Dr. Mike Patterson
Service from the Heart
Like so many others, we were ready for a vacation. For the past 15 months, cabin fever had eaten away at us, so when restrictions started to ease across North America, I started shopping for a beachfront getaway. Any place with sun, sand, and water would have served our purpose, but we chose Cabo San Lucas as the destination.
If you’re not familiar with this vacation hotspot, Los Cabos is at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, with the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful beaches of both the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez. It’s a short trip from anywhere in Southern California, which was a good thing since many on our flight seemed ready to release their pent-up party energy—with several choosing to get a head start with a few early morning Cervezas. A longer flight might have invited a conga line down the center aisle of the plane accompanied by middle-aged Anglos butchering Mariachi songs—and we didn’t need that.
But since this isn’t a travel log, I’ll spare you the details of our arrival and how we ran the gauntlet of people so generously inviting us to timeshare presentations and get to the point of this piece: Great service makes a lasting impression.
The staff at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos provided truly extraordinary service throughout our stay. Everyone we met seemed genuinely pleased that we were there. From the warm welcome at reception to Alberto, the upbeat bellman, who proudly described all the
amenities of the property only after congratulating us on our arrival in “paradise.” In fact, everyone who worked at the resort seemed to sincerely want to make our stay magical—and they all did something I had never seen before in all my years of travel.
Whenever we encountered a staff member, they would offer a warm greeting while holding their right hand over their heart. At first though, we didn’t pick up on the pattern. Then, after a day or two, we caught on. Everyone was using the gesture and soon, I was doing it too in my responses. It was contagious!
After a few days, I asked Margarita, the hostess at the restaurant where we enjoyed breakfast during our stay, to explain. Her face seemed to light up as she explained that it was a tremendous opportunity to serve the hotel’s guests and it was a great pleasure to make people happy. Placing her hand over her heart as all the staff did was simply a way to indicate that the service they provided was from the heart.
I have experienced good service in the past, but I’m not sure that a person providing that service had ever explained her motivation so clearly. Sure, the skeptic in me could have chalked it up to a mandate from management or even a short-lived response to having an income again after many dry months during the pandemic. But I chose to take Margarita, Yesenia, Frankie, and everyone else we met there at their word. The service they provided was from the heart—and I don’t think I’ll ever forget how that made me feel.
Here are three things the rest of us can learn about making a good impression on customers:
You can’t fake sincerity. A lot of time and money goes into customer service training. In most cases, it’s a good investment. However, customers recognize when employees are just going through the motions—perhaps because their manager is checking up on them in some way—versus when employees have a genuine desire to create a fantastic experience for their patrons. This kind of authentic commitment is a core value and it requires a careful selection process to ensure people have it. When you find people with a heart for service, hire them!
2. Make the mission clear. The top priority for every customer-facing employee at Hyatt Ziva was to take care of the guests. Clearly, someone in management made this the priority and has imbedded it in the culture of the organization. With this clarity, the people could focus on getting the job done.
3. Take care of the people who are delivering the service. Throughout our time at the resort, my wife and I had a running conversation about how the people who worked there seemed to love their jobs. It was evident in every interaction, so either they were all world-class actors or management was taking good care of them. My sense is that it was a healthy combination of management’s concern for the well-being of employees and good people who appreciated what they had.
I’ve already recommended the resort to my friends for a variety of reasons. Sure, I talked about the beautiful location and good food, but the biggest selling point is the lasting impression the staff made on us. Service from the heart is hard to forget.
Dr. Mike Patterson is the author of the new book, Mission First, People Always: The Definitive Guide to Balancing People and Performance. He also teaches at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, as well as California Baptist University. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.