Focused Customer Service: I Cannot Control the Wind

When travelling cross France recently we stayed at a delightful inn in St Amour de Belleville. It was a fairly warm but very windy day, a condition not unusual in that region in October. The conditions were fine for a walk that gave lovely views of vineyards in every direction and the peak of Mt. Blanc on the eastern horizon.

The only problem was in our room at the inn. One of the windows was positioned just wrong. It emitted a high whistling howl, not that loud, but rather irritating after a while. We tried opening the window a bit, but the power of the wind was such that there was no way to prop it a little bit open.

We went to the manager and described the problem as best we could, in light of the limits each of us had in the other’s language.

His response was that they were not fully booked and that there was another room down the hall we could have. The room was quiet. It even had a small patio out of the wind. When we thanked him with enthusiasm for his help he replied, “I cannot control the wind, but I do have another room.”

One lesson for customer service is for providers to know and to use the resources available. The innkeeper had a resource in an unbooked room. He had no resources for controlling the wind. He went to the resources at hand.

Another lesson is that each problem has its timeframe. The timeframe of the problem and its needed solution did not allow for employing a carpenter to reset the window. The timeframe for a one-night hotel guest is quite short.

A third lesson is to live your mission. For a country inn, the mission is to provide customers with a pleasant and safe place to stay. Other concerns are secondary.

How can you apply these lessons to your work?

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