Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lessons Learned in Cost Rica - Being Customer Centric

My brain is slowly de-fogging from my trip to Costa Rica. My wife and I had a wonderful jammed pack week full of tours, hikes and R&R at the beach. Beyond the beauty of this country and the relaxing siestas in the sun, I was reminded of a valuable lesson - go above and beyond for your customers.

We booked an eco-tour which means that we travelled to various areas of Costa Rica to learn more about this wonderful country and the different species that inhabit it. We thought that we were going to be traveling with a bunch of other tourists but we ended up on an empty bus with just a driver and a tour guide. Over the next 5 days we were treated to an entertaining and informative tour through the rain forest and beautiful country side of Costa Rica until we reached the beaches on the pacific side for a few extra days.

Going that extra mile for the customer

What made the trip was our tour guide Jonathon and driver Daniel from Central American Tours. Whatever we needed, they provided for us. They ensured that we got the most value out of our trip by:
  • helping us save money
  • telling us what was the real coffee to buy to bring back home (and taking us to a shopping center to buy the coffee for the best price)
  • suggesting authentic yet inexpensive restaurants
  • taking the time to answer all of our questions about the thousands of plants and animals as well as the culture, history and politics of Costa Rica.
  • providing multiple touring options that enabled us to do what we wanted.
  • being as flexible as possible.
  • Doing the unexpected. Here are two examples:
    1. We wanted to buy a special rosewood walking cane for my father in law. Our tour guide overheard my conversation with my wife and called ahead to the souvenir shop so that they would reserve the cane we wanted (it was the only one of its kind that we saw and we knew what it would mean to my father in law).

    2. Our driver provided us with a CD of some beautiful photographs of the Arenal Volcano that he took because it was cloudy when we went and we couldn't see that much. I've included one of his photos (while he couldn't speak any English, he was a wizard with his camera and loved showing off the photos he took).

    Now that is going above and beyond. Did it take a lot of effort on their part? no. Was it expensive or resource intensive? no. Would I recommend this tour company and my tour guide? I don't think I have to answer yet. They key here is the effort that was taken, the thoughtfulness and responsiveness. This experience is a good reminder for everyone as you begin 2008 -how can you easily provide greater value to your customers?
Happy New Year everyone!

Chad H.

PS - Here are some pictures from my trip that I posted on Facebook if you are interested.
Here are a few sample videos that I posted on UTube:

PPS - We met some great people from our trip and some of them joined our tour when they found out what a great tour guide we had. I plan to keep in touch with many of them via Facebook. Thanks for help making our trip a great one!!

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