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The Teddy Bear Story

After a stay at Chimes in the winter of 2003 with my wife Gwen I was so impressed I wrote an article about the experience.

Since then this article has appeared in numerous trade publications in Australia and New Zealand, as I write for a number of retail, service sector and small business magazines and newsletters. A slightly condensed version of it has appeared in Kym Illmans book, 'The Future Is Customer Service' and it is included in my new book, '52 Terrific Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Selling and Service'.

It is also incorporated into support notes for the 'Tourism Today' programs I run for tourism businesses in WA on behalf of the Small Business Development Corporation and the Tourism Blitz seminars I present for Tourism WA.

The Teddy Bear Secret by Jurek Leon

"We have learnt that when you anticipate a customers needs, that's when they begin to feel loyal towards you."
This quote comes from Theo Gilbert-Jamison, V-P. Training & Organizational Effectiveness, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company

Given The Ritz Carlton's reputation it's hard to argue with one of their senior executives. But I'll do it anyway.

While Theo makes a good point, its so much more than anticipating needs and the Ritz Carlton is a classic example of this. But before I give you one of their examples here's one that happened to me last winter.

It took place at the Chimes Spa Retreat at Denmark in the South West of Western Australia; a wonderful intimate boutique lodge in a beautiful setting with breathtaking views. I'd booked in for three nights with my wife Gwen to be pampered, enjoy long walks and sit in front of a log fire in the evening with a glass of wine (that's my idea of good health!).
We had a beautiful room with a veranda overlooking the amazing countryside and the ocean. The staff were friendly and obliging. It was close to the small town of Denmark, the beautiful coastline and in easy driving distance of many other fascinating sites. But that wasn't what made the visit memorable.

It was a Teddy Bear. Not just any teddy bear, this was a mischievous one.

On our arrival we noticed a delightful teddy bear seated on the couch looking very cute. When we arrived back in our room later that day the bear was sitting by the edge of the spa with a towel as if it was resting after a luxuriating dip. For fun, the next morning, I moved it somewhere else. As we headed back to our room at the end of the day our curiosity was well and truly aroused and we were like a couple of children who couldn't wait to see what the teddy had been up to.

We weren't disappointed. Teddy, no doubt aided by his helper who freshened the rooms each day, was sitting up in bed wearing the reading glasses that I'd left on the side, and reading a book.

Now, the ambience, the spa treatments, the awesome breakfast and all the other things I've mentioned earlier certainly made Chimes Spa Retreat special but for us it was the Teddy Bear that gave it that extra something that made it memorable.

So I was interested to read that legendary quality and customer service guru Tom Peters recounts a similar story about The Ritz Carlton. I'll preface it first with another quote from Theo Gilbert-Jamison.

"The front-desk's purpose is not to check people in. That's its function. The purpose is to welcome the customer."

Tom Peter's Story:

This is what happens when, say, a hotel housekeeper, sees her purpose as "enlivening the senses" rather than simply clearing up a room. It's a story that Tom Peters loves to tell.

A customer wrote to the Ritz-Carlton expressing his astonishment at the behaviour of the housekeeper during a stay in New York with his wife and daughter. After a day sight-seeing in the city, they returned to their room, only for their daughter to complain that her teddy bear was missing.

After a quick search, they found it hidden in the towelling cupboard, with a foil-wrapped chocolate clasped in its paws. The next day, the bear had disappeared again; the daughter found it under the bed with another chocolate in its paws.

At the end of each day, for the duration of their stay, their daughter couldn't wait to get back to the room to play "find the teddy" with a housekeeping maid she never actually met. "It was the best part of her stay," wrote the customer.

****************************************** The rarely mentioned aspect of this fun and mischief as demonstrated in Tom Peter's example and my own is that by bringing a little bit of herself to the job it also makes it a more energising and satisfying role for the housekeeper.

People like to know they are being looked after by real people who care. The systems and standards within an organisation free workers up to, in the right way, put a bit of personality into their role, however humble that role may be.

It would be worth sharing these examples with your team and asking (not telling) them what they have done or would enjoy doing to make the experience memorable for their customers.

By the way, I was prompted to write this article after reading the Ritz Carlton comments I have shared with you in my favourite UK customer service ezine www.eCustomerServiceWorld.com.

Jurek Leon is a speaker, trainer and consultant. To subscribe to Jurek's FREE monthly email newsletter go to the Free Articles section of his website www.terrifictrading.com and type in your name and email address. It's simple and easy. Alternatively, email Jurek at info@terrifictrading.com.