Customer service tip: Excel at the “Brilliant Basics”

The most fundamental question that every customer service provider must be able to answer is, “What are the expectations of your customers?”

We can call these expectations the “basics” of customer service.

And, the aim of every organisation should be to brilliantly deliver the basics. “Brilliance” simple means to deliver customer expectations on a consistent basis, at all touch points. In fact, the key to success for businesses that sell low cost products is to consistently deliver on the brilliant basics.

Let me share with you an example of a company that does just that.

We were returning to Kuala Lumpur from Rome. There was a little over a two hour stopover at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, so timing was tight. Our flight from Rome departed late. We arrived late in Schiphol. We missed our connecting flight back home.

It was then that a well-oiled machine went into action. The airline – KLM – put us on a bus which took us for a short drive to the Ibis Hotel. There were quite a few people on the bus, which suggests that people missing connections in Amsterdam is a pretty common thing.

We arrived at the hotel at around 9pm.

Getting off the bus, with quite a few other people, I thought to myself, “I really don’t feel like waiting in a long queue to get my room key.”

The weather was cold – it was early February. The canals had frozen over. We wanted a comfortable, warm bed, a warm shower and something to eat, a warm drink before we went to bed. And, of course, I wanted to check my emails.

When we got to the hotel check-in, as expected, there was a pretty long queue. We had no choice other than to wait in line. But then the queue started moving, and moving, and moving, and before we knew it, we were being checked in. The process was simple and we were given our key and a very welcome message – the dining room would have a meal available from 10pm. What a relief! Fast check-in and a late night meal. This certainly met our needs. A great first impression.

Our room was comfortable. Not fancy, but very comfortable. The bathroom was bright and inviting. What really impressed me was a cardboard “cube” which replaced the typical information compendium that you typically find in hotels. One side said, “A quick guide to your stay with us”. Another side of the cube communicated that sleep is a major priority for this hotel – with soundproof rooms, black-out curtains, comfortable duvets and much more. Another side of the cube focused on the guests’ stomach…breakfast from 4am to midday, all day snack and drinks, restaurant choices….by this time, I was getting excited about this place! Another side of the cube was about communication – internet and phone. And, the internet was free!

We had a quick shower and then went for a meal. It certainly was not fancy – but it was more than adequate.

We had a good night’s sleep, left early for the airport to catch our plane home. And, I left Amsterdam with one thing – a very positive memory of our stay at the Ibis Hotel.

Let’s understand why.

Passengers like us have some basic needs – quick check-in, something to eat, internet access, a comfortable room and a bus that takes us back to the airport on time. The Ibis hotel clearly understands our basic expectations – and, no doubt, these are the basic expectations of the thousands of passengers who are like us. The hotel knows this and delivers brilliantly and, I am confident, consistently.

In other words, they deliver on the “brilliant basics” of service.

So, the Ibis Hotel gets people like me to write about them to help them grow their business because they do one thing – they  create a great customer experience by delivering the basics consistently.

I don’t wish on anyone who visits Amsterdam a forced overnight stay. But if you do have one, or if you want to experience a hotel that demonstrates how to create happy customers while delivering a basic service, then I recommend that you try the Ibis!

And if you do go, I would be interested in your experience!

Until next time

4 thoughts on “Customer service tip: Excel at the “Brilliant Basics”

  1. Hi George, this is brilliant indeed and it’s unfortunate that many businesses ignore the basics in favour of delivering special features or focusing on one particular part of their business. Most just deliver “good enough” service in the basic stuff and try to get you to pay for upgrades. A refreshing read, and I look forward to more.


  2. The basic expectations of the customer is where you start. Looking for ways to exceed the expectations is where you want to be. Exceeding the customer’s expectations is where the customers want you to be.


    • Thanks for your post, Shep. I don’t think that the issue is as straight-forward as conventional thinking puts forward. While I agree that customer delight is plays in important role in driving customer loyalty (one of our company values is “Deliver Wow”), I believe that trust – created through delivering a consistently positive experience for the customer – is the key driver to customer loyalty. See my blog post of 13 November, 2012 on this. In the article that you commented on, the Ibis Hotel delivers consistently well on what we refer to as the “brilliant basics”. If I go there again, I will be more than happy to have the same experience delivered to me. I trust that this experience would be delivered to me. I like your cab driver story. Very entertaining with good learning. I have a story of a cab driver in Malaysia who built a loyal customer base by understanding what his customers wanted and by delivering every time. Thanks once again for your comment and for stimulating a conversation!


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