Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Good Service = Good Business

I'm writing this entry from a wide, fat and comfortable chair in front of an attractive gas fireplace in a deluxe suite at the Bridgeport Resort in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. It's a little after 3:00 a.m., Tuesday the 21st, and I'm awake because I've unintentionally conditioned myself to sleep less hours than I really need (and I do really need more sleep...) and I went to sleep earlier than usual last night. Yesterday was Monday, a closed day at the Stumpjack, and after doing a few hours of work there in the morning Kim and I drove up to Algoma to pick up some wine from the von Stiehl Winery for our inventory at the Stump.

We had also tentatively planned to spend this day at some place in Door County as an anniversary present to ourselves. Today we experienced two instances of outstanding service and thoughtfulness, the kind of service that every business (and, for that matter, personal relationship and interaction as well) ought to reach for.

First, our visit to von Stiehl yesterday only served to reinforce our positive impression and fondness for this fantastic winery. Their wines are wonderful and the people equally great. Brad (co-owner along with his brother) has treated us with efficiency (filling our orders quickly and completely), professionalism (doing excellent damage control for difficulties we experienced with their regional distributor) and thoughtfulness (a complimentary bottle of wine or jar of mustard to enjoy during our getaway; helping to carry our purchase to our car). Those latter things may be relatively small gestures, but those seemingly small things go a long way toward making for loyal customers and friends who are eager to spread the word about a favorite company (like I'm doing right now). And it sure doesn't hurt that they make a number of great wines that we have no trouble moving at the Stumpjack.

Next, the Bridgeport Resort in Sturgeon Bay, a place we've stayed at before and found to be clean, very attractive and within our means. The experience we had there this time has forced us to be not only repeat guests but also word-of-mouth advertisers. I usually like to haggle on room rates when we go somewhere, especially on weekdays or second night stays. And I have to admit that I do take a small measure of satisfaction in my ability to get a better deal more often than not (although even if I don't win the haggle I will stay at a place regardless, if the reception person is friendly and courteous; and likewise I will never return to a hotel or resort if the person is snippy or rude).

On this occasion at the Bridgeport I was bested at my game by an exceptionally pleasant, good humored and joyful person, who also happened to be the General Manager. I looked at each of the lower rate rooms and thought I could get the slightly better of the two for the next lower room rate, but she sucker-punched me by offering us one of the even larger and more expensive suites at the initial lower room rate! Plus, as it was my wife's and my anniversary getaway (albeit a week late) she also handed us a bottle of nice red wine.

The room was fantastic, with three rooms and a fireplace in each one, a 4 to 6 person jacuzzi, separate vanities, kitchenette, comfy bed... Awesome. We were totally rejuvinated and recharged. The kind of welcome we were greeted with and the way the staff went out of their way to make our stay a fun one has ensured that we will be staying at the Bridgeport Resort again and again. Thanks Denise!

Contrast these two businesses with experiences we've likely all had where staff have been curt or downright rude, impatient or inattentive, who give nothing more than the most basic service attached to their product. How difficult can it be to be friendly and courteous, to have a customer-oriented attitude (or better put, simply a friendly attitude)? The folks at von Stiehl and Bridgeport Resort get it...and I never cease to be amazed by those who don't get it.

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