Customer Service Lessons from Ireland

Three glorious weeks touring the Emerald Isle reminded me of a few important customer service lessons:

1. Charm matters. A lot.  My wife and I stayed in some very historic and rustic accommodations while in Ireland.  The service in some of these small country inns was not always consistent, sometimes even coming across as a tad chaotic or uncoordinated.

Did this bother us? Not in the least. For the simple reason that the service staff in the inns and associated restaurants were so ridiculously  nice and welcoming, and the overall ambiance and feel was just so darned, well, charming.

By contrast, our last night of our three week trip was the only night we spent in a more traditional, modern hotel.

And we hated it. There was no charm. No soul. No personality. Nobody making us feel like we were special.

Now I have no idea how one truly defines “charm” until you see it and feel it in action.  But it’s something any smaller sized business should be aiming towards as a huge competitive advantage over their larger competitors.

And it starts by making sure you hire the right people,  train them to exceed your customers’ expectations, and by giving them the freedom to be themselves and show some personality on the job.

2. Traditions and rituals count for a lot.

Ireland, of course, is an old country steeped in history.  As I stood in line to kiss the famous Blarney Stone or as I toured around the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin,  I was reminded of the power of tradition to create stories, engage people and create shared experiences for people.

3. It’s so easy to go beyond what’s expected when it comes to providing great service.

We’ve never experienced such phenomenal service and hospitality as we did during our three weeks.  So many people made us feel welcome, and treated us like guests in their own home, whether we dining out in a restaurant, or taking a tour or staying at a B & B (okay, so it that case, we really were guests in their own home).    But it even came down to random encounters with people, such as the time I asked an older gentleman if the route we were on would take us out to the main highway.  The gentleman gave us a huge smile, welcomed us to Ireland   and not only pointed out that yes we were on the right road, but rather than merely stopping there as many folks would have, he went on to point out a few of the other places this road would lead us to.

Charm, tradition and exceeding expectations. Three things any service business should strive for if they want to bring a little bit of Irish good luck their way.

Michael Kerr, August, 2011   www.mikekerr.com

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