If you have staff, one of the most important things to insist upon, train and mentor is customer service. I think nothing does more for a business, than ensuring your customers (which means business income) have a good experience with you.

My right arm - Marnie has just left Successis for a full time job closer to her home, Now I'll have to start all over - however I hope her new employer will benefit from the time and effort I put in. Working in close quarters, we'd often talk about how she should answer the phone; how to telephone for overdue payments, telephone to get correct credit card numbers - making it seem like our error even though the customer had typed the numbers incorrectly. I feel it's exceedingly important to try to make people feel good, to do 100 per cent what we promise and be exceedingly gracious and helpful in all circumstances.

What made me think of this is I'm sitting in my hotel room in California at the moment. Day two of a weeks' vacation to spend time with my sister. It's so interesting the different levels of service, and experiences I've had along the way.

I fly all the time, and do shop around for fares. I can' tell you how utterly lovely it was on Saturday flying to LAX on Air New Zealand. First waiting to board, the most lovely announcement by the onboard concierge Jill Glazewski. Introducing herself and offering to help with itineraries, questions and looking forward to meeting everyone. I fly internationally all the time - to the US and Europe, but this was the first time on Air NZ to the US for awhile. Then onboard - even though I was in economy, having a most gracious and helpful attendant Stephen Skipworth. You know if someone bothers to get people's names - they have either had a great experience - or a terrible one!


Does this put me in a frame of mind to choose Air NZ again internationally? Absolutely. However - fingers crossed that there's consistency for the next time. That is what really makes a difference. That it's not individuals that shine - but the entire organisation.

Dining out. I'm with my sister here, and it's her birthday. For two days she's been telling hosts, hostesses and the wait staff that it was her special day. If it were me - I'd keep it a secret, but Laura wanted everyone to know. Again- here were great examples of customer experience. From ambivalence at the Tea room on the Queen Mary cruise ship (docked in Long Beach as a hotel, dining and touring destination) to a little special drink and desert at the restaurant 230 Forest in Laguna Beach. We're not local - but it was a local that told us to go to that restaurant. We could see the level of care in addition to the great food was a draw card for them. It was interesting to note the restaurants to the left and right of them were almost empty, while they were at capacity on a Sunday evening.

The point I'd like to make is to simply emphasize in this tight economy, how important creating a good customer experience is. A smile is free. Graciousness costs nothing. A special wee treat is inexpensive but creates extreme good will. These are the things that create repeat business and referrals.