Airlines, eat your heart out. Hotels too. And restaurants. Your lousy service is inexcusable. You've been trumped.
Case in point: Cruises.
Here's the deal: Until last week, I had never been on an ocean cruise. I never even wanted to go on a cruise, really. The prospect of hanging out in a giant floating hotel, surrounded by swarms of annoying tourists didn't appeal to me. Especially with the whole tight-quarters thing going on. I've never been big on the group activity deal. I'm not a joiner. I kind of like to travel off the beaten path and come up with my own entertainment.
I don't like tourist traps.
But I finally gave in and went on a Disney Cruise with my family last week, and I have to tell ya, I have a whole new outlook on the cruise thing.
I never, ever, ever expected it to be as good as it was.
So... no more sneering from this guy. No more jokes about "The Mouse". No more "cruises are for suckers" speeches from me. Nope. Those days are over.
Crow never tasted so good.
For a week, I only saw smiling faces. Not fake smiles, mind you. Genuine smiles. The folks who took care of us were happy to be there. They were professional. Our satisfaction was their main concern, and it showed. From the elaborate towel sculptures left in out immaculate stateroom every day to the friendly smiles on every deck, their mission to keep us happy was obvious.
I have never, ever, ever experienced this level of service anywhere (and I've traveled in some pretty exclusive circles.)
The food was great. The rooms were great. The shows were great. The parties were great. Everything about our experience was completely flawless. The kids had a magical time, and so did we.
Believe me: I wanted to find flaws. I looked for them everywhere. I found none.
After having witnessed flight attendants treat passengers like cattle (literally), after having suffered the "next, please" attitude of five-star hotel staff, after having endured lousy service from waiter after waiter after waiter in more white-tablecloth restaurants than I care to list, after years of watching retail sink into an abyss of morose customer unappreciation, I have finally found the last bastion of true customer service: Cruises.
Cruises have it all figured out. They do. They hold the customer experience firmly in their white-gloved hands. Is it a matter of survival? Not really. They could just settle for good enough. They could just shrug and say "hey, for the price you're paying, this is pretty darn good." They could shake their heads at the Bulgarian waiters and South African hosts and explain to you in confidence that it isn't easy finding good help these days.
But no. These guys would give Marines a run for their money when it comes to squaring away uniforms, bathrooms, hallways and staterooms. People you've never seen in your entire lives make a point of knowing your name before you ever set foot on the ship. Your glass is never empty. Your ice bucket is always full. These folks aren't just satified with pretty good. These guys are after one thing and one thing only: Perfection.
Every single thing they do from the moment they get up in the morning is about making you feel these three little letters all day: W.O.W.
Yep, Wow. They want you to feel this way. They get off on it. They don't just go through the motions. It isn't just about training and procedures. It's about pride. About purpose. About fun.
My faith has been restored.
Now... let's start working on bringing the magic home to your neighborhood businesses. To the local restaurants and grocery stores and retail outlets. To your local garage.
To your least favorite airline.
To your wireless provider.
To your local DMV office.
Fix your broken windows. Hire the best people you can find. Shut up and listen to your customers. Never settle for good enough. Book a cruise and go find out for yourselves what great customer experiences are all about.
There's hope for thousands of businesses, and that's great news.