Customer Experience in Puerto Rico: Part One – the human touch

My husband and I were fortunate enough to have a wonderful holiday in Puerto Rico.  We experienced the wonderful old town of San Juan, the tropical rainforest of El Yunque and finally the small paradise island of Vieques.  Puerto Rico is actually a commonwealth, rather than a state within the Unites States, and for visitors to this beautiful country, you can expect to find something a little different than you might get in America.  Over the next two posts, I wanted to share observations on customer experience from my trip to Puerto Rico.  In this post, I’ll focus on the human touch element of customer experience is still very much alive and present, compared to many customer experiences in America.

Don’t make a fuss, move on – On arriving in Puerto after a long flight from Europe, we’d organised a taxi with our accommodation to make things easy.  Unfortunately, due to a mix up, the taxi was not there to meet us, and we headed straight to our accommodation.  It was a little annoying, but with a warm and genuine apology from the the manager at the accommodation, the matter was quickly forgotten.  It may sound like a minor point, but it’s not.  The fact that a mix-up occurred was acknowledged and accepted, no excuses were offered, just a real apology, so there was no need for any “service recovery” actions or gestures.  The trust was immediately restored because the body language and words chosen were clearly heart-felt.  Rather than dwelling on an issue, the conversation quickly moved on to more fun topics around what to see and do in old San Juan during our stay.  It’s important to apologise, but we might sometimes spend too long thinking about the issue, rather than resuming our customer journey.  Keep focused on that balance between sorry and moving on!
Show you care, but be modest – After a wonderful few days in San Juan, it was time to collect our hire care to head to our rainforest retreat, but arriving at the car hire office, it seemed that they’d closed for lunch.  We headed next door to grab refreshments as we waited for the office to re-open.  The barman was as always in Puerto Rico very friendly, chatty and polite.  He was quick to serve, and introduced us to a hidden Puerto Rican gem, OK Kola champagne!

As we sat enjoying our cool drinks, I noticed a homeless man slowly walking along the sidewalk in the blistering midday sun.  Very discreetly, the barman filled up a cup with soda, and stepped outside to hand the homeless man the cool drink.  It all happened in a second, and no-one else noticed this small gesture by the barman, but it was clearly very much appreciated by the homeless chap.  When we were leaving the bar, I asked the barman why he gave a drink to the homeless man.  He humbly explained that he was lucky to have a job, and that whenever he could, offering a small gesture to others just felt like the right thing to do.  It made me feel humbled too, seeing the positive ad thoughtful nature of those working with customers in Puerto Rico. Many business make big gestures in the form of chartable donations, but for the average customer, seeing a small act of human kindness is so much more powerful.  Encouraging our own teams to give a little back is a wonderful thing!

Remember me and what I like – After a few breath-taking days in the rainforest, we took a flight in a tiny plane to Vieques, staying in a small hotel by the sea.  There were only a few bar and restaurants in the little town, and it felt cosy and chilled at every one of them. In one particular restaurant, the servers and bar staff seemed to make a point of establishing personal connections with the customers.  They mentioned small details from conversations on previous days, automatically suggested the customer’s preferred way to have their breakfast coffee, and used the customers’ first name where the customer had shared it.  It was genuine, unscripted and natural, creating a real “at home” feel that encouraged customers to linger longer and spend more.  But because the gestures and actions were real, not robotic, both the staff AND the customers were clearly enjoying the conversation.  Clearly in Puerto Rico, “how are you doing today?” is a real question, not a rhetorical statement that you typically find in America!  Be natural, show personality and avoid too much scripting to create customer cosiness!

Smile at your customers – As we headed to the airport at the end of our holiday, there was one last pleasant surprise in store.  The usual airport experience can feel stale, sterile and robotic, because focus has to be on the tasks at hand, maintaining security above all else.  And yet in the main San Juan airport, security staff engaged in polite conversation, assisted customers who were struggling with kids and baggage, and most charmingly, the security staff smiled at everyone they served. Despite being busy, this positive behaviour created a calmer vibe and a less stressful experience.  So simple and yet so powerful, it was the cherry on the cake for our wonderful trip to Puerto Rico.  Showing a smile to a customer may well make their day, especially in experiential CX, the real challenge is how to do electronically!

In next week’s post I’ll also explore my other main observation, that rather than focusing on grand or excessive customer experiences, in Puerto Rico you get to experience the benefit of attention to small detail – brilliant basics, magic touches.

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