Service Beyond Borders

Traveling can teach you a lot about different cultures—as well as about marketing. On our recent trip abroad, I was reminded about some time-honored marketing do’s and don’ts.

One incident demonstrated how even small messages can make a big difference. When we were in Turkey, we stopped outside one of the hotel’s restaurants to read the menu. Someone from the restaurant came out to talk with us and we said that we were just looking, but wanted to get away from the hotel to have dinner. Rather than becoming defensive, the employee took the “marketing orientation” in stride and gave us another option. She told us that they had another restaurant in town, a short distance away. We followed her suggestion and really enjoyed our dinner there. Just one sentence, “We have another place a few blocks away,” turned us into buyers. Bottom line: don’t overlook the potential impact of small messages because you never know what is going to resonate with someone.

During our trip I was also reminded of the importance of listening to your clients and being sensitive to their needs, not yours. This had to do with tour guides who put their agendas ahead of our interests. People in our tour group, including me, had asked and were promised time to shop, but were disappointed when we were allowed only a brief time to shop. Although I’m not a big shopper, when I travel to the other side of the world, I’d like to have more than 20 minutes to look around and pick up gifts. Clearly, these guides could have offered options such as letting people who wanted time to browse catch up later while others continued on. But they were so committed to the “importance” of what they had to say that they couldn’t adapt to our needs. One of the guides even said she was insulted when people wanted to go do their own thing instead of letting her finish her spiel. A fellow traveler expressed it aptly by saying that the guides had forgotten their purpose, which was to satisfy their clients.

As professionals, we are all very attuned to service and strive to deliver what the client wants. No matter where you are in the world, when you encounter service non-delivery, it serves as a jarring reminder of what real service is.

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