Monday, July 4, 2016

One City - Two Tales of Service

Downtown Miami, Florida - Photo by WPPilot / CC BY

Consistently Poor Service - With one shinning exception!

Miami is a wonderful place to visit. With its diverse cultural influences and a myriad of entertainment options - including the famous beaches - it's a fun place in the sun. This highly photogenic city has lots to offer, is home to millions and a favorite destination for millions more tourists from all around the world. 

I grew up in South Florida, but moved to Dallas, Texas in 1989. Over the years since, I have visited Miami countless times both on business and for pleasure. While attention to service has never been a strength, it's been easy to notice the precipitous decline in customer service in South Florida over the years. It mirrors the decline in service quality nationwide, but significantly magnified. 

At restaurants, hotels, the airports, and anywhere else you visit, service in Miami is generally indifferent at best and often downright atrocious. I have various theories as to why this is the case, but suffice it to say that it's just not considered important for most businesses or organizations in this city. 

During my trip to Miami this past week I had plenty of poor service experiences that confirm my position, and one surprising overwhelmingly positive experience

Let's start with the bad and, unfortunately, typical South Florida service experiences.  I was driving down beautiful A1A in Sunny Isles Beach at dinner time. I spotted a restaurant location of a growing chain that offers chicken and Latin food, and I am a fan of their food. Their service is inconsistent, but I stopped in anyway, as I had a craving for their yummy rotisserie chicken. 

I entered this fast-causal restaurant and immediately regretted it. I could not help but notice how dirty and disorganized the place was. The floor was dirty and the condiments bar was a mess, but I continued bravely approaching the register. Then I clearly noticed the disorder in the kitchen - suffice it to say there was more spilled food on the preparation tables and floor than in the food bins. The place was not busy, with only one customer ahead of me at the register ordering. But it looked like they had just served thousands of customers, and there was no one cleaning, and certainly nobody greeted me as I entered and waited to order.   

I swiftly turned around, unnoticed by any member of the staff of course, and walked out. I found another restaurant in the same shopping center, were the food was good but the service was mediocre and disinterested. 

At this other Cuban restaurant I sat at the counter (like you would at a traditional diner-type restaurant) and ordered a Cuban sandwich. The food was good, but the two servers where too engrossed in their personal conversation (which I had no choice but to overhear), to offer any attention to my needs - like the two times I had to get their attention for a refill on my drink.

I could go on and on, and provide an endless list of poor customer service examples, but you get the point.

Then there was the great experience at my hotel which pleasantly surprised me and made for a great visit. I stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott at Aventura Mall

I am a rather harsh critic, particularly when it comes to hotels. I am not completely sure how they are doing it, but this hotel is executing at an extremely high level. 

It's just a Residence Inn, not a "five star" hotel - and I don't say that other than to set the context. I've stayed at countless Residence Inns, and other Marriott properties, all over the country in my many years of travel. This Residence Inn provided the BEST service and overall experience of any hotel I've visited in a long time (including other much more expensive hotels)! 

It's a newer property, so that certainly partially explains the good appearance of the room and the common areas. But, there is no doubt that it's also well maintained. Appearance, condition and cleanliness are all very important. What was exceptional, however, was the consistently good customer service.

From my wonderful experience at check-in, the friendly greetings from staff in the hall ways, and the employees attending to the delicious breakfast, the service was consistently remarkable at every level.

What these experiences confirmed for me, is that it can be done. You can deliver great customer service in your business if you want to and if you focus on it. And it does impact your brand and your business. Despite the challenges of an environment like Miami where you have a culture that does not necessarily embrace the value of service, there are examples like this hotel business that get it right. 

I have to believe that it starts of at the top of this business, and their training and management focuses on delivering remarkable customer service for its guests every day and in every interaction. It's what we can achieve in our own small businesses regardless of the environment or type of employees. We just have to make it a priority and instill a culture that genuinely cares about the customer experience. 

Want to learn more about delivering Great Customer Service in your small business?
We invite you to listen to episode 14 (Delivering Remarkable Customer Service) of The How of Business podcast on this topic:

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