By Michael Gunther
On a recent holiday in Greece, I had an experience that reminded me about what constitutes a great customer service practice and how easily a challenging situation could have gone the other way. We were on the island of Santorini, and decided to spend the day at Perissa Beach on the other side of the island from where our boat docked. We found a taxi at the outskirts of the port city of Fira, and our driver provided us with great commentary of the culture of Greece as our journey unfolded to the southwest side of the island. Within a short time, he delivered us to the desired beach destination we had read about and were referred to by a local expert.
The beach was lined with restaurants. Each restaurant’s beachfront property was outfitted with dozens of lounge chairs and umbrellas inviting you to enjoy the beautiful Aegean Sea from their establishment. A restaurateur, Kristos from “The Magic Bus” Restaurant (yes, Magic Bus), approached us and volunteered to educate us on the beach and told us that the lounge chairs were free at most restaurants as long as you ordered food and beverages from them. He encouraged us to explore the beach, all two miles of it, and try and find the right fit for us. We thanked him and strolled down to the waterfront, scanning hundreds of lounge chairs and umbrellas while we attempted to find the ideal location for our day at this beautiful black sand beach.
After a few minutes, we decided to go back to Kristos’ location to make our camp for the day. He quickly came out to help us locate the best chairs and position on the beach. Throughout the day, he attentively anticipated our needs – from lunch to holiday-style beverages. He appeared to be serving all his clientele with a similar passion and service. He even arranged for a taxi to pick us up at this remote end of the island.
As the sun continued to transverse through the sky on its daily route, we realized that we should begin wrapping up our day and finalize our transactions with Kristos. I overheard him speaking with a couple behind us that he doesn’t take credit cards due to the bank crisis in Greece. My relaxation mode quickly shifted to an ‘oh my gosh’ mode. Typically, I bring local currency and both my ATM and credit card with me as we travel outside of our hotel or boat. But of course, this day I only brought my credit card and enough Euro for the taxi trips.
I began to panic as I realized my husband, Steve, didn’t even bring his wallet. So here we are on the far side of a Greek island with a bill we weren’t going to be able pay and a short amount of time to get back to our boat. Kristos must have seen my concern and came over to see what he could do to assist us, at which time I explained our predicament. He said not to worry because there was an ATM right down the street. I soon explained that we didn’t have an ATM card with us either. He said, “you two just relax, enjoy the view. Don’t worry, there is always a solution.”
Kristos came back and said he called the taxi firm to see if they could charge my card for the amount due to him and then they can pay him. That was a no go. I was beginning to think we may be stranded here for a while but Kristos ensured us there is always a solution. About fifteen minutes had passed as the clock was getting closer to our required departure time. He found a solution. A local merchant down the road still takes credit cards and they were willing to charge our card and provide Kristos the amount we owed him. There was a solution!
Once again he insisted that we just relax and he would be right back. He came with the credit card receipt for us to sign just as our taxi pulled up to the curb at the top of the beach. We thanked him profusely as we were departing, while he ensured us he was thrilled that we enjoyed our stay and hoped we might visit again in the future. He created an amazing experience for us and one we will, most likely, never forget.
Kristos exemplified what a true customer service experience should be – he educated us at the beginning, welcomed us when we chose his place of business, made sure we had an exceptional experience and found a solution, after many attempts, to pay our bill even though it was our responsibility. We reflected that if all service professionals kept the slogan “there is always a solution” at the top of their mind, we would probably experience Kristos’ level of service at many more establishments.