On our way back home after a cruise to Bermuda, we stopped for lunch at one of those eateries hunkered down along interchanges every where. You know the ones. The servers shout their orders to the cook. The one standing two feet away.
For the next 30 minutes, we listened to a young woman chatter about her after-work plans, as she stood stationary for long periods of time. Then she and the manager, a woman not much older than this young chatty person, argued about what she was supposed to be doing. All in full view of a captive audience of hungry travelers, including me. The cook was the only male employee present in a crew of about six, and he kept quiet, probably for good reason.
The contrast between this group of service folks and the crew on the ship we had just left was stark. We had been catered to and waited on for over a week by a multi-national group of young people who worked together like the gears of an expensive Swiss timepiece. They smiled, they chatted politely with their customers, they anticipated what we might need. And then they provided it. There was no extraneous conversation between them. No complaining about the boss. No wailing about how unfair life is, or what they were planning when they got off duty. We were the center of their universe, at least while they were on the clock.
José from Haiti made orange juice every morning in the buffet area. This twenty-six year old can’t possibly like orange juice as much as it seemed, but he made all of us want it as soon as our eyes opened every day. We sat at a table nearby, just to watch him greet people as they came by, and soon he was addressing them by name. He said that he chose this job because “Everyone has to work,” and it provided a good income. He hasn’t married yet, because being away from home and family for months at a time is tough, he said.
Did you know that when you leave your cabin on a ship, the steward cleans up after you? Every time. Leslie from Trinidad and Tobago was our steward and she agreed with José. She has two children back home and after eight months at sea, she is looking forward to two months off soon. But she is providing for her family.
The cruise industry ranks high on the list of pastimes for many people, but especially for older people who have amassed the means and time to travel in style. There were over 2000 people on this majestic vessel, and it isn’t even one of the larger ships sailing the seas today. When travelers mark their customer satisfaction surveys, one of the top scores has to rest on the fact that everything is done for you while on board. And it is done efficiently, quietly, and with a smile.
Any other service-oriented business could take a lesson. Beginning with that restaurant on I-95.