The power of stories

I’m currently reading Life’s a Pitch by Philip Delves Broughton. In it, he relates a customer service moment of delight. Staying in a hotel in Paris, a young woman ate half her breakfast croissant, wrapped it up and put it in the fridge to eat later, when she returned from a meeting, alas, the croissant was gone. Noticing the message light blinking on her phone, she called reception and was put through to housekeeping. ‘Thank you for calling,’ said the housekeeper. ‘We wanted to know when you returned so we could bring you a fresh croissant. The one you put in the fridge would be dried out by now.’

Pretty impressive. As it happened, the young woman was the daughter of Steve Wynn, the owner of Wynn Resorts, a large and successful chain of casinos and hotels. It resulted in Wynn’s way to engage front-line staff: story telling. It’s based on the truism that only people who want to can give extraordinary levels of service; you can’t force people to and you can’t pay them a bonus to go the extra mile.

Here’s how it works. Before each shift, groups of 12 – 18 front-line employees (maids, bar tenders, croupiers etc) meet with their team leader, who asks ‘Anything interesting happen yesterday?’ One person might mention that a customer dropped her credit card and he picked it up, found her room number and returned it to her; another might mention how she’d helped a guest retrieve a parcel left behind in a shop. All moments of truth that delighted customers and made the employees feel good about their jobs into the bargain.

Each story is published on the company’s intranet and printed and posted on the walls of the back-of-house service areas. Since everyone wants their story on the wall,  everyone keeps their eyes open for ways to help customers out and create a story. According to Steve Wynn:

‘It is pristine, it is simple, it is profoundly effective, and it has changed the history of my enterprise.’

Questions for discussion

Stories can work in any industry, not just hospitality. How can you use storytelling to help your employees provide superlative service and feel good about themselves at the same time?

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