I am always amazed at how travel can improve your business and your life. Recently, my husband and I visited the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Lucia. It was a fantastic vacation by all accounts. The island is a marvel of nature with soaring peaks, an active volcano, lush rainforests, volcanic sand beaches, etc. We stayed at a really special place called Ti Kaye Village Resort (http://www.tikaye.com/) and booked through a wonderful local company named Serenity Tours (http://www.serenitytvl.com/). I was able to unplug from my busy life back home, and truly enjoy a tropical escape. However, I did not turn my business brain off just because I was on vacation. To the contrary, I carefully observed and realized that travel in general, and the people of St. Lucia in particular, can teach us a lot about how to run successful businesses and live better lives. Here are the lessons learned.
- Great Customer Service Gets Noticed – We all know how important good customer service is. But how many businesses truly excel at customer service? At Ti Kaye, the little touches made a big impact. The check-in procedure gave us a glimpse of how amazing the service is. You arrive and are given a complimentary drink (rum punch!), a banana leaf necklace is placed around your neck, you sit in the open air bar enjoying the view, and the manager comes over to introduce herself and tell you about the resort. You sign one piece of paper, give a credit card, and then are shown to your cottage, where your bags are already waiting for you. What got our attention was how personalized it was, and how it didn’t feel like a traditional check-in. There’s no lobby. You’re sitting at an open-air bar with an amazing view of the Caribbean Sea. Another example of the excellent customer service is the complimentary neck and shoulder massages before dinner. (Don’t even get me started on the spa!) It was the little things that made a big difference, and truly got our attention. From a business standpoint, customer service is not only still king, but gets noticed and creates true fans of your business.
- Make Your Clients Feel Special by Personalizing the Service – Our tour guide from Serenity Tours, John, actually took the time before he met us to find out what we do for a living, and then weaved it into the conversation. For example, he saw that I do motivational speaking on my website, and commented how much he loves Tony Robbins and finds motivational speaking so inspirational. He found out that my husband is a veterinarian, and shared that his sister-in-law is also a veterinarian. He offered to arrange for us to tour her vet practice on the island. That type of personalized approach in going deep with your clients, researching them, and really taking the time to find out what makes them unique goes a long way. We truly felt special. I have no doubt that Serenity does that for all of its clients, as all service-based business owners should do.
- Manners & Friendliness Count – St. Lucians are friendly, warm, and open people, and this makes visitors feel welcome and appreciated. This is something we can all benefit from in life and in our business with our clients. Manners and friendliness make a difference! For example, they call elder women “Mom” in the British tradition as a sign of respect. We noticed it and thought it was a nice touch. We were always greeted with a friendly salutation, thanked for our service, and were even treated to some warm, big hugs when saying good-bye. Treat your clients with respect, mind your manners, and engage them with warmth and affection.
- Challenge Yourself – There are twin volcanic peaks on the island called The Pitons. You can hike Gros Piton, which is 2600 feet high. It is a serious physical challenge, but also a mental one. It took us 2 hours to reach the summit, and then 2 hours to hike back down. It is a difficult hike as the trail is very rocky so you have to really watch your footing, and it is steep. But, it is worth it! The views from the top are incredible! Doing something like that when you are traveling, or even in everyday life, can remind you of your own strength and resilience personally and professionally. Are there new business ideas that you are dying to implement but have been holding yourself back? Challenge yourself. The rewards may be amazing once you reach the “summit.”
- Be Authentic – We loved hearing about the history of the people that live near Gros Piton in the community called Fond Gens Libres (land of the free). The community was originally formed of Royalists escaping the guillotine during the French Revolution, and then slaves that had escaped or been freed (St. Lucia abolished slavery in 1834.) There are only about 100 descendents of those original ancestors living in the community of Fond Gens Libre today, and they are fiercely independent. They stand true to their beliefs and way of life. Their example serves as a powerful reminder to stand by your beliefs, your views, and be authentic to your true self personally and professionally.
- Give Prospects a Free Taste – At the resort where we were staying, there is a lovely secluded beach called Anse Cochon. And there are some local “beach dudes,” which is their official term according to the St. Lucians. One is known as the Fruit Man. He climbs trees every morning and fills up his kayak with coconuts, bananas, and a number of other delicious tropical fruit. He then kayaks out to the visiting catamarans that come to the cove for snorkeling excursions. We would watch him and think, “Do people really buy from him?” “How does he make a living as there are not that many tourists on this secluded beach?” We soon had our answer. While we were swimming one day, he kayaks over to us, cracks open a coconut and says, “Taste.” So of course, what do we do? We taste. And it is this fresh, delicious coconut water, surrounded by fresh coconut meat. We are in heaven. He tells us that he will bring us another one later in the week, and if we really love it, then we can pay him for both. We get another one a day or two later, and then a third one on our final day, and we pay him for all three. That’s when it dawns on me that Fruit Man is an amazing sales person. Why? Because he gave us a free irresistible taste of what he sells, and once we experienced it, we were hooked! This is a great example of giving your clients a free taste of your services and expertise. Whether it is a free monthly e-zine, a preview teleclass, a free phone consultation, a free special report or article, a Facebook Fan Page where you post tips or provide extra value, etc. Don’t be stingy with your expertise and content, as it will come back to you in sales and fans — at least three-fold if the Fruit Man is any lesson.
- Rejuvenate & Refresh – Unplugging, decompressing, relaxing, and leaving the daily grind of your life is a great opportunity to rejuvenate and refresh so that you come back ready to face your life and work again. So make time for travel and vacations. They are an important part of staying fresh. Besides, you just may learn some fantastic business lessons too!