Customer Experience Abroad: Bucharest

In the past, I’ve posted a couple of customer experience observations from my travels, but following suggestions from a number of contacts (in particular, a certain follower named “Lulu”), I’ve decided to incorporate more of my travels in some posts. Sometimes my posts are written to inform and share my experience, but other times I want to encourage people to reflect and consider a different perspective – I’d appreciate you’re feedback on these posts!

I recently flew to Bucharest, Romania for a weekend.  Nestled in the South East corner of Europe, bordering the Black Sea, Romania has a rich and complex cultural heritage. Linguistically, a latin, rather than cyrillic based language, the population is highly educated and often multi-lingual.  It’s a rich feeding ground for European call centre and developer recruitment!

On arrival at Bucharest Airport, we were greeted by smiling border guards, we were politely asked a couple of questions, then welcomed to Romania.  Baggage reclaim was a breeze and we were soon met by the car driver from our hotel, again, with beaming smiles and almost flawless English.  Although somewhat busy during the rush hours, it wasn’t long before we arrived at our hotel in Sector 1 (downtown) of Bucharest.

We stayed at a charming family run hotel (Number One rated on TripAdvisor), where the receptionist rushed to greet us and take our bags from the taxi driver.  Walking into the cool & modern interior, both members of the reception staff greeted us, made eye contact, explained a little about the hotel and the facilities, before spending much more time asking about what we wanted to do in the city.  From the get go, it really felt like these people wanted to help, were genuinely interested and were willing to share personal recommendations, rather than just bog standard tourist guide guff.  We dropped off our belongings in the room (spotless, with lots of little extra touches) and were then presented with a cheese and wine tasting on the house – a fantastic array of local cheeses and a choice of local wines.  Great touch and a lovely way to unwind from the journey, as we sat in the hot sunshine on the hotel terrace.

The evening was very warm, and the recommendation from the hotel staff was perfect – a delightful taste of local fish.  The restaurant (again, highly rated on TripAdvisor was small and again family run, and the waitress spoke perfect English.  She went to great pains to understand what type of fish we liked so that she could tailor a tasting plate with unfamiliar but delicious local fish.  I really appreciated her concern that I was nervous about heavily boned fish, and she made sure that my dishes were bone free and skin free.  That kind of detail really makes a difference when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings!  Throughout the meal, the service was human, informal (but respectful) and we truly felt at home.

After a great nights sleep and a fabulous breakfast, the hotel helped arrange tickets to visit The Palace of the Parliament (TripAdvisor link) – the second largest administrative building in the world, commissioned by Romania’s infamous dictator, Nicolae Ceausecu. Stunning architecture, vast corridors, grand rooms, 1000s of tonnes of carpets, marble & crystal, and all sourced and constructed within & from Romania.  Our tour guide, Elena was magnificent, sharing facts, figures, stories, anecdotes and bringing the palace to life.  Simultaneously switching between 3 different languages, she charmed and entertained the group of 40 as we toured the palace.

Our final activity before we had to head home was to visit the Village Museum (TripAdvisor link) – probably the most impressive open air museum across a vast park. In the museum,  dwelling from all the regions of Romania from the last few centuries have been painstakingly relocated and reconstructed to their original glory.  Being able to walk around and freely discover life in the 18th, 19th & early 20th century was fascinating, and the accessibility to the original wind- & watermills, oil presses and wool spinning machines filled us with almost child-like curiosity.

It was a short and fleeting visit to a progressive, clean, cultured capital city. As we headed back to the airport, I reflected on the misconceptions and pre-conceptions about Romania which are quickly dispelled. An unmistakable genuine warmth & respect for tourists is evident everywhere you go, from receptionists, waiters, taxi drivers and officials. Smiles are the norm, and consistently, help is at hand whoever you ask.  It’s not often that I spend a whole weekend being wowed by so many customer experiences, but if you want to see how it could be like if we all got the basics right, I suggested a weekend in Bucharest! Next week, I’d like to share a controversial observation I’ve being mulling over – Gen Y is much better at great customer service than those of us in older generations!

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