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    Exceeding Expectations

    Expectations are rarely exceeded – but it does happen

    Having your expectations met and exceeded is very rare, but the experience is sublime.

    When we work with clients, we ask their customers to define their expectations of an ideal supplier. Their responses are mapped and weighted. The map is the blueprint for an ideal customer experience (CX) defined by the customer.

    We then ask the customers to score our client’s performance against the most highly weighted expectations. The scores are in three groups:

    • Exceeding expectations are green.
    • Meeting expectations (with room to improve) are amber.
    • Below the minimum acceptable level are red.

    Most clients focus on moving the red scores to the amber category and establish a continuous improvement programme to do so.

    Some clients say by asking their customers to state the ideal we are asking their customers to list unreasonable things. Our experience is that this never happens. Customers have a generally accurate view of what’s possible and reasonable.

    Exceeding a few expectations happens but not regularly. Doing so consistently across most expectations is exceptionally rare.

    But sometimes it happens.

    A few weeks ago, I stayed at the Jaya House hotel in Siem Reap in Cambodia. It is 7km from the huge Angkor Wat Khmer Temple complex, one of the most spectacular places on earth and an item on many bucket lists.

    Siem Reap has 648 hotels. On TripAdvisor, the Jaya House is Number 1.

    So what is it that enables this small, 36-room boutique hotel to beat a long list of very famous names, some iconic in their industry?

    Firstly, from the moment when guests arrive, they realise they are at the centre of the hotel’s attention in every way.

    Having flown in from Bangkok that morning we arrived at 0930. Our travel companion’s room was ready but ours was not, so we were given a temporary room for a few hours. The hotel manager sat down with us and talked about every aspect of the CX, including the free use of the spa, the free laundry, the free Tuk-Tuks, and gave us a free mobile phone that worked both in the hotel and anywhere around town. The phone was for us to ask for any service we wanted.

    The ambience is restful, the gardens beautiful, the spa brilliant, the two pools a delight and the rooftop cocktail bar intimate and private.

    The food is so good that we were never tempted to eat out in the town, even though it has a brilliant selection of excellent restaurants.

    The huge rooms with exceptionally comfortable beds were outstandingly equipped. The shower was larger than the entire bathroom in the next hotel we stayed in the top tier of a famous chain, in Hà Nội.

    Every aspect was geared to comfort and relaxation even though we had hard days ahead visiting the many Khmer sights nearby. To return to Jaya House at the end of a long hot day was brilliant and extended our pleasure.

    Most of all, the graceful, gentle and ever patient staff made it all the greatest of pleasure. The lightest of touches, nothing too much trouble, and never overbearing or obtrusive. The 5 score out of 5 on TripAdvisor doesn’t come close to telling you why. None of these “scores” ever do.

    So what is it that makes Jaya House better than any hotel I have stayed in in 40 years? I have stayed in very many.

    Jaya House is the physical manifestation of the personality of its owner, a modest unassuming and highly intelligent Dutchman, Christian de Boer.

    Let us look at some of the actions this exceptional leader took in the last few years.

    COVID devastated the entire hospitality industry. None more so than in Siem Reap. Most of the 648 hotels laid off staff and some closed totally. Not Jaya House. Every single employee was kept on.

    Every year the Siem Reap hotel system goes into ”Rainy Season” mode to reduce operations and lower activity as tourism drops hugely. The hotels lay off staff. Not Jaya House. They go into improvement mode.

    Christian deliberately takes on staff who are graduates of The Haven charity, an organisation that takes on people from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds. They get two interviews. The first is to prepare them for the second. They have never had an interview before. When some are successful, they have to open a bank account, something most have never done before. He has to explain what it is. This article doesn’t permit me to give you other examples, but there are many.

    I asked him if he speaks the Khmer language. When he said no, he pointed out that if he did that would prevent the staff from learning English.

    Christian is not an in-your-face manager like so many in his industry. His daily application of the most basic common-sense shines through and he is the best guide and coach for his team. He is the last person to take the credit, preferring to let his team do that.

    But he was there when we checked out in person to thank us for staying at his home. Modest quiet and the most inspirational of leaders to the very end.

    If you’re thinking of adding a few days to a trip to Asia, may I suggest you fly to Siem Reap and stay at Jaya House. You will discover what exceeding expectations is really like.