The X factor in customer service - Mary the Housekeeper - Human Experience

Have you ever seen the YouTube video on Johnny the Bagger? It’s a go-to training tool for anyone who is in the customer experience space (if you haven’t seen it and you have 3 minutes and 44 seconds up your sleeve, it’s worth checking out).

While the quality of the video is a bit questionable and it’s coming up to 15 years old, it’s still a simple yet powerful story of how anyone in a service-based business can make an impact on a customer.

Last month, my family and I stayed at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort. The six of us stayed for five nights in two rooms. We didn’t spend much time at the hotel; we were off exploring the island most days, zip lining, climbing craters, and swimming at beautiful beaches.

But it was during this five-night stay that we met the Outrigger’s equivalent to Johnny the Bagger; in this instance, it was Mary the Housekeeper.

On our second day, Mary was cleaning a room down the hall when she saw me pop into the room to get something. She stuck her head out the door and said, “Hello, you must have just arrived yesterday. I’m Mary, and I’ll be your housekeeper.”

I introduced myself and let her know that we didn’t need our room made up today, and she said, “No problem. Do you need anything stocked up, though?”

“Oh, some more coffee pods would be great, please.” Mary also checked if we needed fresh towels, and I told her we were good to keep using the same ones for now. She told me what time she was finishing and that she would be on this floor if I needed anything else.

When I returned to our room later, she replaced all our coffee pods and provided us with a few extra. She also wrote us a handwritten note letting us know what she had done and asking us to let us know if we needed anything else.

The next day, we did get our room fully serviced, and when we returned after Mary had finished, we realised she had taken great care to meet our needs. The two garbage bins in the room were full to the brim when we left that morning; she had noticed and given us an additional two garbage bins. She also noted that we had been through all the coffee pods (including the extras she had given us) and all the coffee cups, so she left us more of both things, so we were 100% covered for our high-volume caffeine consumption.

Anytime we saw Mary in the hallway, she made a point of saying hello and having a personalised conversation with us. She was upbeat, interested in what we had to share, and took pride in her work. She did a brilliant job of servicing our room, but it was the care she took to take care of our needs that we noticed the most. She didn’t just do this on one occasion either; she showed us that she cared consistently every day of our stay.

By definition, in the hospitality industry, the housekeeping team members are BOH (Back of House) staff, and often, as guests, we have very little or no interaction with them at all. I acknowledge that housekeepers work incredibly hard (I still remember my two weeks of work experience as a housekeeper when completing my Hospitality Management Diploma as the hardest physical job I have ever had), but what Mary has done is what Johnny the Bagger did all those years ago.

She really cares. And then Mary takes that care and turns it into action. She goes out of her way to show you that she sees you and wants to do what she can to support you in having a great stay.

We didn’t get to say goodbye to Mary as we left super early to fly home to Sydney on the day we checked out, but it goes without saying that we left her a generous tip and a personalised note.

We spoke to our kids about whatever job they get in the future, our expectation is that they take pride in that job and do the best possible job they can, just like Mary.

During our stay at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, we interacted with a lot of staff members at the reception, valet, pool, and bar, all of whom were friendly FOH (Front of House) staff.

But it was Mary from Housekeeping who made the WOW impact. The housekeeper, who is traditionally never seen or heard and is classified as BOH, would make us want to return to this hotel.

Anyone can choose to make a positive impact on customers. Mary is the perfect example of the fact that it doesn’t matter what role you’re in; all that matters is that you make the choice to care.

Mary chooses to make an impact on customers every day, and I have no doubt that she is making a positive impact on the hotel.

Nic McClanachan, October 2023

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