I recently traveled to an IT Careers Foundation board meeting in Chicago, and it was during my travels that I had a unique experience. After a long day of flying and attending meetings, I finally arrived at the hotel only to find out that both the bar and hotel store were closed. The bellman, seeing my disappointment, asked if he could help me. I said that I was looking for something sweet to eat. He shook his head and I retreated to my room, disappointed about not getting my sugar fix.

About 30 minutes later there was a knock on my door. To my surprise it was the bellman. He was holding a package of cookies, an Almond Joy candy bar and a Hershey’s dark chocolate bar. He said he wasn’t sure what my preference was so he wanted to offer a few options. I was speechless over this act.

I pulled some money from my pocket to thank him for his much deserved extra effort, only to have him say that it wasn’t necessary. However, he said he would be working for the next few days and that he would like the opportunity to keep serving me. If at the end of my stay, I was delighted by the experience, then he would be happy to accept any amount of gratuity. I couldn’t stop thinking about the experience.

Throughout my stay I continued to search out the bellman when I needed any assistance. His effort was consistent and always ended with a sincere “Can I do anything else to help you?” I also looked around at some of the other hotel team members and they all seemed focused on the making it a positive experience for their guests.

When I got back to the office, I was quick to set up a meeting with the staff. I wanted to describe what had taken place and what I envisioned as the ultimate client experience (UCE). Over the coming weeks I met with people to gain their insight about what they thought a UCE would look like. I got insight from our client advisory board, vendors, partners and friends. I wanted the client to stand for everyone we connected with, not just who we traditionally serve as a client.

As time moved along, delivering the UCE became the compass of our company’s success. It meant investment, training, empowerment and recognition to create a culture that focused on the UCE. As things were developing there was one area that I hadn’t anticipated, which took up more time than I expected. Not everyone shares the same experiences, and so, their beliefs are different. You have heard the old adage, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” That isn’t the ultimate client experience; it needs to be, “Treat people the way they want to be treated.” This was a harder concept to adopt than expected and it took training and role-playing to achieve.

After months of preparing, we rolled out a variable compensation plan for all staff, which was tied directly to achieving the UCE. Through surveys and direct conversations we came up with a rating system by which employees were paid. However, I still wasn’t satisfied that we had gone all the way to ensuring that the UCE was being felt by our customers.

Taking it to the next step, we included a variable payment piece in all of our managed service contracts and project work that we did with our clients. They would decide if we would be paid or not based on their level of achieving the UCE. Clients felt empowered and were surprised by this approach. At first they didn’t get it and indicated that no one they work with had ever empowered them in this way. They said usually when they had a problem it became an ugly process of complaining and fighting to get a credit. Numerous new clients indicated that the reason they went with us was our focus on the UCE. We tied the variable revenue from our projects to our engineers’ and project managers’ bonuses. We had finally taken it to the next step. 

By the way, the bellman got a tip three times the amount he would have at the end of my stay. I go out of my way to stay at the hotel even when it isn’t the closest one to my meetings. Last Christmas I received a holiday card from the hotel with a note from my bellman.

Connect with me on LinkedIn or visit one of my sessions at CompTIA Channel Partners, TSA National Conference, CompTIA’s Channel Con, CP Cloud Evolution, and NSCA’s Pivot to Profit and I would be happy to share more experiences.