Alain Spieser has worked in top-notch hotels like the Four Seasons in Geneva or the Hotel Royal in Evian for 40 years and is now a professor at the Hotel School of Geneva. We talked with him about great client service and how you can “wow” not only clients but everyone in your day-to-day interactions.
Alain, it’s great to meet you! You have been working in hotels for many years, are now a teacher and consult companies in client service. From your experience: Is it easier or harder to have a great client service online compared to offline?
From my perspective, it is more difficult to take client service online. If we take the hospitality industry, we have many opportunities to surprise a client and to offer him a great experience. We can welcome him at the hotel entrance, accompany him to his room and offer him a great service during his stay. With online service, you don’t have these options.
So how can you improve the online service experience?
I am working with Alpian for example which is exciting because their objective is to create a culture of service excellence for a digital FinTech. It is a great challenge because I have never done it before. I did it for normal banks, where you will have physical interactions with the clients. But at Alpian all interactions are happening only via chat and video. It was very interesting to work with them on standards and values also for this digital client experience.
Can you tell me a bit more about what you do mean when you talk about standards and values in client service?
During my time in the Four Seasons I learned that there are three steps in great client service. The most important thing is that the basic service is immaculate. I call this “Get it right”. “Get it right” will give the clients the best service that is expected and paid for. This is the foundation.
The next step is “Get me right”. This step is more personal, here we really learn about the client’s preferences and act on it, like a certain kind of music he likes to listen to or a special diet.
The third step is the “Wow me if you can” step. Here, we take client service even one step further to surprise and delight the client. This works because people don’t expect that you will do it, and they will remember it.
In reality however, very often even the simple standard service is not reached because of a lack of training, because of a lack of motivation, et cetera. So by performing exactly a standard which is expected, you are already better than your competitor. And you can take it in human relationships, too, in personal relationships.
What would be an example of that?
Take a dialogue with someone. If you approach it from a client service mindset the goal should be to make the other person talk as much as possible about themselves. Most of us are pretty self-centered and like to hear us speak. So speak to them about themselves or make them think about themselves. And already you are clicking.
Then the second step comes into play, the “Get me right”. The more you know about the other person, the more you will be able to cater to that personality. Asking questions and listening to the answers is the beginning, but you also have to use the answers.
The third step is not mandatory to have every time, and it requires some practice and effort. It is important to understand that you can only “wow” if the first steps are in place. The basic service has to be the standard. Shortcuts and trying to “wow” without having the basic service in place will only backfire.
“Great personal interactions are a matter of listening.”
Can you give me a tangible example for wowing someone in a personal relationship?
OK, so take the first date, maybe let’s be modern, you met through an app and you agreed to meet in a bar. So, coming from a client service view, you would let the other person propose the place where they want to go. And then when you meet that person, you will make every effort to make that person speak of herself.
Eventually, you might learn that that person loves jazz. So next time, you might take her to this jazz festival. Make the interactions, not about you, make them about her. Of course, it has to be an exchange, still, the other person also has to try to seduce you. But for me, great personal interactions are a matter of listening.
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