This year, my birthday present came early.

On friday afternoon, a friend called and asked me to reach Nizamuddin Station by 6:30 pm (On being asked why, he replied it was for some confidential ‘office’ work and would explain later) Since I trust this guy with more than my life, I went ahead.

On reaching the cafe at the station, I see Roma (my wife) waiting there.

I am told that we are going on a trip to Udaipur for the weekend. I am absolutely surprised and my first reaction is to say ‘No’ and go back but I eventually ┬árealise that we could do with a break and we head off.

Next morning, I find out that we are to stay at the Taj Lake Palace. Even though the day got better and better, this post is not about my vacation but just a slice of the experience that we had at the Taj. So to cut a long story short…here goes:

The Taj Lake Palace has a very popular rooftop restaurant called ‘Bhairo’ where reservations need to be made a couple of weeks in advance, if not months. We wanted to have dinner there but were told that it was booked till later in November. Jyoti (one of the Managers who helped my wife with the reservations) told us that she would try but could not guarantee it. As a last resort, I mentioned that maybe we could have dessert on the terrace later on in the evening. She just smiled and that was the end of the conversation.

Disappointed, we had dinner at another restaurant in the hotel. The meal was uneventful, but what happened after that was quite amazing.

Just as we finished the main course and were about to order dessert, the Manager of the restaurant walked up and introduced himself. He then apologized for their inability to accommodate us for dinner at ‘Bhairo’. To make up for it, they wanted us to have complimentary dessert at the Bhairo.

When I asked him how he know, he told us that Jyoti had organised it, considering it was a special trip for us (birthday gift from my wife).

We were quite thrilled (especially I) at Jyoti’s attention to detail and the small gesture which made our evening memorable.

However, that is not the end of it.

I went out for a smoke while Roma headed to the room. As I was heading back , I met Jyoti on the way. I thanked her for the dessert and she offered to walk me to the room. I was a but surprised but thought it would be a good way for Roma to say ‘Thank You’ too.

When I reach the room, I find a complimentary ‘birthday cake’, again organised by Jyoti. It seems she had coordinated with Roma to organize it while I was on my smoke break. Completely spontaneously.

To say I was floored would be an understatement.

And it wasn’t just her. There were others like her.

Like the boatman who stopped the boat in the middle of the lake and offered to take a picture of ours without being asked

Like the waiter by the poolside who brought complimentary ‘guava sorbets’ because it was a warm afternoon, along with chilled cucumber slices for our eyes.

So what’s so great about these experiences, you might imagine ?

For me, it was great to meet such insightful and empowered employees who have the ability to not only ‘listen’ to their guest’s needs but also the freedom to create small experiences which make for happier customers. Guess this is what sets a great hotel apart, from a good hotel and why the Taj is, what it is.

If you run a company and want to set yourself apart from the competition, stop treating Customer Service as a cost center and as a function at the bottom of the food chain. Build a culture of ‘delight’, empower your employees and watch the magic happen.