So Many Angels in My Life

I feel so blessed sometimes because I have so many angels that seem to surround me. I’m not talking about winged creatures from Heaven – although I do believe in those too. No, I’m talking about a bunch of really magical people who have gone out of their way to make my life a little better.

Those of you who have attended our seminars and workshops know that one of our favourite companies in South Africa is Exclusive Books. Apart from the fact that the physical environment in each store is very different from those of competitors, with chairs and coffee lounges, and clear signs that tell you where everything is, there is much more.

For example, when you spend a lot of time browsing at Exclusive, nobody will come up to you and reprimand you for reading the books before you buy them. The people who work at Exclusive seem to be more motivated, better informed, and more sensitive to customers needs. They really try hard to get a book that’s not in stock for you, and offer alternatives when they cannot.

And, of course, as a member of Fanatics, the frequent-buyer reward programme, you get vouchers for spending on more books, as well as a package of other benefits.

But there is now yet another reason for me to remain as a loyal customer. Whenever I get my vouchers as reward for earlier purchases, I usually spend them quite quickly, of course. Recently, however, I either lost, forgot, or never received my usual voucher, and, to be honest, didn’t even know of its existence. Imagine my pleasant surprise, therefore, when I received an e-mail informing me that the lost voucher, worth R60, was due to expire in three weeks, that they had no record of me using it, and, if I hadn’t received it yet I should contact them immediately to sort this out.

They didn’t have to tell me, and I would not have complained. They could have saved themselves quite a bit of money, but they did not choose to do so. By their action, they cemented our relationship, saved me some money, made my life more convenient, and in the process, built my confidence by showing how ethical their business really is.

Virgin Atlantic, the airline run by Richard Branson, is constantly coming up with ways of improving their customer’s total experience, and this now includes breakfast, a shower and shave at the end of the journey, or having your hair and nails done, or even having your rumpled clothes pressed. But, what’s even more magical is that if you get to Heathrow, and you are in a hurry to get to your next meeting, you can order what they call “The Limobike” – a motorcycle with a driver that will take you to your meeting quickly through all the traffic jams of London.

Vivian is not a highly paid employee at Umhlanga Sands Hotel in Durban, but he deserves to be. He is the manager of all the events that take place every week that keep both adults and children busy. He runs about with unlimited enthusiasm, energy, and friendliness, and seems to remember everyone’s name easily. Considering the fact that every week there are hundreds of new visitors, that’s quite a feat of memory. He hugs the kids and keeps them busy so that parents can relax, and has always got an interesting story or some good advice. When my mom died while I was on holiday, he gave me a big hug and I swear I saw a tear in the corner of his eye. Over the years, he has become like a brother to me.

There are a few other businesses that are not just after a quick buck, and use information like this to give advantage to their customers. Liberty Life will get a tax directive for you, when you can’t get to the SARS offices. My pharmacist Dorianne calls me to tell me I will be running out of my chronic medication soon. The watchmaker at Forma Viva Jewellers in Eastgate Shopping Mall remembered that I had purchased a watch from them recently, and didn’t charge me for a new battery. He said that a battery on a new watch “…shouldn’t need to be replaced for at least two years.” The staff at the Crystal Towers Hotel in Cape Town remembered that I like Appletiser and had a whole bucket full of them in my room when I arrived. A young lady at the Gallagher Estate Conference Centre managed to sew my split pants within 5 minutes so I didn’t have to go on stage to make a presentation to a huge audience with ripped pants

The manager of my local branch of the Brazilian Coffee Bar doesn’t wait for me to ask for a newspaper with my coffee: he brings it anyway. No wonder I willingly pay R14,00 for a cup of coffee! The receptionist at a hotel in London, noticing that I was soaked through, first offered me a warm towel and some chocolates before taking care of my check in.

At one hospital I ended up having to spend the night for observation after passing a kidney stone. The matron joked with my wife that now I knew what it was like to have a baby, and that lightened things up a little. The medical care was fine, the bed was comfortable, and the food was tasty. But what was the one thing that I remembered best? At about two in the morning I woke up feeling quite agitated and uncomfortable, the drip in my arm was hurting, and I had heartburn.

I lay there tossing and turning for a while, and a few minutes later one of the night nurses popped her head in to find out if I was okay. When I told her how uncomfortable I was, she said: “Would you like some ice –cream?” Fantastic! Where did she find ice-cream at two a.m.? More important, how did she know that this is exactly what I needed? (And, because I know you are asking this: no, they didn’t charge me for the ice-cream on my final invoice.)

It is this kind of responsiveness and sensitivity that makes such a difference to customers. If you get creative about it, you too will be able to do this for your customers. And if you can’t think of anything, ask them. Observe all of the things that happen when they come into contact with your products, services, systems, or people – even when these things have got nothing to do with you.

I have told you about a few of the angels in my life that have helped me in rough times. You too can become the angel that makes a difference in other people’s lives.

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