commission they lost by prejudging that customer!
Remember the scene in the movie Pretty Woman, when the saleswomen in a boutique take one look at Julia Roberts’ character and refuse to help her? In direct contrast, the manager of the hotel in that same movie, bends over backwards to help her because she is a guest of one of his guests.
That’s how it is in most upscale places: the people who work there are trained to take impeccable care of their guests. Apparently the employees at Russell Crowe’s hotel missed the memo.
LEARN BY EXAMPLE
Ritz Carlton, for example, has its Empowerment Program, where every hotel associate, regardless of rank, has the power to take care of a customer’s request. They can, in fact, spend up to $2,000 to make that customer’s request happen.
At The Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida, front desk associates wait in front of the desk to greet their guests as they arrive. And all over the property, associates step back whenever they cross paths with guests to allow them to pass by unencumbered. They also smile warmly and say hello.
Another great example of extraordinary service can be found at Hermes, a 160-year-old seller of handbags, luggage, fine accessories, and more. Martha Stewart carried her Hermes Birkin bag with her to her trial each day, and people were appalled that she would spend that kind of money – Birkin bags cost between $6,000 and $85,000 – but that’s the allure of Hermes.
We spent time at Hermes, observing customers, at their store at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The associates were equally as gracious to people dressed to the nines, as they were to those in cut-offs and tank tops. And yet as hard as they try, we’d venture a guess that even those fine establishments occasionally drop the ball on customer service.
How consistently good is the customer care in your own store? We know you’re convinced it’s top drawer, but what happens when you’re not around? We have an eight-minute exercise for you to calculate the cost of just one unhappy customer. Send us an e-mail; we’ll be glad to send it to you.
Be diligent about what you expect from store associates. In today’s casual world it’s important to explain – in exact detail – how you expect them to behave. And then explain it again. Lead by your own actions. Tell your team that you are being held to the same standards that they are held to, and if they catch you messing up, lunch is on you for the next week.
Customer service is a game that’s won or lost each day in your store. You are only as good – or as bad – as the customer’s last encounter. When the buzz about town is about how great your store treats its customers, you are sure to attract new ones. The positive word of mouth that you build is invaluable, and it’s tough to fix once it turns negative.
We bet that whoever owns that New York hotel wishes the desk clerk had thought about that before Russell Crowe felt it necessary to make a trip down to the lobby.