Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo – plug in!

Most business travelers carry a notebook computer, mobile phone and a digital camera amongst many other things. Then why is it that most hotels, including five stars and top brands, can’t provide 3-4 power outlets near the writing desk. There are usually only two power outlets hidden under the table and one of them is connected to the table lamp. So I often end up charging my phone and camera by unplugging the TV or the fridge or the standing lamp if I am lucky enough to be able to move them and find the hidden power outlets!

Taj Samudra in Colombo is one of the very few hotels that understand their customers’ needs. When I checked in tonight, not only there was a power extension fitted right above the desk with four outlets, it could take different power plugs! WOW!

Pacific Coffee also gets it!

One more company that uses their customers’ date of birth to enhance their service is Pacific Coffee!

When I touched my Pacific Coffee debit card on their scanner to pay for my coffee, the barista immediately said, “Happy Birthday, today we can upgrade your tall coffee to grande.” WOW! I responded by changing my order to short coffee and getting it upgraded to tall. It was just a $5 saving for me, but surely a WOW customer service!

Read my last post about brithdays in case you missed it.

American Express and Mandarin Oriental get it!

mandarin-bdayMost hotels are very particular about getting their guests’ date of birth upon check in. Whenever I am asked to fill in mine, I ask, “Are you planning to send me a birthday card?” I usually get a sheepish smile in response.

Out of the hundreds of hotels that have collected my DOB during the last ten years of my traveling – including some of the biggest chains and brands – only Mandarin Oriental in Macau sends me a birthday card every year. And it comes with a special offer of a deluxe room for two at almost half the price for any two nights during my birthday month! That’s WOW!

amex-bdayThis year, I also got a birthday card from American Express. And this included six discount coupons on meals at some of the best restaurants in Hong Kong! Another WOW!

If you are in any kind of business or sales, remember that one of the easiest ways of enhancing the relationship with your customer, or with anyone in your life for that matter, is remembering their birthday. And then following up with a gift or a personalized card or a phone call or even an SMS – anything but a link to one of those electronic greeting cards!

I know you can’t help thinking what to do on Mush’s birthday 🙂 Forward a link to my blog to somebody who could benefit from the information and inspiration. Also, any feedback, good or bad, on my blog through comments on Why I Write? page would mean a lot to me.

Pacific Coffee Company gives free coffee!

I’m a starbucks and pacific coffee addict. On one particular day, I was really craving a chilino from pacific and so without further ado I rushed to my nearest branch (where I happened to be a regular customer). I could already taste that coffee in my mouth before I stepped in. I went to the counter, placed the order, took out my wallet…only to realize that I was low on cash…and by low on cash I mean my wallet was empty. First thing that comes out of my mouth is ’shit!’ as you can imagine my extreme frustration at this point. The guy at the counter, who knows I’m a regular customer, smiles and asks me what’s wrong (he already knows). I show him my empty wallet, he tells me it’s not a problem and gives me a free grande chilino of my choosing on the house! Definitely WOW!

[Contributed by Hamza, Hong Kong]

Pacific Coffee

Fernando’s in Macau

It was the last day of our fantastic family vacation in Macau. We checked out and headed to the highly recommended Fernando’s on Hac Sa Beach on the Coloane side. The restaurant had very homely atmosphere, breezy backyard and friendly waiters. We had delicious finger-licking curry and fried king prawns. When we produced our credit card to pay for the meal, we were told, “Cash only”. Oops, we didn’t have enough. The manager said, “no problem, take the bill, mail us a check.” We couldn’t believe what we were hearing! There are actually people and places like that today? WOW!

[Contributed by Altaf, Hong Kong. Oct. 2007]

Pizza Hut in Jakarta offers WOW customer service!

pizzahutThis is the Pizza Hut right after the tollgate on the highway to Bandung. And there’s something different about this one. Besides the fact that the staff is very happy and enthusiastic, they love to entertain kids by making balloon animals for them. There’s a huge basket in a corner which is filled with long balloon tubes. Kids come and select a color and one of the staff would make an animal or something for the kid. Kids love watching the transformation of balloon tubes into different shapes. And these balloons are easier to keep. It also makes their parents happy because the whole process keeps their kids away for a while. It seems to make the staff happy because they get to interact with different kids and spread some cheer in between taking orders and serving pizzas! The balloon hat in the picture is my contribution to the shapes now available ☺ What a simple idea! And so much WOW!

Cathay Pacific goes from Wow to Shit!

Cathay has been my favorite airline since 1997 when I first started traveling on it, up until recently when I finally made up my mind that I don’t like it any more. And it’s the little things that seem to be slowly disappearing – like the genuine smile at the check-in desk, the passion and enthusiasm of the cabin crew and the real care for the passenger.

I have had faulty AV systems on my seat twice in the last six months – they say, “Sorry sir, would you like to change your seat.” I don’t, because I am sitting on a first-row aisle seat – the only comfortable seat in the plane for someone who is tall and suffers from back pain.

Most cabin crew don’t hear English very well, so you almost always have to repeat yourself if you ask for anything other than water. People making cabin announcements often sound like kids who have just learnt how to read.

What peeves me the most is when you press the call button and nobody bothers. I have often had cabin crew pass by without stopping, even when they see the call light turned on above my seat. One of my colleagues often tells the attendants who show up after a long time, “If I had a heart attack, I’d be dead by now”. Most of them don’t seem to understand what he means by that.

So yeah, Cathay is consistently moving from WOW to SHIT on my scale. So why do I still travel Cathay? For it’s convenient connections from Hong Kong, where I (mostly) live. And for crew like Athens, who still care and love what they do. Today he recognized me and remembered that few months ago, I had given away my favorite seat so a mom and child could sit together. He treated me really well today.
[Written during a Cathay flight from Hong Kong to Karachi on Oct 19, 2007]

Al Jawal Network in Saudi Arab is WOW!

I have started keeping local SIM cards for all the places where I frequently travel to, in order to save on the roaming charges. When I went to Riyadh on my first business trip, the first thing I wanted to do was buy a local SIM card. But soon after landing, I got a text message from Al Jawal, the local network: Get a local number without changing your sim, call … WOW! I immediately called the number and followed the recorded instructions; soon I heard, ‘your local number has been activated’, and the line went dead. I said, ‘wait a minute, what’s my local number, what do i do next???’ At that moment another text message came with my local number and instructions on calling and recharging. WOW!

For the next four days, I was able to use both my HK number and the local number at the same time. What’s more, after every call Al Jawal would send a message about the balance amount. Surely a WOW network!