What Does World Class Service Mean?

I recently flew first class on Delta Airlines (yes, lucky me!). I noticed a few things that got me thinking about the meaning of “first class” or of “world class service” – terms that get thrown around a lot.

First things first – I’m not here to pick on anyone. I stay in my own (MGM Resorts) properties every now and then, and there are plenty of things we do an amazing job at and others we can improve on, and there are certainly situations where bad service experiences occur. One of my pet peeves is when people suffer one bad service experience and swear off a company forever – so if that’s you, feel free to stop reading.

On my Delta flight, they didn’t have hot towels or linens for the tray tables (remember, this is first class, so those things are expected), because the catering company forgot to load them at the gate. (This could lead to another blog post about how to ensure that outside service providers maintain your same service standards.) On Delta, they also don’t provide a “snack” when they start their meal service like they do on American Airlines, which is famous for its warm nuts (and after meal chocolate chip cookies). On the flip side, I noted that Delta provides a large in-seat entertainment screen and the programming seems very good and importantly the plane I was on seemed much newer.

So let’s get to the heart of it, is world class service based on the big stuff (newer plane, bigger screen in front of me for five hours) or the small things (warm nuts and hot towels)?

Arguments for the little things:

  • Those warm nuts. You think about them before you board because your friends (who have flown first class and you haven’t) told you about them; you smell them when you are seated. Must cost $0.75? Brilliant.
  • In-room amenities that surprise and delight you, like Bulgari shampoo, mouthwash in the room, or Q-tips – you know when you are just getting the basics versus getting the good stuff.
  • One-click purchasing on Amazon, magically simple.

Arguments for the big things:

  • There is a reason no US airline is ever rated at the top of the ”best airlines” lists – Asian and Middle East carriers fly the newest planes, offer the best seats (and now whole rooms) and world-class (there I go again) food.
  • When I go to a hotel, I want a complete, immersive experience in that hotel – I want modern architecture, contemporary furnishings, and full food and beverage offerings that can stand up to the best.
  • Yelp is a robust, detail-filled site, that can take a while to find what you want but you know that anywhere you go there you can find whatever you need.

Some of you probably figured I would get to this point, I think it’s both the big and the little things. That puts a lot of pressure on those of us who have to deliver a service experience, like my team does in the new Las Vegas Arena, or any of our other entertainment venues. Think about our outdoor festivals, where the ultimate “big thing” is something we can’t even control – the weather!

So what can we do? I can come up with a couple of strategies:

  1. PLAN. Don’t leave things to chance. (For big things) in designing a physical space like a hotel or arena, start well in advance and get multiple experts involved, including those who have to operate the building. (For the little things) Ensure you train and educate your staff on the contingencies, what to do when things go wrong. Some of the most memorable service experiences are those times when things went wrong but the staff handled it elegantly.
  2. LISTEN. Pay attention to what your customers want. (For the big things) Know the macro trends that are driving your customers; this is why we are seeing an explosion of boutique/lifestyle hotels. If possible, create products that can be flexible to adapt to future changes in customer needs and wants. (For the little things) create little moments and experiences within the overall environment that can again be modified over time. Imagine you went to a hotel spa and at your locker was a towel with your name embroidered on it – delightful!
  3. FOLLOW THROUGH. The best service moments seem to come down to a complete and consistent experience from beginning to end, that matches the expectations. Don’t skimp on pieces of the process; usually we skimp at the end, but imagine if you went to check out at an Apple Store and they had a big clunky cash register with all sorts of manual keystrokes!

By thinking in this way I feel we can do a better job of delivering “first class” or “world class” service in ways both big and small.


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