Sikander, The Tourist Guide, The Guide on Customer Experience…

Once upon a time, as the story goes…we were in Agra, and as we were entering the Agra Fort, a gentleman walked towards us and asked if we needed a guide to show us around. He mentioned that he was one of the certified guides and would be happy to show us around at a discounted rate. We agreed as he was polite, humble, and amongst the many other people who approached us, it looked like he was genuine. He introduced himself as Sikander.

Over the next hour, Sikander took us around the fort and not only told us a lot about the history of the fort but also gave us some lessons on great customer experience. Like many of us, he too is in the services business, a business in which the customer’s experience is paramount. A few things that I learnt from him:

Trust: This one stayed with me the most. At the end of the Agra fort tour, we were so impressed with him that we requested if he could take us around the Taj Mahal the next day. He agreed, and we decided to meet at 6:00 AM the next day. I was paying him for the day when he mentioned that we could pay the next day after we had finished touring the Taj Mahal. This for an hourly wage worker who meets complete strangers every time was something that said a lot. And he said this without having our contact details. He probably read my mind and then mentioned that he trusted his clients, and if we did not show up the next day, he probably did not do a good job…

Understanding the client’s needs (especially the unsaid): His audience was quite diverse – my kids were excited about the aspects of war and cannons, my wife about the history and the art and I was intrigued by the architecture. While we did not mention any of these, he seemed to have caught on and ensured that he spent enough time with each one of us, providing more details based on each of our interest. His use of language also changed based on who he was speaking with. It also showed that he knew his subject matter very well.

Go above and beyond the expectations – Our best photographs were the ones that he took. This was not expected from him at all, but he volunteered and then took on the role of the default photographer. He knew the right spots, angles and told us when to take photographs as a family, as a couple and just the kids…

Respectful and know where to draw the line – While he was respectful and friendly, he knew where to draw the line and never once asked a question that we thought was personal in nature. Despite his friendly approach, he was very professional.

And finally,

Create a great experience: While we engaged with him to show us around, the multiple touchpoints that he created and the small yet impactful things he did made the overall experience brilliant. He helped us with tickets, and he was punctual and ready to welcome us early in the morning even before we reached, got us hot tea while we stood in the queue… All these small things just added to the overall experience.

By the time the tour ended, Sikander had taught us a few things on customer service. We not only paid him his normal rates but added some more, plus made a few references for him with friends who were visiting after us.

I guess, in the competitive services business nothing beats creating a great customer experience….