smith+co on
customer experience
Shaun Smith
  • By Shaun Smith
  • Apr 04 2008

Be Bold: It’s the next customer frontier

I contend that just being ‘very good’ is no longer enough to stand out in the customer’s mind. In an age of over-supply, you have to be different, you have to stop playing it safe; in short, you have to be bold if you are to be memorable.

There is a great example of doing just this: the Six Senses group of resorts and their award winning property in the Maldives, called Soneva Fushi.

I visited the resort and interviewed the Chairman Sonu Shivdasani as well as the General Manager and front-line staff. The Six Senses proposition is ‘Intelligent Luxury’. Sonu said that the concept came from asking the question “What can we give guests that they can’t get at home?” as opposed to the more usual luxury hotel question “What do our guests expect or how do we exceed what they have at home?”

Click here to hear Sonu define ‘Intelligent Luxury’- you can even hear the waves and wind in the background as I interviewed him in the beach side restaurant.

For example, you fly in by seaplane and your own ‘Man Friday’ meets you. The first thing he does after introducing himself is to offer a bag emblazoned with the words ‘No news, no shoes’ and he asks you to put your shoes in the bag.

You don’t wear them again for the duration of your stay because you walk everywhere with sand between your toes-even the restaurants- rather than the usual marble floors favoured by up-market hotels. Other ‘typical’ elements of a luxury hotel stay are also not included. They do not provide CNN or newspapers delivered to your room, for example, unless you insist on it and arrange it beforehand.

At the core of the company’s philosophy is their Six Senses cycle whereby they are explicit about giving priority to their ‘hosts’ (front-line employees) on the basis that they will then create a great experience for guests.

As you may imagine, Sonu and his colleagues are not your typical stuffy hoteliers as you can see from the photograph. In fact they refer to themselves as the ‘core’ rather than the Management or Executive team.

An example of their being bold? You pay $1500 a night and yet they ask you to take your empty plastic bottles and other rubbish home with you to minimize the environmental impact on the island. Another is that the tables they provide on the beach in front of your very expensive room are old wooden cable drums turned on their side and left to bleach in the sun.

So, just how bold is your business? Take part in my short online survey, which is part of the research for my new book with my co-author Andy Milligan. All participants receive a summary of the survey findings. Click here to take the Bold Business survey.