Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Back in the Swing of Things

As you may have observed, I'm back from vacation and back into the swing of things. So: was I able to stay away from connecting online? For the most part, yes, although I will admit to checking in every now and then when I was able to latch on to a WiFi signal. But that doesn't mean that technology was completely out of my life!

Oddly enough, probably the most useful gadget I brought along with me was a Lifepop speaker bag. As faithful blog readers might recall, I mentioned these bags in one of my very first blog posts back in May 2007 entitled "Things You Never Thought You'd Need Nor Want". So what is this thing? It's a funky, retro-styled and oversized bag with two speakers and an amp built right into it. Pop in four "AA" batteries, connect any portable player that has a headphone jack, and enjoy music anywhere. My desired spot was the beach. I loaded up the bag with my beach towel, sunscreen, and other necessities, along with my SanDisk Sansa MP3 player (my significant other brought along his iPod as well). We placed the bag between us and enjoyed the tunes while basking in the sun. When a few friends joined us, we all got to enjoy the same music and chat with one another instead of each listening with his own pair of headphones in solitude. I was floored by how many comments I received on the bag from passers-by; many beach-goers even expressed their disappointment when we were packing up to go each day since they were enjoying our music! Who knew.

As promised, I did read through John's recommended reading: Hug Your Customers, and like he, found myself observing the quality of customer service everywhere I went. It is truly baffling to see how many people just don't seem to care, simply hanging around each day for the paycheque and taking whatever sale they can get without actually trying to add value to that sale. I tried on clothing at a store with virtually no help from a sales associate despite how many times they must have seen me go in and out of a change room. We sat on a patio for 45-minutes having dinner without the waiter coming back once to check on us and see if we needed anything. While I did end up buying something at the clothing store, we didn't stay for dessert, coffee, or additional drinks at the restaurant in question. This wasn't because we didn't want any, but simply because we didn't want to give them any more of our business than they deserved.

But on the flip side, I also observed some great "hugging". At a high-end hotel, for example, the concierge came by the pool with everything from freezies (ahh, memories) to paper cups of Aloe Vera to keep guests cool. A couple lounging there requested a pack of cigarettes. "We don't sell any in the hotel," answered the concierge, "but I'd be happy to run down to the store and grab some for you." Now that is hugging, despite the request!

Now, I know what you're thinking. "This is a high-end hotel so obviously they're going to offer such services!" That's what you'd expect vs. somewhere that hires a part-time student just looking for some cash. But there are ways, albeit much simpler, that customer service can be improved across every industry, whether it's fast food or low-end clothing retail. Heck, if this wasn't the case, McDonald's never would have started advertising "free smiles"! It might not be on the same level as the high end hotel of the high-end clothing store John went to; but every little bit counts, right?

On that note, we'd love to hear your "customer service stories from hell" or, conversely, your stories of praise. Feel free to comment here; or send me a note directly at

As for me, I enjoyed my time in South Beach, Miami. Here are some recommended spots if you ever plan to go (ahh, if we only ever had a trade show there!):

Delano Hotel - it's gorgeous, and offers one of the best Mohitos I've ever had!

Wet Willie's - this isn't the classiest joint, and not for the faint of heart. But if you like fruity, slushie-like concoctions, it might be worth a stop.

Joe's Stone Crab - I have been to both this location and the one in Las Vegas (Caesar's Palace). Both times, both the food and service were impeccable.

Big Pink - It's a local, family-oriented, comfort food-type restaurant with massive portions, tables squeezed so close together you're joining the conversations of everyone around you, and is always packed. But it's worth it.

Beach by the Loew's Hotel - if you rent a chair and umbrella here, they'll actually serve you food and drinks on the beach. Nice!

Mango's - This night bar has live bands playing salsa and other kinds of tunes. It's known to attract lots of tourists.

Starbucks on Lincoln Rd. - You can grab a latte and sit down at a computer station where you can preview songs, and compile your own custom-made CD for instant purchase.

Sushi Samba - great sushi, and the wait staff (mainly men) are amazingly attentive.

Until next year!

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