Here is how it should be … two examples of Estonian customer-facing teams to create customer value

Today, I was lucky to witness two businesses to offer me the client value I was expecting them to deliver. I am in love with the Estonian entrepreneurship, and this post shows why in two examples. One example is actually a repetition of many outstanding guest experiences in hotel Telegraaf in old town Tallinn. The other example happened in a place a little bit more to the north of Tallinn, in restaurant Tuljak in Pirita.

Both the hotel and the restaurant offered me the guest experience I was expecting from them – and more. And that was not an accident, nor a coincidence. These experiences are the result of hard work and a clear customer-centric vision.

Let me explain you why I felt great in these two places, and what they did to achieve this.

In the restaurant Tuljak, I was even over-delivered. I was really surprised that the waiter knew I had been asking for Pinot Noir the very first time I was in Tuljak in January. He remembered they did not have it then. He also remembered they had it available on my next visit, but since I had a Sirloin steak that did not match the Pinot Noir, I selected another wine. And since I was ordering the same Sirloin steak this time, he suggested that I would not take the Pinot Noir – although they had it available. The strange thing was, that it was the first time that I saw that man. I looked at him. Tried to guess who he was, and then bluntly asked “are you the owner?” “No sir, I am the manager”. Close. Close enough to make me curious to ask more questions during the evening.

Get only the right people in

“How did you get the young waiter offer me a similar experience and great welcoming feeling when I was here the previous times?” was the first thing I asked him, when he served me a great glass of red Rioja wine. I found out his key to success is being extremely picky in recruiting the right people. “I recruit only young people that have to learn a lot, and I am looking for only one thing during the selection: do they have it?”. It, being the drive to go the extra mile for customers. The eagerness to learn and become the best. “When we put an almost right internet advertisement, we get hundreds of CVs. When we nuance the last bit of the ad, we reduce that number to less than hundred. We invite about twenty to forty candidates. Usually, only a couple of them show up. We have them do a test. And when we are lucky, one great guy or girl can and wants to start.”

Teams of customer-facing people create customer value. That is the key to the customer experience I had at Tuljak’s. And that is also the key to the customer value I have experienced over and over again at Hotel Telegraaf. Oh, yes, they did make mistakes. I am a very picky guest when it comes to noise. Last time I switched rooms a couple of times, before I settled in. They took note, and gave me the right room right away this time. They do not hesitate to try and make me feel comfortable. Many of the staff know my name, and they know that it is not the first time that I stay over in Telegraaf. Although the city-centre hotel has more than 80 rooms, they are still offering me an at-home feeling.

And have the right team decide the right things

Of course, having just posted a critique on big organisations losing the connection with their clients, I was curious how this hotel does it right. I asked one of the staff members about it, when he passed by. To my big surprise, he immediately knew the answer. “We are a team that wants to serve clients. Our bosses are very good in investing, but we are very good in giving clients the hotel experience they desire. When the bosses come up with some new idea that we do not believe in, we tell them, and they let us decide.” Waw. I was impressed. Young guy. Clear eyes. Always there to help. Perfect service. So I asked him where he learned his job. “Nowhere else but here. This is who and how I am. I could not do it differently”. And what about new colleagues – who is training them? “We take them in the team, and it’s the team members who learn each other. If they have good ideas, we talk about it and we adopt them. If not, then we keep doing it the way, we are used to. Of course, the Marriott group also provides online trainings for us, so that we can learn the practical day-to-day tasks, but they leave it to us to implement them in the way we feel fit.” That’s when I realised we are talking about a boutique hotel that is part of a group that owns 6500 hotels worldwide. “In Marriott, they do not know us individually, of course, but they know it when clients are unhappy. That’s when they help us improve. We learn from our mistakes. And we grow.”

The young guy telling me this is under 30. I was very silent. And eager to write a great post about today’s great experiences.

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