An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Every leader who wants to create a WOW customer experience needs to know himself first.
As part of our series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience,I had the pleasure of interviewing Deepak Ohri.
Deepak Ohri, founder and CEO of lebua Hotels and Resorts is well-known worldwide as an award-winning entrepreneur who has transformed the luxury hospitality landscape in Asia and elevated experiential luxury hospitality. He was the first to create the world’s highest rooftop restaurant that earned two 2 Michelin stars and the first to develop the concept of a vertical destination. Under his leadership, Iebua has been named the World’s Leading All-Suite Hotel by World Travel Award and is rated within the top 1 percent of companies globally for customer satisfaction. International Hospitality Institute selected Deepak Ohri as one of the Global Top Most Inspirational Executives in Travel and Hospitality. Ohri is also the author of “A Bridge Not Too Far — Where Creativity Meets Innovation.” The key to his success is his ability to create incredible customer experiences.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My backstory is very simple. I grew up in India in a very modest neighborhood. I believe my biggest advantage was that I was always a very curious child. There was a road that separated our modest neighborhood from the wealthier one. We were not supposed to cross the road, but I never understood why. I crossed the road and discovered that there were other types of houses. These houses were much nicer than the one I lived in. They had bathrooms and a fridge with a fascinating drink, Coca-Cola. This is the first time that I tasted such a cold refreshing drink. This is my backstory, to learn how to discover. I learned that curiosity and inquisitiveness opens our eyes to see things that we would not have otherwise. Our mind is exposed to possibilities. We start dreaming and once we start dreaming these dreams can become reality. Therefore, the art of discovery is my backstory.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
There are many funny mistakes that I have made in life. They seem really funny now. When I was 21 years old, I took my first flight. I was going from Mumbai to Goa which is approximately a 45-minute flight. Since it was the first time I had ever travelled, I wanted to make sure that I was the first one on the plane so that I could observe from the other passengers what to do; especially how to fasten the seatbelt. I was so determined to be the first on the plane that I pushed through all of the passengers and skipped the line. That would be really hard to do these days. When I was on the plane, in my seat, the passengers coming in were looking at me. The lesson that I learned is simple, if you do not know something be brave enough to admit it. We are not supposed to know everything in this world.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
It is very true that I would not have been able to achieve the success I’ve had without any help. When it comes to help, we always look outside of our comfort zone. Many people helped me through my journey, but the biggest help I received was not outside of my comfort zone, but in my house, my late father. I am eternally grateful to him. He did not help me develop my career, but he helped me to be better person, a strong person who understands that power corrupts people, and who understands that one’s roots are the most essential in life. He made me understand that humility is the key to success, mistakes will happen, and it is important to learn how to admit it. He is no longer with us but his story, his wisdom and his lessons are always with me. I want to share a story. When I was a young child, I went with my father to the store. He needed to buy a new shirt for work. The price of the shirt was $0.50. While in the store, I wanted a toy; a milk van — toy car. I wanted to have it so much. My father decided to buy me the toy instead of his shirt. It was the most precious gift. When we got back home, my father informed my mother that he would buy his shirt in two months. This is when I understood what unconditional love is. The price of $0.50 might not seem to be a high price now, but it is still a lot in some parts of the world, especially for the family that cannot afford it. My father taught me to love people and not to hide the love. Today, I do not hide my love for education, helping people and being in front of people sharing my wisdom and my mistakes.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
Every customer is a human being. Great customer experience can be explained in one word that I learned from my late father, RESPECT. When respect is given, it is then returned and that is the key to understanding great customer service. We cannot forget that until we pay respect to others, we will not get respect in return.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
In today’s world of globalization, the simplest things are the most difficult things to do. The reason is that many times organizations look at what they believe are high level things instead of looking at a basic simple principle, such as respect. There are two types of organizations — principle based, and rule based. The organizations that create the best customer service are the ones that are a hybrid of both. These two need to be connected for the best customer experience and it is not easy to achieve. My message to every organization is that no matter how small or how big, start with respect first.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
Competition and external pressure always force a company to improve the customer experience. However, in reality, the customer experience can be only improved if the person at the top truly wants to improve it.
