A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about the exclusive London hotel, Claridges (https://ijgolding.com/2012/12/11/2160-a-night-what-can-we-learn-from-claridges/). Inspired by the BBC2 documentary about the hotel, I wanted to share my views on what we could all learn from the wonderful service culture that underpins the whole establishment. What I saw on TV also inspired me to book afternoon tea as part of my wife Naomi’s 40th birthday celebrations. On Saturday afternoon, we arrived at Claridges full of eager anticipation!

As we approached the ‘Foyer and Reading Room’ (where afternoon tea is served), we were immediately taken in by the warm buzz of conversation, supported by the magical accompaniment of a Cellist. Everything seemed set for us to have the amazing experience that we were expecting. It is therefore ironic, that of all the guests that something could go wrong with the reservation, it happened to be me! In the short time I have been writing my blog, I have not become accustomed to repeating posts about one organisation. However, it is what Claridges did on Saturday that further adds to our learning of how to deliver exceptional customer experiences and drive loyalty – so please allow me to tell you what happened.

The hostess greeted us with a wonderful smile. She maintained the smile, even though she could not immediately find our name on the reservation list. As it became clear that our name was ‘not on the list’ and my heart started to race, the hostess remained calm and composed. ‘Would you like to have a complimentary glass of champagne while we find out what has happened’, she immediately asked. No demands to see a reservation; or accusatory suggestions that I may not have booked. We were seated in the lounge outside Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, and delivered two lovely glasses of champagne and some canapés.

I started to seriously question if it was indeed Claridges I had booked. I was very lucky to get the reservation as a result of being put on the waiting list. It is notoriously difficult to get a table – if you want afternoon tea at the weekend, they are already fully booked up to September!! I did not receive a confirmation email. so perhaps I was wrong. The hostess re-appeared and asked again if I was certain that I had booked – she enquired in a way that did not make me feel as though I was in the wrong – she did it so expertly and sensitively – very clever.

Whilst she continued to investigate, our champagne glasses were refilled. I then remembered that I had a voicemail from Claridges – as they had telephoned me last week to confirm my booking. I breathed a huge sigh of relief – at least I was not going mad – although the hostess was still confused as to why she could not find my booking – and there were obviously no empty tables.

After a few minutes, she returned. They had discovered what had happened. My reservation was for 3pm, not 4pm as I had thought! My heart started racing again – I knew for certain that I had been told 4pm, but had nothing to prove it. Whether she doubted me or not, it was of no concern to the hostess. She took full responsibility – apologising, and assuring us that if we could wait a few minutes, she would find a table for us. We were Claridges guest, and there was no way she was going to let us feel as though we had done anything wrong – it was wonderful.

Five minutes later, we were sitting at a lovely table at the edge of the room. Fuelled by two glasses of champagne, we took in our surroundings. Fabulous décor, perfect lighting, and impeccable service. The selection of tea was like nothing I have ever seen. Naomi opted for an Earl Grey, whilst I had plumped for an organic green tea with Gingko – wondrous.

I could go on and on about how delectable the sandwiches, scones and cakes were, but you probably do not want to hear that. I do have to say though, that the scones were like nothing I have ever tasted – little bites of heaven. Throughout, we were looked after by people who understand how to look after customers. Unassuming, but attentive – they would have done anything for us.

The start of our experience was a distant memory – Claridges lived up to everything we expected and more. Not only was the service amazing, but they were even brilliant at dealing with a problem. What can we learn from Claridges? We can learn that making customers feel special is a skill – a skill that will leave them talking about their experience for a long time. Would I recommend afternoon tea at Claridges? If you do nothing else in the next 12 months, treat your wife, boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, partner or best friend to afternoon tea at Claridges. They will love you for ever – if you can get a reservation that is!!

As always, your comments are very welcome.