June 7, 2012

Every Mistake is an Opportunity to Surprise and Delight

Dave Kerpen

“Why couldn’t they get a simple cookie platter right?” I thought angrily as I prepared to dial the “Star Service” team at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, Florida.

I had planned a birthday celebration to remember for my daughter Charlotte at Universal Studios. Charlotte’s a huge Harry Potter fan, so we had arranged for a VIP tour of Harry Potter World inside Universal, amongst lots of other surprises, such as a cookie platter and ”Happy Birthday” sign at our hotel room at 4pm. On the way back to the hotel, I told Charlotte, “I think there might be something waiting for you in your room” And she got very excited.

So when we got back to the hotel room to find nothing, we were both disappointed. I called up “Star Service” thinking I was getting anything but that.

Cristina Bolanos, the Assistant Star Service Manager, picked up and I told her why I was upset.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “We are working on the cookie platter and will send it right up.”

“Well, thanks,” I replied. “But the whole point was to surprise her for her birthday.”

Cristina followed, totally validating how I was feeling: “I know, we really messed up. I love planning surprises for people and I know how upsetting it is when the surprise doesn’t go as planned. Let me work on this. What is your daughter into?”

I told her Charlotte adored all things Harry Potter and I thanked her. The cookies came up and we enjoyed them, even it was no longer a surprise.

A couple hours later, we got a note offering us complimentary breakfast the next morning. I thought this was a nice surprise for me, but obviously my 9 year old couldn’t really appreciate it.

The next morning, at breakfast, the hostess brought over to Charlotte a giant package of Harry Potter balloons tied to a jar of gummi bears, along with a gift-wrapped box and card.

Charlotte freaked out in unexpected excitement, and opened the box. Inside was an authentic Hermoine Granger magic wand – (a $50 item from Universal’s Harry Potter World)! The card read, “Happy birthday Charlotte! From Cristina and all of your friends at Loews.”

I can’t tell you how happy this made my daughter, and therefore me. Cristina had recognized an error the hotel had made, and then had gone ridiculously out of her way to make it right. I can’t imagine that they had magic wands in inventory, which means someone had to go purchase it, wrap it, and set everything up.

In the process, I went from telling a story about how a Loews hotel couldn’t get a cookie platter right to raving about Cristina and her truly “Star Service” to anyone who will listen. And writing about it here. And insisting upon staying at Loews hotels in the future whenever possible.

Everyone and every organization makes mistakes. But if you can follow up those mistakes with a little (or a lot) of surprise and delight, you can not only erase the mistakes – you can create fans for life.

Tags: Best Practices, Holiday, Strategy

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