Irrational Expertise

An MBA in the Emotional Drivers of your Workplace and Career

High Touch Makes for Hard Cash

Service means communicating that your client has value


I stayed at the Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco recently, where I got a personal reminder of the power of High Touch to sooth the client soul - in this case mine.

It's a swank hotel by my standards and my expectations were disordered. Without exactly knowing it, I was not merely checking into a hotel. I was checking into a better version of myself - a slicker, richer, altogether more entitled variation on my ordinary life. Here's how they almost blew my self-image -- and then restored me to myself and to my continuing love affair with with smart hotels in general:

The ego blow came when I was shown to my room. It was finely appointed, but it was...trapezoidal. I don't know how else to put it. Squashed between two wings of the hotel, the bed was at the apex and the bath and hall spread in two strange elongated wings from either side. Hmm, three nights in a trapezoid. Strange.

I get the immediate sense that I am in the Mandarin Oriental version of the broom closet. I take it personally. I decide it has to do with being a woman traveling alone. I work up my courage to call the front desk and ask for a rectangular room, but they explain that the hotel is entirely sold out. I learn that three investment banks are having a fiesta in San Francisco that same week. I figure the Mandarin Oriental would not dare give one of those wolves a trapezoidal room.

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I think about being one of those people who is comfortable using the imperious trick of turning down the first two hotel rooms in order to get the best one. I think about the fine line between being assertive and being carping. I am mad at the Mandarin Oriental for forcing me to abandon the version of myself I was paying for and making me see myself for the wussy doormat that I truly am.

I do realize this is a lot to put on a hotel chain, but there you have it. The interesting question was how they restored me to myself.They did it in that one simple way that works — High Touch.

It started with a knock at the trapezoidal door and an offering of complimentary chrysanthemum tea. Plus cookies. Hmm. Followed by a phone call to ask how I was doing in the room. Double hhmmm.

Next morning at six am, when I stopped in the lobby for the complimentary coffee, the desk clerk and the bellman both greeted me by name. (How do they do that?)

I  start to feel better. Maybe it wasn't a broom closet, maybe it wasn't personal, maybe they really did care? One more serving of free head phones at the gym, plus a kindly staff person who helped me figure out the Stairmaster, three more staff people who identified me by name, one gracious late check-out to make my life easier and bingo, our love affair is restored.

It made me think about the speeches I give on high touch in my own business and yours. Whatever economic upheaval your company has endured, your clients are more in need of high touch than ever before. Are you making the personal phone calls to the customers who have not returned? Are you having the thank you lunches, sending the notes, the small gifts, making the inquiries that tell people they matter?

Selling to people certainly requires that we offer something of value. Serving people means communicating that our clients have value to us. Are you doing enough of both?

I'd love to hear your own techniques for reaching out to the customers you value. And for motivating your staff to do the same. It's a cold world out there and we are all, in one way or another, stuck in some trapezoidal room. It's nice to know someone cares.

 

 

 

 

Dr. Judith Sills is a media psychologist, keynoter, and workplace consultant, as well as author the Excess Baggage and five other popular psychology books.

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