What the Taj Palace Understands that Chase Bank Doesn’t

I can’t imagine how many people they see on a daily basis.  That’s why it was so amazing – and made such an impression.

On my recent speaking trip to India, I stayed first at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, arriving on Thursday night.  On Sunday morning. I departed for three days to do a presentation in Srinagar, in the troubled state of Kashmir, near the border with Pakistan.  Then, on Tuesday afternoon, I returned to my original hotel to freshen up and get ready for the 27-hour flight home.

I was tired…road worn, so to speak…as the hot, tiny cab with a driver nothing like Taxi Terry pulled into the driveway of the Taj Palace.  Even with a temperature at the astronomical 115˚ that’s considered normal there this time of year, a greeting awaited for me from a sentry with a perfect uniform and smile to match.

“It is a good day at Taj Palace, for our Mr. Scott has returned!”

Between the heat and my fatigue, I wasn’t certain what I had heard.  I wish I could honestly report that I turned to him from the back seat of the dusty cab and sounded like Cary Grant saying, “Pardon me, old chap – I didn’t quite catch your remark.”

  • What I really said was, “Huh?”

With a white beard that perfectly offset his black uniform and dark skin, his smile gleamed as he repeated, “I said, sir, it is a good day at the Taj Palace. For, you see, our Mr. Scott has returned!”

taj-palace-new-delhiI thought that along with my suitcase, they were going to have to load ME on a luggage cart, after that.  Look, I know and appreciate the little trick played at many Ritz-Carltons and Four Seasons where the bell captain tells the front desk by radio the name of the incoming guest, so that when you approach to check in, the desk clerk can say, “Welcome back to the Ritz-Carlton, Mr. Smith!”

  • Here, however, it was the VERY FIRST PERSON I saw.  In other words, he had memorized and remembered my name.

Because of its location in the midst of several of the world’s embassies to India, security is quite high (and appreciated) at the Taj Palace.  They take it seriously – and with the painful knowledge it was their sister hotel in Mumbai that was the target of a terrorist attack several years ago, they are quite thorough.  Every guest must go through an airport-like search of your baggage and your body (done electronically, not a “pat down”) to enter the hotel.

But, waiting at front was a woman I recognized from the front desk from my earlier visit.  “So good of you to return, Mr. McKain!”  (Again, someone called me by my name!) She walked me in the hotel, and personally handled my check in.  While I usually carry my own bags, the bellman was taking it for me this time, as I had injured my back just a bit and was in a little pain.

When my luggage arrived, I was asked by the bellman if I needed anything else.  “Ice would be very helpful,” I replied.  “How about a drink to go with that, as my treat?” he responded.

“No, that won’t be necessary – I screwed up my lower back, and it will help to put some ice on it there.  Thanks anyway.”

He was off like a flash – and returned with not only a small tub of ice, but also for my back, he offered a hot water bottle to put the ice in!  “And, Mr. Scott…just take it with you.  It’s a long, long flight home and it may help your journey.”  I’ve never received a gift from a hotel that was more appreciated.

When I checked out at 10PM to head to Delhi’s International Airport, the hotel’s Assistant Manager surprised me, yet again.  “We have appreciated your two stays with us, Mr. McKain.  And, as we know that you will return to India, we would be honored for you to visit us again.  Please accept this gift to remind you of your friends at Taj Palace.”

What was the gift? I don’t know yet!  I’m writing this from the airplane – and I didn’t want to unpack whatever it is, and take the chance it could get damaged on the flight.  I’ll take a picture and post it soon after I’m home.

Some questions for you:  Where will I insist on staying when I’m back in Delhi?  There is no doubt.

  • In fact, on the ride back to the airport, we passed a new J.W. Marriott under construction – and, I thought, “Well, there is one I won’t be staying in.”  I am now loyal to the Taj Palace.

What did it cost them financially to do what they did?

  • A hot water bottle and a small gift in a box.  In turn, they acquired a customer for life.

You see, it’s not what they spent on the customer in the way of gifts or discounts…it’s what they invested in the relationship — learning my name, making me feel appreciated and special — that mattered.

It makes me wonder if airlines would be better managed if they were to save a little money through delaying the purchase of a new plane, and instead educated their flight attendants to remember customer’s names and go the extra mile?  Rather than flying the new, ultimate 787 on United, I would prefer an Ultimate Customer Experience ® from them, any day.

  • Something else: It astounds me that the people at the Taj Palace where I’ve visited just two times in my life remembers my name – yet, the employees at the Chase Bank in Henderson, Nevada, where I’m in the branch two or three times every week…and where I have both my business and personal accounts…do not.

Yet, every week, I get mail from those knuckleheads at Chase about some product – mortgage, credit card, CD, something – they want to offer me.

  • Why do they think I would want more products from a place that doesn’t know me?

Don’t they get that I’m willing to change banks – not because there’s a better checking account product at a competitor – but, instead because they haven’t connected with me in a meaningful manner?  (Answer: Obviously not.)

But, I will NOT be changing hotels in Delhi, India.  The Taj Palace is the only place for me.

Have you ever wondered: What would happen if just one, simple thing – like knowing their name, or a small gift — was added to the mix of how you communicate with your customers? 

Not saying a hot water bottle with your logo should be the choice…but, you never know!