Thursday, April 15, 2010

SMILE:) - It's Good for Business

I recently returned from a fantastic trip to Aruba where customer service is as much a part of the island as the sandy white beaches. Tourism is the economic driver in Aruba so being nice to tourists is key to the survival of the island. From the hotel staff to the restaurant workers to the bus drivers – everyone is so nice!

I was waking behind a young woman who worked at one of the resorts as she was arranging her name tag. Small pieces of laminated paper fell from her name tag and I picked them up for her. I took a quick glance and they all said one thing, “SMILE”. I handed them to her and she thanked me and smiled. Clearly these were a reminder from her employer that smiling was key to customer service. It was so true. Everyone on the island smiled! Maybe it was the rum punch, maybe the warm water or maybe they really understand customer service.

This was unfortunately not so true for some of the visitors to the island. There are times when I am embarrassed to be an American. When I see my fellow Americans act in such a manner that is rude, embarrassing and earns them the label “Ugly American”. I just don’t get it! You are on vacation – relax and smile! I witnessed this poolside, at restaurants and in the hotel. But by far the worst example of this was as we landed in JFK after a long flight from Aruba after going through customs, immigration and security.

Finally home – we were all ready to de-plane and get home! But the airline took us to the wrong gate and we ended up in international customs instead of baggage claim! We weren’t supposed to be there as we had already cleared US customs on the Aruba side. It was nearly midnight, we were tired but that was no excuse for some of the passengers behavior! They were yelling and screaming at the customs and airline staff in a manner that was unnecessary and embarrassing.

We stood there and waited until the mess was straightened out. One by one we showed our passport to officials who checked us against the passenger list and let us go – avoiding customs. I went last and was told by officials that I got a gold star for patience. To which I responded – these things happen – you got us home safely – you straightened out the error as best you could. I thanked them and I smiled.

Travel has it’s share of frustrations and delays but that is no excuse to be rude to people. It won’t help the situation – makes us all look bad and only increases your stress level. Travel nicely – treat people well and above all remember what the Arubans do so well – “smile”.

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