The #Kindness Tour and the Power of Smile

You probably know I’m very vocal, and I not only speak my mind but often I blog it, Tweet it, Facebook it, and now Google+ it. The other day, I was struck by the kindness of others, and I thought “Wow, I had a good day.” But frankly, the kindness hasn’t stopped.

I departed on my #Crowdsourcingbook Tour in complete OPEN mode. I have been soul searching for my purpose, my direction, how I should be spending my time and energy. I’m not a religious person, but a woman I admire recently asked if she could pray for me (I think so God would help me find my way). I wasn’t put off by that at all but comforted by her gesture and her willingness to spend her precious moments of prayer on my behalf.

In the last few days, there have snafus and mixups and all the usual bumps of life and work, but there have been equal amounts of #kindness and people going above and beyond the call of duty, seizing opportunities to be kind.

The latest series of events that I want to note have to do with Customer Service. As a consumer, I don’t think I’ve ever correlated Customer Service with Kindness. Respect, yes, but kindness? Yet since I’ve been at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina at the Convention Center, I’ve been struck by the kindness of their staff. Now I’ve stayed at many Mariott hotels and my stays have been fine, but I find my experiences here to be extraordinary.

It’s all about the little things – and sometimes the big ones. I wrote about this here: How Brands Can be Heroes…Or Not about a series of opportunities a hotel in Florida didn’t take to make my stay memorable. I summarized simple ways brands can excel with customers this way:

5 Tenets of Good Customer Service

1. Listen. Keep your real ears open and your figurative ears open, too, by monitoring the social mediasphere for mentions of your brand (at a minimum).

2. Respond. If you hear something warranting a comment or answer, be there with a thoughtful comment or answer.

3. Engage. Don’t broadcast – stimulate and encourage multi-directional conversations.

4. Acknowledge. Give kudos, honor and celebrate others doing good things including customers saying nice things.

5. Serve. Provide heartfelt, deeply respectful customer service and put the customer first.

Here are just a few things Marriott staff did since I’ve been here:

  • I ordered room service the first morning and coffee with cream. When I went to pour cream into my coffee, I realized the little pitcher of cream was empty. I called room service and was going to ask for cream but then decided it was too late, and I had to be on my way. “Are you leaving now? We’ll meet you at the elevator,” the person on the other end of the phone said.And sure enough, when I got downstairs, there was a vente Starbucks with cream waiting for me. They didn’t have to do that. But they did.
  • The day before I was scheduled to leave, I received an express checkout notice and realized that somehow, my reservation was booked with me departing a day before the conference I was attending ended. Panicked, I went downstairs to the front desk to explain my situation.”Let’s take care of that,” the woman behind the front desk said with a smile. No admonishments, no questioning me on how it happened. She heard “problem,” and simply said “solution.”

The rest of my encounters with the Marriott staff in San Diego fell into the category of complete and utter willingness to be at service. And I know that is no small feat, especially with droves of guests with a myriad of demands and expectations.

More than anything, each time I approached a staff member, I was greeted with a smile. That simple gesture is like kindness in a bottle. Even when I was feeling a little stressed or panicked, I was disarmed by smiles. Never underestimate the power of a smile.

What have been your recent encounters with kindness in customer service?

Gearing Up for the Crowdsourcing Book Tour

Any time I travel from Alaska down to the Lower 48, it’s a big deal. I have to get to the airport – either Anchorage seven hours away or Fairbanks, almost a four hours drive. Cell signal is spotty and moose are prevalent.

Moose impact usually totals a car, very often kills the driver. As long as the weather is good, both of these trips are great drives. When it isn’t, it is white knuckles all the way.

In case of an accident, on some long stretches of Alaska highways, there are no houses for miles and no cars for hours. If you do go off the road, you often can’t call anyone for help and just have to sit and wait. In Alaska, we keep our cars well stocked with survival gear, non-perishable foods, blankets, camping matches, water. With barely any radio for much of the trip to Anchorage in particular, I spend hours catching up on podcasts like Managing the Gray by C.C. Chapman and Marketing Over Coffee with Christopher Penn and John Wall. I also like Double X and Freakonomics.

I always try to leverage my time away. If I have one conference, I try to find others in the area or clients I can meet or friends I can connect with while I’m in a city. This time, I turned a single appearance at Women Create Media on August 4 (speaking with my co-author Danielle Smith about c0-writing a book and working with editors and publishers) into a West Coast book tour for my crowdsourcing book. I end my travels on August 14 with a keynote address at Second Life Community Convention in Oakland. Then I fly back home, stay overnight with friends, and drive back to rural Alaska.

What am I looking forward to most? It’s hard to narrow it down. The sunshine. Please let there be sun. Driving up the California coast. The ocean. Even traffic. I actually feel calmer, safer, in traffic. And it is a great time to catch up on my podcasts. Or listen to the news live on air. Or music. I love road trips. I spent over a year on the road by myself from September 2000 to November 2001. You can read about that trip on RVGirl.com. This 12-day road trip is going to be so different from road tripping back then. Today, I’ve got Instagram, Foursquare, Intersect, Foodspotting, Facebook, Twitter and more, all at my fingertips on my iPhone that will probably work much of the drive.

I’ll be keeping a road diary here as I travel. And if you’re along the way between San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Napa and want to connect, let me know. Coffee? Tea? Lunch? I’m game.

Where do you like going when you go on a road trip?