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
I am going to respond to both questions with one answer. We all “WOW” our customers. I want to tell you how to wow a customer after a failure and how that customer can then become your best ambassador. One of our VIP guests from Japan was involved in a car accident. It was our car and our driver, the accident was just a small scratch, but because of the rules and regulations, the police had to be called to file a report. It was not our driver’s fault, but he could not drive away. This unfortunately, made our guest loose some time and be late for a very important meeting. His time was priceless. He called his credit card company Centurion, and the credit card company informed us. Our hotel manager was upset. How was it possible that we found out about the car accident from the credit card company. The customer arrived angry at the hotel because he lost time. We knew we could not compensate his time, but we decided to compensate his loss for the future. We awarded him a seven-day stay at our VIP suite and two first-class airline tickets. Not only he was surprised, but he liked this gesture, and this story became so viral that he became our best ambassador. Today, we welcome many prominent guests from Japan.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
Five of the most important things for every business leader in my opinion are:
- Every leader who wants to create a WOW customer experience needs to know himself first.
- There must be certain principles created in the organization that should never be changed.
- It is essential to spend time with the team to make them understand.
- The leader must have a measuring tool to understand where the gaps are in the customer experience.
- Every time there is a customer complaint a leader should empower the team but also give personal final touches to the customers so that they understand it is top — down.
In one of the organizations, I worked at in the past, I presented my boss with a customer service report. He asked me how much time I spent on this project. I told him three days. He said that these are three days that we lost. He said that if I would have spent the three days on the floor talking to the customers, we would have created a real report. He took the report I created and threw it in the garbage bin. He knew very well how important customer service was and wanted to know about hits where we “WOWed” the customer and misses where we lost an opportunity.
In order to create a WOW customer experience, a leader needs to know himself first. Knowing yourself first means that leaders should know and create a customer journey and experience before the customer even arrives. Creating this customer experience is both the easiest and the most difficult task because it requires a lot of discipline. It is important to spend time creating a customer journey. The customer will follow us on how this journey should take place and we should be able to allow the customer to follow us through his/her subconscious mind. We must create a service process that matters, just like a GPS. Customers want us to show them the journey.
There must also be certain principles created in the organization that should never be changed.
I want to share an example how principles need to be followed. In one organization, the company decided to give laptop to each executive. One of them lost the laptop. So, the next day the mandate was to have all of the laptops fixed to the desks. We should never change because of one mistake. Yes, there will be always people who will take advantage or make mistakes, but the principle should remain the same.
In my organization, we trust our employees. We spend around $100,000 on customer experience reports. We have an option of a mystery audit, but we do not do that because why would we tell our employees that we trust them and then, check on them.
It is also important to have a tool to measure and understand gaps in a customer’s experience. We use artificial intelligence, technology, and qualitative and quantitative assessments to measure the gap in the customer experience. In one of the restaurants where I worked, the outcome of the measurement was that the quality and variety of food was not impressive. The menu had 300 items so how that could be possible? We decided to investigate further. We spent three days in the restaurant to find out. We discovered that our staff only knew five items on the menu well and so that was what they recommended and what our chef prepared. If there was anything else ordered, it was not fresh. Since the recommendations were always the same, the customers ended up eating the same things repeatedly. Once we discovered the issue, we spent time with the team so that they understood their roles in the customer experience. By doing this we were able to not only able to discover the gap between what we thought and what was actually happening, but also were able to improve customer experiences. Once again, the example given always has to be from the top — down.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
Nothing, you need to leave the customer alone and they will do that on their own. Privacy is much bigger than the experience. We do not intervene in privacy.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to only start one thing and that is a new definition of happiness. Happiness is an expression of management. It is not well-being, mindfulness, or meditation. It is an agreement with yourself based on your own acceptance, understanding and willingness to build a better tomorrow.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Find me on LinkedIn, follow and connect with me. You can also follow my website: www.deepakohri.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Deepak Ohri On 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.