Sunday, May 27, 2012

Just what the doctor ordered!

On a sweltering Dubai afternoon, I arrived at the office after a day out and about, hot and sweaty, drained of energy and in the need of a thirst quenching treat.

It's not uncommon, and the nearby Starbucks is a regular saviour as I choose between an Iced Vanilla Latte or a Mocha Frappuccino.

I was clear that today was a Frappacino day, and headed toward the counter with my specific order rehearsed and ready to spout out, but I was thrown off track by the new poster I saw as I entered!

Now I am a creature of habit, and new tempting offerings at my regular haunts usually throw me. "Should I change to this new thing and risk having a poor experience, or do I stick with my trusted order and be sure in what I will get!" is the question that would constantly run around in my head in such a circumstance.

But not today! This just made so much sense. So with complete confidence I ordered my Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino - with skimmed milk and no whipped cream ... and it was delicious.

As I walked out in the baking hot midday sun to reach my office, that cool refreshing taste was perfect to take the edge of the 40 degree heat.

At 22 dhirams ($6), that's a lot of money for a cold non alcoholic drink, but it was marketed so well and hit the spot just when I needed it. ... It was every penny!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One morning in Poland

As a big believer in focusing on the customer in business, I had a memorable experience this month that I just had to share.

I was in Poland with some of my senior team for a course. We were put up in the Hyatt Regency. A decent hotel. Nice rooms, nice facilities and from the very first instance, some very polite and helpful staff. Now I haven’t been to Warsaw in nearly 10 years, so can't comment if this is the norm or not for the city, but I was pleasantly surprised. I arrived a day before the event and on my first day there I had a scheduled an early morning conference call. This took longer than expected and ended at 10.40am. It appeared as thought I had missed breakfast (they end at 10.30), but I rushed down anyway to see if there was at least a leftover croissant I may be able to grab.

As I entered the restaurant, the tables had been cleared and the buffet also, but the staff were still around tidying up. I asked a nearby waitress if it was possible to just get some fruit and she led me to the chef. Without hesitation, he approved. He asked me to sit down and the food would be brought to me.

I chose a table near the window to enjoy the bright sunny morning. I wasn’t pushed away to a convenient corner for the staff, and within 5 minutes 5 large bowls of fresh fruit were placed in front of me along with some fresh juice.

Now this is nothing very fancy, and in reality it would not have been that difficult to arrange for the kitchen staff, but I was / am surprised and impressed with this because it is so extraordinary … especially for a hotel “chain”. I might have expected something like this from a more boutique style hotel where they set their own rules, but I am sure that Hyatt has a corporate handbook with guidelines of what they can and cannot do, but the kitchen staff in this instance used some common sense. They saw a customer, they saw they had the food ready and available, and they satisfied me by incurring very little effort and virtually no cost.

While I am happy to write stories like this and promote those who do good things, it is shame that it is so rare and that the simplest of activities warrant such praise and gain such a reaction … and even though its something I try to push within our business, the need to put the customer and his or her needs at the center of everything we do doesn’t seem to come naturally to most people.

So my proverbial hat off to the staff at the Hyatt Regency in Warsaw. Well done and keep it up!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gleneagles remains brilliant

We had another brilliant weekend at Gleneagles (only it was marred by the worst golf game I EVER played … and I quit after 7 holes!).

From a family trip last time, we arrived as 4 couples this time and we had another excellent time. Beyond all the things we did previously, we added falconry and off road driving to our activities and also explored more of Scotland. Edinburgh Castle was beautiful (but I wish we could have seen it on a less windy day), we saw the quaint nearby village of Pitlochry and walked in the highlands. We indulged in some magnificent new whiskies and generally over ate for 3 days on the fine cuisine that is always available.

Falconry ... was more fun than I expected

My only slight negative, ironically, was the golf. After an outstanding time last August when I played the Kings and Queens courses, this time I tried the PGA course (venue for the Ryder Cup in 2014). I have to say that I was disappointed (and not just with the way that I played). After playing the traditional courses at Gleneagles, some top Spanish courses (including Valderrama) in Marbella, the beautiful Wynn course in Las Vegas (and of course most of Dubai's top courses) over the past 12 months, the Gleneagles PGA course seemed distinctly "ordinary". 

I know from the course managers here that the PGA course was designed differently to the old courses. Due consideration had to be made for TV cameras to have access around the course and to be able to see every all angles of every hole ... so no doubt compromises were made that weren't a consideration 100 or so years ago.

However, I don't want to nit pick. On this, our second visit here, we were not disappointed. The rooms, the service, the food and the new Johnny Walker Blue Label bar all remain truly superb ... and we were very lucky with the weather again. It was cold (bitterly at times), but the sun was out and the rain held out.

In addition to all of these great things at Gleneagles, I even found a "new" point to rave about. We chose to return to London by train. Rather than driving an hour to Edinburgh airport, waiting an hour for the flight, sitting on the plane for an hour (or more considering the circling we would usually do before landing in Heathrow), waiting for bags and then driving into Central London, we are sitting comfortably on a direct train from Gleneagles to Kings Cross. A 5 hour journey (door to door). Comfortable seats, no luggage storage hassles, nice food, good service, wifi and power sockets on board … It's going to be a comfortable and productive day (including the writing and posting of this post)!

We are melancholy as we leave. Sad to say goodbye to Gleneagles, to Scotland and to our dear friends who made this trip and this weekend so thoroughly enjoyable.