3 Keys to Top-Notch Customer Service

viking legendSuccess can be measured in numerous ways. It’s easy to recognize, particularly when you observe an organization impacting those it serves by making a positive difference in their lives.  This can only be achieved by people who care, have a strong work ethic and are committed to the team.

We all patronize businesses that treat us well and meet (or exceed) our expectations. I’ve always liked the expression, “We don’t train our people to be nice, we hire nice people.”

My experience last week with Viking River Cruises was a fantastic example of exemplary customer service. From the moment we stepped out of the baggage area at the airport, we enjoyed first-class care from a staff that seemingly doesn’t sleep. I’ve traveled all over the world and stayed in a number of Five Star Resorts, but Viking is unrivaled in personal attentiveness.

The inspiration behind this particular trip was the desire to help my 85 year old mom get her health back. It’s proven that the power of anticipating a future event is an elixir. A series of events last year left her in need of a fresh goal. She set her eyes on this trip and grew stronger by the month so she could enjoy it fully. By the time we departed, she was feeling great. However, her age does present some limiting factors, especially when it comes to walking over ancient cobblestone roads and uneven terrain. Then we met David, the Program Director on the Viking Legend. He made a special effort to not only accommodate my mom, but accompany her as she rested in cafes while my sister and I took on new adventures head-on.

Another example of value-added service was delivered by the concierge. I talked with him about the fact that I didn’t really want to do a group tour in Vienna. I mentioned I had been there before and wanted more than the typical overview of the city. He asked a key question, “What would make your day in Vienna special and memorable?” I gave it some thought and let him know I wanted to hear the organ in St. Stephens Cathedral, or at least a comparable organ. (There are many astounding instruments in Vienna!) He made it happen. He discovered an organ recital at St Peter’s Church that was perfect. We followed that with an evening at the Hofburg Imperial Palace taking in an incredible concert.

Eight days on the Viking Legend produced countless stories of over-the-top customer service involving everyone from the room maids to the hotel manager to the waiters, maître d’ and chef. I couldn’t discern even one weak link in a chain of top-notch professionals. I asked a number of them,  “What does Viking do to ensure this level of service? What kind of training do they provide to build this exceptional team?”

The answer was consistent; “We are like a family. You simply don’t take this job unless you love people and are willing to work hard. We work 18 hour days for weeks at a time. You can’t train people to love that. We are on board because we want to be. We are thankful for the opportunity.” Michael Hyatt expresses it by saying, “don’t hire people unless the batteries are included.”

There are thousands of articles and hundreds of books on hiring and building a dream team. In drilling down to the three things that make all the difference, I notice they all signify the importance of character over skill. Skills can be taught – character can not.

3 Keys to Top-Notch Customer Service

  • Hire nice people. Kindness can’t be taught – it’s an internal asset that signifies someone in touch with their heart.
  • Surround yourself with people with an impeccable work ethic.
  • Build a team with those who embrace a vision that is bigger than them. Team players are invaluable.

Gathering a staff like those beautiful souls on the Viking Legend who delivered to us a deeply memorable week is not easy. But clearly, it can be done.

Sail on – the world awaits.

Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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