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Taking Customer Service from Good to Great, by Matt Papuchis

Taking Customer Service from Good to Great, by Matt Papuchis

I would like to introduce you to Matt Papuchis, Director, Communications & Change Management  – Marriott International, Caribbean & Latin America - we worked together for a few months when I was in his team. Matt is a Hospitality & Walt Disney World expert and he will share some tips and tricks and must-dos when you visit Disney in his next blog post, coming up soon. Matt, thank you for collaborating with Hospitality Vitae!

Taking Customer Service from Good to Great, by Matt Papuchis

Working in hospitality throughout my entire career – from food service companies to hotels and resorts to cruise lines (and now back to hotels and resorts again) – I have developed a keen eye for customer service wherever I go. I cannot help it and I am sure my fellow hospitality colleagues can relate to this. Everywhere I go – from the supermarket to restaurants to the doctor’s office – I am observing how the staff interacts with guests and customers. Often, I do so while thinking to myself, “that’s not how ‘we’ would do things.”

That’s not to say I haven’t had plenty of pleasant experiences as well. Here is one such story. Last week, I visited a popular local carryout place to pick up dinner for the family. When I got home, I noticed that one meal was missing – mine (of course)! Not the end of the world, the place is five minutes away. I told the family to start without me and I’d be back in a moment. As soon as I walked in, the manager looked at me and immediately said, “uh oh what happened?”

“No big deal,” I replied. “But you left out one of the meals I had ordered. She quickly corrected the issue and then threw in a few desserts on the house. That’s good customer service. I was impressed. And while I left there feeling pleased and satisfied, at the end of the day, if I am being honest, all the manager really did was correct a mistake they made in the first place. Again, no complaints. This is good customer service. Quickly owning, addressing, and fixing a guest’s problem is one of the hallmarks of good service. And I will return there again without hesitation.

So then, what does “great” customer service look like?  Like I said, correcting mistakes and fixing problems that you caused is a good example of good service. Great customer service takes it a step further. When I worked at The Ritz-Carlton, we talked about owning a guest's problems even if they weren't "our fault." A guest can sometimes bring “baggage” with them on their stay (no pun intended). Flight delays, bad traffic, lost luggage etc. Sometimes these outside distractions cause them to be in a bad mood before they even step one foot in your hotel. It doesn’t matter. It certainly is no fault of The Ritz-Carlton that your flights were canceled, the airline lost your luggage, etc. But the Ladies and Gentlemen of the company know that they have an opportunity to fix it – even if they had nothing to do with it in the first place. That is what great customer service looks like and there is another company, other than The Ritz-Carlton, that does this as well anyone else – the Walt Disney Company.

Living in Florida, I find myself spending much of my free time at my “happy place” – Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. My family and I love it. Often, people ask why I love Disney so much - here's why and it may not be for the obvious reasons (yes, the parks are full of magic and nostalgia that create a type of escapism and return to childhood – but that’s not really why). It’s the great service and the way they own problems even when they themselves didn’t cause them. Here is one such example.

About two years ago, my younger son, who was 4 at the time, missed the height requirement for Space Mountain by maybe a centimeter. Maybe. So, the cast member there broke the news he couldn't ride. That could've been the end of it. Should have been actually - he should have sent us on our way with a "sorry buddy, maybe next time" or maybe a sticker. Instead, sensing my son’s obvious disappointment, the cast member pulled out a special “fast pass” good for any other ride at Magic Kingdom and handed it to my son - he was so proud and felt like a superstar.


Again, it isn’t Disney’s fault my son was too short for the ride. That’s life. It isn’t always fair. But Disney wouldn’t have any of that. They took my son’s problem, owned it, and immediately went above and beyond to fix it. And it’s a story I have been telling ever since. (By the way, about two months later, he finally was tall enough and had the time of his life). But as a parent, the time he wasn’t allowed on was the memory that has stayed with me longer.

It’s a sense of reassurance and comfort that no matter what happens, I’ll be taken care of.

And that makes me want to return again and again.

Matthew Papuchis is an award-winning corporate communications strategist and leader with global experience with some of the world's leading brands and most admired companies. Through strategic communications efforts, he helps organizations reach business goals and objectives, drive results, engage employees, inspire performance and promote organizational culture and values.

He currently works for Marriott International, leading communications and change management efforts for Marriott's Caribbean and Latin America (CALA) regional operations based in Plantation, FL. Prior to this, he worked for Carnival Cruise Line where he led the employee communications function and served as a senior communications adviser to the Company President. Before joining Carnival, he served as the Senior Manager of Internal Communications for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company where he developed and implemented the brand's global internal communication strategy and managed the design, development and publication of the company’s internal communications vehicles. 

He received his M.A. in Strategic Communication and Leadership from Seton Hall University and his B.S. in Mass Communication from Towson University.

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