Going Above & Beyond

I’ve taken two cruises in my life… one very good, one less so. This is not a complaint column, so I’ll talk about the positive things I experienced on the first cruise.

The cruise line we sailed with marketed their level of service as “Going Above and Beyond”. Interesting how it worked out in practice, because management may say that they support an initiative, but undermine its outcome at the same time – see my earlier post on “Discretionary Effort”.

Day One – off to the pool! We quickly realize that we’re short a towel. Now, these ships are notoriously stingy with their towels. Each stateroom gets a count, signs are posted about charges for lost or stolen linen. But I asked the kind lady with the cart in the hallway, and prepared for a big justification of my request. To my surprise, she grabbed a stack (4 or 5?) and said, “Here you go!”. Now I’m off my game. I was so startled that I stuttered something about the towel count in my room – she didn’t even ask for our number. Just smiled, told me it was no problem and went about her business.

Day Two – latkes! Fantastic breakfast buffet (of course) across 6 or so stations, with little potato pancakes being served at one of the stations. So fantastic and crispy with a little bit of onion in each. I put several on my plate, and was looking around for the applesauce and sour cream to no avail. Then a big guy in a chef’s hat asked me what I was looking for, so I told him about the toppings for the latkes. He started laughing and said nobody recognizes them as latkes; everybody calls them potato pancakes and that he had never been asked for sour cream. “Stay right here!” he said, as he scooted into the kitchen. A moment later he came back with two little dishes for me: one applesauce and one sour cream. He also presented me with his business card and told me that if I needed anything else I was to call him directly. The title on the card read ‘Executive Chef’.

What do both interactions have in common? Obviously, two employees going above and beyond. But if you look more closely, there are circumstances that separate them. One of them is a worker bee, the other’s a boss. One position has power and decision-making authority, the other position way less.

Building a positive culture from top to bottom requires that employees are provided some latitude to make decisions within their roles. They have to be educated that it’s okay. Empower all levels within the organization to “break the rules” in supporting the customer.

Outcomes? Empowered employees are more engaged (and up to 2x more “productive”), resulting in higher employee and customer satisfaction.

This was a wonderful (personal) case study where the culture exhibited by team members at the top and in support roles aligned with the advertised company mission, resulting in an excellent brand experience.