How a Tissue Box and a Pepper Shaker Rocked My World

Roberta NedryChilled champagne in a silver bucket, chocolate -covered strawberries, spectacular floral displays, elegant upgrades and décor, delicious chef creations, limousine luxury and red carpet treatment…each of these are extraordinary gestures and touchpoints in the world of hospitality. These examples are some of the ways in which hoteliers and their teams go above and beyond for guests to celebrate an exceptional moment or occasion. They are designed to create a special feeling, extra recognition, a moment of surprise and a sense of appreciation. They are “WOW” efforts that are usually recognized with WOW reactions.

Though many of these moments are unexpected, these examples are the more ‘expected’ or traditional ways to demonstrate something extra special. They are the creative efforts, amenities and products designed to cause that intense or focused moment of pleasure.

So…when a hotel or hospitality organization takes a very common effort or ordinary part of their environment and does something EXTRA or UNCOMMON to address an ordinary expectation, it is like discovering treasure in the most delightful of ways.

During a recent stay at the Kimberly Hotel in New York City, a luxury boutique suite property in Midtown, I discovered that treasure in the most ordinary of settings.

On the Kimberly Hotel’s website, they note, “Our warm, inviting atmosphere, united with a sincere commitment to personalized service, sets a distinct standard …”

That distinct standard for me began with an exceptionally warm welcome from Chef Concierge, Peter Johnson, before I even arrived, as each email message he sent was with that sincere commitment noted above. Peter, a member of the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or organization, personalized my visit before I arrived with directions to each place I would need to go and approximate time estimates so I could plan my business days and logistics in advance. Peter took the simple, ordinary steps of information and directions and proactively personalized them to make my stay most effective before we had even met.

Peter Johnson, Les Clefs d’Or Chef Concierge The Kimberly Hote

Peter Johnson, Les Clefs d’Or Chef Concierge The Kimberly Hote

Though arriving mid evening and rushing to meet a colleague, greetings by the doorman, bell staff and front desk were genuine, authentic and responsive to my haste. Each ordinary step of walking through the doors, to checking in, to the warm European style of the elevators were proving to have that personalized level of service the hotel promoted in advance and supported in delivery. But the moment that really rocked my world in the most unexpected way was when I saw the tissue box and the wastebasket in the bathroom. They were BEAUTIFUL! They were designed with a vibrant and colorful floral motif that brightened the whole room and made this functional room feel special and like someone cared about each part of my stay. It was a place I expected to be efficient, nice and ordinary. Instead it was delightful, special and extraordinary. Most the time I move the tissue box out of the way or barely notice because it is built in to the furniture. I barely pay attention to the wastebasket in the bathroom other than to be annoyed that it is too small or in another room.

In this case, these simple items became some of my favorite parts of the room. By paying attention to ordinary parts of a hotel stay and figuring out how to make them extraordinary, this hotel added a WOW for me that lasted beyond champagne and strawberries. I almost felt as if they had decorated the room just for me.

Floral Wastebasket and Tissue Box that rocked my world

Floral Wastebasket and Tissue Box that rocked my world

The conversation was brief but it was personal and authentic. This hotel employee was proactive in his interest and showed genuine pride in his hotel and what his guests were experiencing. Later I met this man, Vice President and General Manager, Mujo Perezic.

One of my favorite expressions in hospitality training is “a red carpet attitude starts from the top” and Mr. Perezic proved my point again. When the general manager of a hotel shows this kind of spontaneous caring and leadership, simply by his actions, it is no wonder that the staff can fulfill the hotel’s brand promise. Mr. Perezic understands that the hundreds of ordinary moments done in an extraordinary way (like checking in or greeting guests in the elevator) or with extra effort (beautiful tissue boxes and wastebaskets) add up to the most enduring and memorable moments for guests.

On another occasion, we arrived near closing time at La Veranda, an Italian restaurant in Pompano Beach, Florida after a full day of holiday shopping. After a warm greeting and welcome, we were seated in a corner table with sincere wishes to take our time and enjoy our meal, even though it was late. Soon, our waiter, Maynor, a Guatemala native, greeted us. He reassured us that the late hour would not diminish our experience and carefully explained the specials along with his favorite dishes. We ordered and started with a salad. Maynor asked us if we wanted fresh pepper to which we responded yes. Out of his pocket, came an amazing pepper mill, which he explained was his own. Without having to run and get the grinder and keep us waiting, he explained that he brought his own personal mill and kept it in his pocket so that he always had a working pepper source handy and could serve his guests with something meaningful to him.

We loved this personal touch, this personal commitment and this personal service. It was so unexpected and so refreshing that the simple act of grinding pepper on our salads could now take on new meaning.

Another ordinary moment made extra ordinary with simple thoughtfulness and initiative.

We have already made plans to go back and have referred others. The spirit of welcome throughout the meal and the attention to little details like pepper inspired our loyalty and our desire to return. Who knew pepper could be so profitable?

Maynor and his Personal Pepper Shaker

Maynor and his Personal Pepper Shaker

How can hoteliers and hospitality and business leaders learn from these two simple examples of ordinary moments? How can leaders and their teams better understand and define what will rock their guest and customer worlds?

Consider the following steps to add the Extra to Ordinary:

  1. Encourage employees to reexamine each touchpoint in their respective work areas and consider anything that might make a difference in the experience. Look at the most simple, ordinary and normal things and view them through experience eyes.
  2. Ask questions? What if it was… cleaner? A different pattern? A more unique solution? An easier process? A different color? Placed in a different location? Could that employee help facilitate the change or the thing that might make a difference?
  3. Ordinary can become extraordinary with behaviors as well as objects. Remember the elevator conversation and the proactive emails at The Kimberly Hotel. What little extra communications and behaviors could make a simple moment more meaningful? Perhaps it is just an extra smile, greeting or door held open. Little moments can make big impressions. Provide training on how to do this and showcase examples of these behaviors in action.
  4. Consider the sequence of events in any guest experience. How well do they flow and what might interrupt or augment any one experience. Ask for ideas and encourage participation in actively managing the guest experience.
  5. Recognize great ideas and share credit and observations amongst the team. Showcase the role model behaviors and ideas. Share guest feedback with your team that shows that the guests’ notice the things that make a difference

Make the emotional connection with each touchpoint, no matter how simple, mundane, ordinary or small. Discover the WOW in each NOW moment and that the littlest efforts or gestures may rock your guests’ worlds.