Tales from New York Two – The Waldorf Astoria – A business that really gives a s*#t…

By | July 30, 2008

When I visit any coffee bar or restaurant I always have a question in my mind and I believe every single customer does exactly the same thing – whether they realise it subconsciously or not. That question is:

  • Do they really want me to be here? Do they really give a s*#t that i’ve bothered to come in and give them some money?

They maybe don’t use a profanity that I use but human nature means that we just want to be loved, respected and valued – it’s simple basic stuff. Your job is to ensure that a customer does feel you “give a s*#t” when they bother to spend their hard earned money in your business.

When we were in New York we were lucky enough to stay in The Waldorf Astoria for a few days. This was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best example of a business “giving a s*#t” that I have ever seen. Nothing was too much trouble and wherever you turned there seemed to be somebody about to ask you if there was anything they could do to help you. When they realised it was our first time staying with them and we had travelled all the way from Ireland we were immediately upgraded to an incredible room and offered a tour of the Presidential suite (which unlike most Presidential suites actually has had Presidents staying in it!).

The sense of calm and contentment was enormous and it made it one of the most relaxing and comfortable few days of my life.

It’s easy to assume that you can’t compete at this level. That you can’t devote the same energy to training your staff that the Waldorf can. That there’s no way you can make every customer feel wanted and loved and that you really want them to be there. That you’re just too busy dealing with all the day to day “stuff” to make it all touchy-feely lovely.

But you’re wrong. These things are actually quite simple. It can be as simple as a proper, genuine smile and a hello when the customer first comes in. It can be as simple as a “I’ll be with you in a second” when the queue is long. It can be as simple as remembering a customers drink or even, best of all, remembering the customer’s name.

I can already hear people saying “well, I do all that but there’s no way that I can get all my staff to do that” As ever I say “Have you really tried?, have you actually put in place a proper training and induction program that tells you employees exactly what you expect from them? A program that helps them to properly grasp why this is necessary? Do you really train and measure these kinds of things?”

Many of my clients have and actually have seen huge benefits from it. The ones that keep working at this stuff are the ones who tell me they are seeing no difference in their sales during the supposed credit crunch. It takes a little time to set up with to begin with but is absolutely essential. Sometimes we spend far too much time training people how to make coffee and far too little actually telling them how to treat customers like a human being and prove to them that we really give a s*#t that they bothered to visit us on that day.

With money tight and credit crunching these things are more important than ever.

2 thoughts on “Tales from New York Two – The Waldorf Astoria – A business that really gives a s*#t…

  1. darren

    I love this post, I have forwarded it to all our managers! You have got no idea how many times a day I have to tell staff to engage the customers, a simple ‘be with you in a moment ‘ is all a waiting customer needs to hear. There are some places locally that do get it right. Every time I stay at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast the service and attention to detail is much better than I have recieved in many 5 star hotels around the World.
    On the coffee front there is still I believe this assumption by the majority of staff that it is not a career but a stop gap until something better comes along and until we can address this issue I think our standards of service are always going to suffer.


  2. John Richardson

    Thanks Darren – appreciate that. The Merchant is indeed really great at this.

    You are absolutely 100% correct about the staffing issue too.

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