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What The Omni Hotel Taught Me About Serving Customers – Even Those That Aren’t Yours

06 May Posted by in Business | 2 comments

We stay at a LOT of hotels, but recently we stayed at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the first time. I was so knocked over (that’s a good thing)  by their customer service that I felt compelled (and I promised the desk guy) to write about our experience.  We tend to stay at moderately priced hotels paid for by my clients.  (When it’s on our dime, we go cheap.)  Most of the hotels we visit offer good service, even great service. But sorry all you others out there – the Omni is officially kicking your butt. At least in my opinion anyway.

It started with the valet guys who actually smiled while helping us unload the car. One of them took a moment to talk to my son’s stuffed teddy bear. (Immediate ten points.)  The guy at the front desk waved us over. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a wave, but his expression of excitement at seeing us was as good as one of those big old southern come over and hug my neck kind of waves.  He was eager to help us, and it showed. He got us squared away quickly and efficiently while patiently taking a look at all of my son’s boo-boo’s. (Ten more points.)  He didn’t act aggravated when he found out the kid was with us – but graciously made the change with pleasure. At this point I had gone from not knowing his name, to figuring out who I could set him up with because wasn’t he just precious!

Then he gives my kid a toy pack. I kid you not – a backpack (jet pack as he solemnly pointed out to my wide-eyed son) – filled with super fun kids’ stuff.  One hundred points and I am naming my next child after him.  Yuri Swanson. I like it.

He asked us where we were eating dinner that night, in such a pleasant voice I was almost thinking he would be cooking for us. We didn’t know, so he pulled out the map and pointed out forty restaurants within walking distance, then winked, looked around to make sure nobody was listening, and whispered, “This one is my favorite. Best in the whole city. I send everyone here, and nobody has come back unhappy. This one gets my vote.” He circled it and penciled our steps from the door to the restaurant – but assured us that he would still be working if we needed his assistance.  (I think I’m in love.)

We loved the restaurant.  It was exactly as Yuri described, and I still remember him waiting excitedly when we returned to hear what we ordered. We all kissed  him good night (well, in my head) and said our good-byes. We get up to the room and find that he has sent cookies and chocolate milk FOR ALL OF US (yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus) and we munched those warm cookies in front of the TV while my son said he wanted to be Yuri when he grew up.  I called down to the desk to schedule my wake up call (okay, just to hear his voice one more time) and he cheerfully called me by name. We left the Omni the next day to a group of cheerful staff waving goodbye – and I half expected them to start singing “So long, farewell auf wiedersehen, good night.”

I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning. But I still remember Yuri at the Omni, and have this secret twinge of jealousy wondering whose stuffed bear he’s talking to today. And here’s the real kicker. Technically, I wasn’t his customer. And he knew it. My client paid for the room. That was his customer. Yet Yuri treated us like we were stars.

We all talk about customer service until we’re blue in the face. Yet most places I visit are staffed by people who don’t look the least bit happy to be there – much less excited to see me. It doesn’t take much to stand out above your competition when you serve your customers.  And you’re in luck, because it’s obvious that many of your competitors aren’t even trying.

Good-bye Yuri at the Omni. I’ll miss you.

(PS  I did not receive any compensation for this blog post. But does anybody know if Omni has an affiliate program?)

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